While the 2008 Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO was serious business, exhibitors and attendees still found time to take off the heels, loosen the tie and enjoy some music and fabulous food during Business After Hours.
“Who said business can’t be fun?” asks Kathy Arich, advertising director at the Mississippi Business Journal. “Everybody knows the golf course can be an excellent place to cement a business deal. Fun sells, and this year’s Business After Hours proved that.”
Held January 16 after the tradeshow closed for the day, hundreds packed the Mississippi Trademart floor to sample the fare from more than a dozen metro Jackson area restaurants. The participating restaurants were Bravo!, Broad Street, Sal and Mookie’s, Chick-fil-A, Farmers Market Grill, Pan Asia, Western Sizzlin’ Jason’s Deli, Krispy Kreme, Penn’s, A VIP Grand Event, Biaggi’s and Steam Room Grille.
While everyone enjoyed the food, the restaurateurs also had fun, as well, though the good times came with challenges. Jeff Good owns Bravo!, Broad Street and Sal & Mookie’s, and Broad Street Catering also provided the food for all three of the EXPO’s awards programs.
He says, “The MBJ EXPO is the premier business event in Mississippi. With the exhibition space, the awards banquets, and the ancillary events, it is a full two days of power networking and business celebration.
“As caterers, we love the challenge of feeding extraordinary meals in extraordinary ways to large groups. The Trademart has no formal kitchen facility, so it is always a fun logistics challenge to serve 400 a hot, quality lunch or breakfast, and we did three times over the two days of EXPO this year.
“To see the smiles on guest’s faces when they tasted a boursin-cheese stuffed roasted chicken breast served over soft polenta is priceless. We have been so fortunate to be chosen to serve the EXPO, and we love to shock banquet guests with fine dining quality served in an exhibition hall setting. It’s a real motivator for our staff, and we are thankful for being asked to the party.”
Pan Asia owner Grant Nooe says his restaurant has “participated in the EXPO every year since we opened.”
Jackie’s International/Western Sizzlin’ marketing director Amber Sukhbaatar says, “We are involved in the EXPO because the event gives us a great opportunity to showcase what we can do for catering and banquet services.” She adds Business After Hours “is fantastic, and a fun change of pace for all of us in the restaurant business.”
In addition to sponsoring and participating in Business After Hours, Jackie’s International/Western Sizzlin’ also provided the food in the EXPO’s Exhibitor’s Lounge.
Attendees were asked to vote on what they thought was the best food a Business After Hours. The winner was Biaggi’s, which was awarded two tickets from Southwest Airlines. It nudged Good’s team, who finished second and received a getaway package to Pearl River Resort.
Sounds like fun
Music is the other big draw of Business After Hours. This year, foot-tapping rhythm and blues was provided by These Days featuring Jewel Bass. These Days is another musical ensemble of Raphael Semmes, who provided music for the three awards programs, too.
WLBT-TV 3 anchor Howard Ballou served as celebrity master of ceremonies.
WLBT was a sponsor of this year’s Business After Hours along with the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership and Business Communications Inc.
As with all of EXPO’s offerings, sponsorship is critical. The Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership has been sponsoring Business After Hours for years now. The new arrival was BCI. The Ridgeland-based company sponsored Business After Hours for the first time this year.
According to BCI vice president Tom Hinds, there were several considerations that prompted the company to sponsor EXPO and Business After Hours.
“First and most obvious is that the EXPO is a business tool,” he says. “As one of the Southeast’s leading providers of business communications, technology services and structured cabling, it’s an opportunity to get in front of new customers and initiate the sales process. Additionally, we view EXPO as a public relations tool. The EXPO gives us a very public venue to ‘grip and grin’ with our existing customers and reinforce our position as not only Mississippi’s leader in business technology infrastructure, but as one of the South’s leading business technology providers.”
And what makes Business After Hours special for a sponsor?
“Take a look at our employment philosophy: ‘There’s more to life than work.’ That six-word sentence drives the human resources philosophy of BCI,” Hinds says. “We believe that a healthier balance between a person’s professional and personal life is the true cornerstone of both intellectual and emotional growth and success. And what better opportunity to practice this philosophy than at Business After Hours?”
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at email@example.com.