Written by Elena Worton TAPinto Middletown

On Monday, March 11th, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Brookdale Community College held a Small Business Showcase and Expo in the Student Life Center.

Dr. Jackeline Mejias-Fuertes, Regional Director of the SBDC at Brookdale, presented her opening remarks to kick off the event. She welcomed everyone and explained that the SBDC is all about assisting entrepreneurs and small business owners through every step in their business’ growth and journey. Mejias-Fuertes emphasized the importance of connection and planning, which she discovered are crucial based on her experience.

Photo by Brookdale Community College

The showcase was open to the public and featured various types of businesses, including those that sold clothing, food, jewelry, financial services, and more. The event was produced by Black Ink Creative Partners LLC and ProcurementCon, through partnerships with the U.S. Small Business Administration, America’s SBDC New Jersey, NJ Economic Development Authority, and NJ Business Action Center. Brookdale Community College, The Voice Radio Network and CZ Consulting also sponsored the showcase.

Other speakers during the opening statement included Courtney Rice (Miss New Jersey for America Strong 2023) and Eric Vincent (founder/partner at Black Ink Creative Partners). Rice gave an overview of her latest project, Operation Barbie. After 15 years away from pageantry, Rice earned her title and has used the opportunity to collect donations of feminine hygiene products. Vincent explained how Monday’s expo was a “petri dish of design and development.” He encouraged business owners and guests to continuously network with each other through this experimental showcase that has been designed to be as beneficial to the businesses as possible. Throughout the day, tables for each business were open to view products and chat with representatives, and there were BizTalks in which speakers told inspirational stories of their own experiences. Kevin Andrade, Lashaun Drew, Courtney Rice and Rafeal Mata were involved in the event’s BizTalks.

The small businesses present had creative products and services, and many had very interesting backstories. Turn A New Leaf sells hand-grown succulents in hand-painted pots. Selling partners Andrea Heaney and Ava Mroz have combined their planting experience and plant science education, respectively, to create this business that has only been around for about a year. They had an interactive make-your-own terrarium station at their table among their many fun and carefully crafted products. Spirituallywired1211 provides wire-wrapped jewelry and more with stones from India, Brazil, and Indonesia. The business is owned by JoAnna Christensen, who started the company over a decade ago when her husband bought her a kit to create the very products she still sells today.

Snyder’s Woodwork has been around since 1975 and has had a rich history and journey to become their current sawmill service. They sell items like wooden toys and custom furniture from authentic Monmouth County wood and will be celebrating their 50th anniversary next year.

Other businesses represented include YogaSix, Ibérica Spirit Spanish Potato Chips, Queen Honey All Natural Honey Products, Puharic and Associates Insurance and Risk Managers, VIP Concierge Pediatrics, Duncan Defense, Thoro Care, Opal Essence Massage Therapy, Magical Crystal Creations, Jersey Girl Barefoot Sandal, Be the Difference Clothing, Gifts of Nature Organic, UCEDC Resources and Solutions for Small Businesses, Sarafina Jewelry, Glam Warriors Ink, Artistscent, Brick Recycling, 1 ARK Enterprises, and Paws Bakery and Boutique. The Monmouth Ocean Small Business Showcase and Expo was a dynamic opportunity for business owners and guests to network and collaborate in a positive and effective environment. A Monmouth Ocean BizCon will be held this June at Brookdale, and more information can be found on procurementcon.com.