PORT LUDLOW — Some 50 to 100 small-business owners and community members gathered at the Port Ludlow Village Center to network and socialize during the Chamber of Jefferson County’s Business Expo.
The Business Expo has been around for 20 years, but was taken over by the chamber six years ago, four years after the chamber became a conglomerate of the smaller chambers of commerce that used to populate the county, said Arlene Alen, executive director of the Chamber of Jefferson County.
Representatives of 19 small businesses attended Wednesday’s gathering, manning small tables and booths to hand out appetizers, wine, pamphlets and business cards, as the owners intermingled and met with each other, some for the first time.
“Small-business owners are so busy, they don’t get to network very much and so we provide that,” Alen said. “It’s a really hyper-local networking and public facing event that serves both audiences very well.”
The expo was free for both the public and participating businesses. All costs associated with it were picked up by the chamber.
“It’s just a really nice, warm opportunity for people to connect,” Alen said. “We spend some money, but that’s our investment in the community.”
One of the companies represented was Valpak, known for its mailed coupon envelopes. Senior marketing consultant Barbara Zinkil was there trying to make connections to help advertise the small businesses.
“I’m new to the area myself, so this job is a double whammy,” Zinkil said. “I get to make connections in the community, I like that part.
“A lot of our advertisers are small businesses and it’s fulfilling to watch them grow.”
The event also featured a raffle for attendees, with prizes such as Amazon gift cards, coffee gift cards, Finnriver cider, Rose Theater tickets and other prizes that had been donated by businesses.
Piper Diehl, owner of Ludlow Bay Massage and Wellness Spa and former Port Ludlow Chamber of Commerce member, has had her business in the community for 21 years and said she appreciates these events.
“We always have a good turnout,” Diehl said. “It’s not just the businesses, the community is invited.
“It’s a great way to connect when we’re all busy working.”
Diehl described Port Ludlow as “vibrant” and said there are many in-home businesses that benefit from the event.
Before the chamber represented the county as a whole, there were multiple smaller chambers of commerce scattered throughout Jefferson County and Port Ludlow’s used to host mixer style events before the chambers were folded into one, Diehl said.
The expo is held annually near the beginning of fall and holds a large focus on community, said Dana Petrick, chamber board member and former president.
“Just the community involvement and business owner to community is just a really easy connection,” Petrick said. “And we have notoriously good weather.
“It’s nice that people come down to Port Ludlow to see what we have to offer,” she continued.
“We just get to know each other at this event. It’s really a connecting event, we just love our chamber to reach out to other chambers.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].