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. Considered to be the premier business conference in Kentucky for minority and women owned businesses. This 16th annual conference is sure to be the best on record as we Take Businesses into the Future.
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 over 600 in 2017. 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, Phil Wilkins, Dr. Randal Pinkett, and Sheri Riley. This year, Ashley Daniel Bell, Esq. SBA, Regional Administrator for Region IV will be our morning keynote speaker and Chief BOSSpreneur® Becky A. Davis our luncheon keynote speaker.
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 (2013-2017), Sherita Miller and Mike Runyon (2018 – present) have taken the helm as chairs of the Expo and continue moving the conference forward. Through their leadership attendance has soared as have the number of vendors. Additional programs like the Business Pitch Contest 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. The EXPO went mobile in 2017 thanks to PTACGo! which will allow attendees to see the entire schedule, list of speakers and room locations on their mobile devices. The EXPO also established a Business Resource 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 2018 include Presenting Sponsor Fifth Third Bank and Gold Sponsors, Commerce Lexington, University of Kentucky Community Engagement, University of Kentucky Facilities Management, Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, and PNC Bank.
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, Graphic Design Solutions, b2enetwork.biz, LLC and Travel LYTE Vacations.