ELIZABETHTOWN — The Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its first-ever Business Expo, and participants are calling it a “quality” event.
“It may not be the biggest one I’ve been to — because Elizabethtown and Bladen County are relatively small areas — but it makes up for it in terms of quality,” said Renee Deramus, N.C. Department of Commerce Workforce Solutions Career Advisor for Veterans.
Deramus said as part of her job helping secure employment for veterans, she regularly seeks out networking opportunities in a tri-county area through expos such as the one Friday. A little over halfway through the displays, she had already found an employment opportunity for at least one of her clients.
Around 30 regional businesses were set up in the Barrel Room at Cape Fear Winery Friday. Participants included large and familiar employers like Bladen Community College, Southeastern Health, and Four County Electric, as well as smaller, local companies like Lacy West Insurance and The Venue. Businesses also ranged from older ones like Bladen Builders and Farm Bureau to newbies like Natural Balance Skincare by Pamela — only in business for a month — and Emereau: Bladen.
A popular hangout was the McDuffie Pest Control booth, where the cockroaches were the stars of the show. Company representative Dana McDuffie was showing off a pair of company mascots — male and female Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches — by letting the three-inch bugs crawl over her hands. As she was explaining their habitat, she was trying to elicit the hissing sound that gives the creatures their name, by stroking the abdomen of the female.
Freebies were in abundance at the Expo, and some visitors came prepared with shopping bags to carry home their wares. Beer cozies, refrigerator magnets, chip clips, credit card holders for cell phones, and a variety of pens and pads were there for the taking. In addition, the Chamber held a drawing every 30 minutes for door prizes donated by participating businesses, like free facials, meals, cabin rentals, and gym visits.
In the end, though, business was the name of the game.
“I don’t think people realize how many small businesses there are tucked away in Bladen County,” said McDuffie of the large number of participants. “This is a good opportunity for them to come out and see what’s out there.”
While McDuffie praised it as a good opportunity for visitors, Anne Beyer, North Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance Group Agent, saw the benefit to participating as a business.
“I’ve gotten some really good leads today — solid, promising ones,” she said, giving a thumbs up. “It’s definitely been worth it to come here.”
Even the Chamber itself saw fruit of Friday’s effort, picking up new members Dublin Motor Speedway and Nature Balance Skincare by Pamela.
“We’re pleased with the Expo,” said Chamber Executive Director Dawn Maynard. “Anything we can do to provide networking opportunities for area businesses is a good day.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.