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Hundreds Attend Third Bi-Annual Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Expo

By Kat Schneider on October 29, 2019

The third bi-annual Meet the Buyers Expo held Oct. 23 at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.

The third time was the charm for the Bi-Annual Meet the Buyers Expo held Oct. 23 at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. Held on the first two floors of the entertainment complex, the event drew more than 140 attendees and a variety of buyers.

Organized in a “reverse trade show” format, the event created in 2013 allows buyers – of which there more than 40 – such as large businesses and government entities, to have tables and for the attendees (small- and medium-sized businesses) to visit and network with across the show floor.

“We look forward to this show every two years,” said Murtaza Jaffer of EBC Printing in Allentown, who attended the event as a buyer.

Meet the Buyers allows attendees to have 3 to 5 minutes to talk with a buyer at their table to discuss business opportunities, develop leads, and discuss procurement deals for products and services. Attendees are encouraged to bring business cards and business capabilities statements to the event, as well as prepare an elevator speech and a prioritized list of the buyers they wish to meet.

Judy Swartley of Red Planet Substance Abuse Testing Inc. in Bethlehem has attended all three Meet the Buyers events.

“What I find most valuable is the ability to network, and network efficiently,” she said.

Organizers hope meetings spark relationships between attendees and buyers that will end in mutual success. Face-to-face meetings are often difficult to achieve outside of an event such as Meet the Buyers, according to Brett Smith, Director of Lehigh University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the entity coordinating the event

“When you don’t have a relationship, it’s hard to get in the door,” he said.

While relationship-building is at the heart of the event, other benefits arise from attending.

Bonnie Zucal, Assistant Buyer with Crayola met with a constant stream of contacts during the event and said it gave her a chance as a buyer to find certified minority- and women-owned businesses located in the Lehigh Valley.

“This event has been beneficial for me, too,” Zucal said. “It has given me the chance to meet businesses that we might not think of.”

Brian Taylor, Procurement Manager with Lehigh and Northampton Public Transportation Authority (LANTA) attended the event looking for businesses who might be interested in advertising with LANTA and said he’ll be leaving with many business cards. As a buyer, the event offers the opportunity to support local businesses, he said.

Matt Hershfield, Director of IT Infrastructure and Procurement with Merck, which has a large office in North Wales, Pa., said the event gives the company a chance to build its presence in the area. “We have a lot of employees, patients, and customers in the area,” he explained.

At its inception six years ago, Meet the Buyers primarily included businesses and buyers from Lehigh and Northampton Counties but has grown each year and has been so successful that its reach has expanded beyond the borders of the two counties.

As a result, Lehigh University’s SBDC took on coordination of the event which was previously coordinated by a committee of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation‘s (LVEDC) Local Sourcing and Business Diversity Council. LVEDC is now a sponsor and organizing partner.

“It was a natural fit for us,” Smith said.

The SBDC network is comprised of 17 offices throughout Pennsylvania with five of those offices located in Eastern PA, said Smith. The event fits perfectly into the programs made available through the SBDC that help small, minority or women-owned businesses navigate the pitfalls of doing business with governments and larger companies.

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