A different kind of trade show, a reverse trade show, was held at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s Monday, encouraging local small- and medium-size business owners to get involved with government and public service providers.
Hosted by the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development with the St. John’s Board of Trade and the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs, the reverse trade show had metro-area municipalities, Eastern Health and educational institutions like Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic as presenters.
At presenter booths, business owners could ask about how their products and services might be of value to government and other large entities, making the first steps towards landing contracts.
“It’s also an opportunity, if you are a small company, to maybe link in with some bigger local companies that are here in the audience today and see if you’re able to feed into them and become a part of their supply chain and their contacts an their contracts,” said Shawn Skinner, minister of the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development.
Chairman of the Board of Trade, Derek Sullivan said government contracts give a competitive advantage for local businesses and “can be a very powerful and reliable revenue stream.”
Visitors to the trade show represented a wide variety of businesses and products, such as the producers of inflatable shelters, potentially used by municipalities in the case of displacement following a natural disaster.
The owner of Campus Rings, Stephen Vaughan, was also there. His is a small business that started making college rings in 1989. Since then, the business has expanded to supply custom pieces for sports teams and student groups. It has provided Herder Championship rings and service rings for the St. John’s Firefighters Association, the RNC and other organizations.
Vaughan said he thought the reverse trade show sounded like an interesting idea, leading him to drop by even though he is not a member of the Board of Trade.
“I was thinking about doing rings for tourism and other things,” he said. He sees a potential use for his product, particularly his Newfoundland-and-Labrador-themed items, as gifts to be presented to special visitors and dignitaries.
Part of the federal Department of Public Works and Government Services, representatives for the office of small and medium enterprises for the Atlantic provinces also attended the trade show.
The office launched its “Buy and Sell” website in September, providing a source for information on government contracting and how businesses can sell products and services to the Canadian government.