If we had to pick one word for 2020 it might be pivot. We’ve all been pivoting our lives to accommodate changes due to a global pandemic. Perhaps no one has pivoted more than small business owners and entrepreneurs, especially local micro entrepreneurs who rely on sales from weekend markets throughout the holiday season.
The annual Women’s EXPO, an initiative of the Middle Country Library Foundation and Miller Business Center, has also pivoted and will be held virtually this year on Dec. 10.
“The mission of the Library’s Miller Business Center has always been to promote economic development on Long Island and we felt that more than ever, we needed to support Long Island’s women entrepreneurs,” said Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, Director of the library. “With support from Bank of America and our other sponsors, we are able to offer workshops that would help provide the necessary tools to succeed in this virtual marketplace,” she said. The programs, focusing on social media, selling online, marketing, and photography, helped entrepreneurs with the online environment.
“Bank of America is committed to supporting economic mobility for those within the communities we serve,” said Bob Isaksen, Long Island market president for Bank of America. “Women entrepreneurs play an important role in driving economic growth here on Long Island, and this year more than ever, it is important to support and advance their businesses. We’re grateful to have a strong, long standing partnership with the Middle Country Library Foundation for this event and encourage everyone who is able to virtually shop the EXPO this holiday season.”
Here are just a few of the women you will “meet” at this year’s virtual event:
Kelly Wong: Lai Life Products
After seeing how hard it was for some people to kneel on their thin yoga mats, Kelly Wong created a high quality knee pad to alleviate pressure on knees, wrists, or tailbone. She never expected that her passion project, Lai Life, would be so successful. Feedback from those customers showed Wong that the implications for her product reached far beyond the yoga studio. Now she markets the pad with its many other uses including for gardening and game day.
With in-person events being canceled, Kelly turned to her ecommerce site. Targeted online ads and a move towards exercising at home has helped and Kelly has even sold out a few times. The move to more online sales has forced her to learn a lot more but overall it has helped with the business. Interestingly, she’s been developing more relationships with her customers in this new virtual world. This year will be Kelly’s first as an exhibitor at the EXPO and she is “very excited to join this elite group of small businesses.”
Lori Rosenberg: Red Gems
Primarily a pop-up shop, Lori Rosenberg’s Red Gems, was not prepared for all the event cancellations. “I have always told my children to play to their strengths, one of my strengths is building a strong rapport and trust with my customers,” said Lori.
This rapport has brought her many repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals who reach out to purchase the jewelry, rain ponchos, and other accessories she sells. But not seeing new and loyal customers at events has been a challenge. While Lori knows she has to build her online shopping presence, she is also the first to admit that tech does not come easily to her.
Like most of us, she’s had to learn a lot of new skills in 2020. Lori is looking forward to learning what she needs to create a virtual booth for the EXPO. “I signed up for the virtual EXPO because I was honored to have been an exhibitor for the last two years and from start to finish it was a true pleasure as well as profitable. The staff could not have been more professional, supportive or accommodating and it was inspiring to be in the company of other Long Island entrepreneurs.”
Tamar Perry: Creative Treasures
Tamar Perry has been creating since her first art class at age 12. Her hobby turned into a side business in 2011, when she began making paper jewelry and selling at local shows.
This year has been a challenge — the pandemic caused her employer to close its New York office — but Tamar is an optimist and saw an opportunity to invest in her own company, Creative Treasures which focuses on vintage, romantic, steampunk and old country style paper crafting and mixed media art.
While her main focus is creating scrapbooking albums and mixed media art, she has partnered with Plasterkraze in Selden to offer make-and-take events and online classes.
As a first time exhibitor, Tamar is looking forward to using the virtual EXPO to interact with the local community and introduce them to her art. “The virtual EXPO gives me the ability to invite you to my studio, share my techniques and show you hands on how I make these crafts.”
Dana Porciello: The Soothery
Like many other small businesses without a storefront, Dana Porciello, of The Soothery, has been seeking ways to get in front of customers. In these times especially, finding markets for her handmade soaps, lotion bars, lip balms, and face masks has been a big challenge, but one Dana knew she wanted to take on. She’s been working on her website – thesoothery.com – to get her business in front of a wider audience. Dana has also joined any safe, in-person markets. “I met amazing people and customers who wanted to support local makers which was inspiring and made me love what I do even more.” She has learned a lot about her business and sees this year overall as a tremendous learning experience.
Dana’s excited about the opportunities a virtual EXPO brings. “I love the Women’s EXPO because every woman here started with an idea and made it a reality. I find this so powerful and love to be around that energy. The library and its community does an amazing job supporting the EXPO and women in business and I love being a part of it.”
Support local businesses and finish your holiday shopping at the 20th annual (and first VIRTUAL) Women’s EXPO on Thursday, December 10, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at www.womensEXPOli.org. Virtual attendees will be entered to win one of many door prizes. Computers for browsing will be available at the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd, Centereach on the day of the event. For more information, please call 631-585-9393, ext. 296.