Lexington Bluegrass Area Minority Business Expo History
It’s said if you dream it, you can achieve it. The Lexington Bluegrass Area Minority Business Expo is a true example of a dream becoming reality as the EXPO moves into its 14th year of offering businesses across the Commonwealth and beyond something new and different year after year.
The EXPO began in 2002 as a vision of then Fayette Urban County Government’s chief administrative officer, Milton Dohoney, who wanted to create a platform for businesses to showcase what they do and hopefully build contacts and business opportunities. Dohoney shared that vision with some individuals who he thought could help breathe life into his idea and the Lexington MBE was born.
Since that time, the EXPO has grown exponentially moving from City Hall into the Lexington Convention Center where the number of attendees grew from just under 100 in 2002 to nearly 600 in 2015. The focus of the EXPO has also continued to evolve moving from a day-and-a-half affair which included a public reception, speakers, vendors and workshops into a one day jammed packed EXPO that address the business needs of companies of every size.
The success of the Expo has also drawn in some well-known speakers including Stedman Graham, George Frazier, Patricia Russell-McCloud, Oscar Robertson, Lisa Nichols, Chris Gardner, Dr. Farrah Gray and this year McDonald’s franchise owner, Phil Wilkins.
Leadership of the Expo has also gotten more creative as individuals such as Lamar Davis (2007), Lisa Higgins Hord (2008-2009), Anthony Wright (2008-2012), Janet Beard (2012-2013), and Marilyn Clark (2013-present), have taken the helm as chairs of the Expo and continue moving the conference forward. Through their leadership attendance has soared as has the number of vendors. Additional programs like the Business Opportunity Exchange have created new streams of opportunity for small businesses across the Commonwealth and beyond.
The EXPO has also gone high tech with online registration introduced in 2013 and email campaigns pushed out to nearly 5,000 people each month. In 2014, New Age Communications, a minority owned Business brought on-site, real time electronic evaluations to the EXPO. This year the EXPO is going mobile thanks to PTACGo! which will allow attendees to see the entire schedule, list of speakers and room locations on their mobile devices. The EXPO will also have a Business Activity Center—a one stop shop of business service providers in one area to answer personal business questions.
The conference wouldn’t be possible without the support of the major sponsors many of which have been with the Expo for years. Conference sponsors for 2016 include Platinum Sponsor Fifth Third Bank; and Gold Sponsors, Commerce Lexington, LFUCG, PNC Bank, University of Kentucky Facilities Management, and the University of Kentucky Community Engagement. We welcome our newest Gold Sponsor, Fayette County Public Schools.
Other organizations that have contributed to the growth of the Expo include the Kentucky Small Business Development Center, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and our media partners, LM Communications including WBTF (107.9 The Beat), the Lexington Herald Leader, the Key News Journal, LaVoz de Kentucky, Johnny Martinez and b2enetwork.biz, LLC.