By Joseph Aquila—On Thursday October 19, 2017, I attended Houston’s 2017 Small Business Expo. This event was totally free and provided many of Houston’s small businesses with opportunities to attend workshops and talks about how to improve their business in many different ways.
I am currently working as the Social Media Intern for the Cameron School of Business at the University of St. Thomas, and I am very grateful that through this internship I was able to attend such a great event. While I was there, I was able to provide many of the small business owners with the opportunity to attend the 2017 Cameron Business Symposium. Many of them were very excited at the prospect of attending such an event. The response that I got from these business owners when I talked to them about the Cameron Business Symposium demonstrated the tenacity with which they pursue the success of their businesses.
The presentations were given by speakers like Google Representatives and real estate entrepreneur Armando Montelongo, and provided attendees with concrete tools and methods to improve businesses.
The Expo was held at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Houston. When I first entered the hotel, I thought I couldn’t find the Expo, but it was all around me. The event was spread across four floors, with hundreds of people participating in the myriad of activities that the Expo offered. The various workshops, seminars, and speakers were spread throughout the upper three floors. The bottom floor was filled with exhibitors and specified areas for professional development, such as a business card exchange area, and lounges which were divided by industry to promote networking.
One of the first presentations I went to was by Google. In a world where everything happens online and on our phones, the importance of small businesses knowing how to use Google to their advantage is paramount. Google allows businesses to update their information so that when someone googles a company, that company has a say in what the customer sees. For example, a company can add photos, hours of operation, general information about the business. If you wanted to highlight something in particular, like your interior, Google allows you to add a virtual tour.
People rarely google an actual businesses name, instead they google the service that they require. They probably have never heard of many of the businesses that come up in the search results, but the internet allows people to do some research on a company before they decide to do business with them. This is why it is extraordinary important to ensure that you have an online presence and that the image being presented to them of your company is the one that you want them to see.
Having a website is important but just as important is making sure that when people visit it, the interactions they have are positive. Some ways to ensure this are to make sure your page has a fast load time, the images are attractive, and the text is compatible with any device. The mantra throughout the entire presentation was “if you are not measuring, you are not marketing.” The message behind it is that, you have to have measures of success. If you set yourself a monthly goal of clicks, for example, that is a great to make sure that you are working toward something and can improve on it every month.
After attending a couple of other presentations, I went over to the professional development area and participated in a round of speed networking. Each of the individuals I spoke with were excited to exchange contact information, talk about their company, and look for ways in which to advance their long-term goals. It was absolutely fascinating to see the ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and drive of these individuals.
The Small Business Expo was a great event that I had the privilege to attend. The opportunity to talk, listen, and learn from so many people in such diverse sectors and industries is an unparalleled one. Google taught me a lot about how important paying attention to the details is. The many business owners I encountered showed me that all you really need is an idea, an entrepreneurial spirit, and the drive to make your dreams a reality.
University of St. Thomas – International Studies, 2018