Matchmaking for businesses: Creating connections, making relationships - by Shelli McMIllen Soto

January 20, 2017 - Connecticut
Shelli McMillen Soto, University of Hartford

“At Viking Construction, we are always looking for qualified subcontractors. We need to find the right company for the job in order to create a successful project, so relationships are very important to us. We know we’ll meet the quality we are seeking at the CT Business Matchmaker.” Michele Yeager, project administrator, Viking Construction Inc.

Working with the right businesses as partners is a key to the success of every company.  But finding the right businesses to work with is not always an easy task. The Entrepreneurial Center of the University of Hartford has created the CT Business Matchmaker, an annual event since 2010, that offers an invaluable opportunity for small to large companies and organizations committed to expanding their contracting opportunities. At the event, small businesses meet with Primes (including large and medium-sized companies, municipalities, government agencies, and educational institutions) to present their products and services in a series of 10 minute one-on-one interviews.

Three past Prime attendees shared their experiences in participating in the event and identified how it has benefitted their companies: Michele Yeager, Viking Construction Inc.; Michael Jefferson, supplier diversity manager, The Metropolitan District (MDC); and Robert Tripi, manager of special projects division, Morganti.

Giving opportunities to local, small businesses is a driving priority for Jefferson at the MDC. “Through the CT Business Matchmaker, we accomplished our goal of reaching out to new subcontractors and providing economic opportunities to local, small businesses.” He appreciates the presence of resource partners in the Matchmaker event. “They help get the small businesses ready for the opportunities we put out to bid. I like to network with those agencies as well so I know what resources are available to support the success of our vendors. The MDC is committed to this process that helps build opportunities for small businesses.”

Tripi likes to learn what’s new in the marketplace, including products and services he may not have realized were available, yet are beneficial to Morganti. His primary interest is in meeting new subcontractors. He remembered one particularly successful connection, “At the 2012 Matchmaker, I met a small carpentry firm, Steers Construction, who won a subsequent bid from Morganti to create a series of clowns and other carpentry items for a circus-themed room in a library project. It was a really fun project and Steers Construction is a great company that we would not have met without the aid of the Matchmaker.”

Clients of the Entrepreneurial Center, owners Jeanne and Chris Steers were so satisfied with the introductory process provided by the event, and the support they received from Morganti in order to complete the project, they wrote to Governor Malloy, “The [CT Business] Matchmaker and the support we have received from Morganti has been instrumental in helping us get our sea legs. We left the Matchmaker feeling empowered.”

The 2017 event will be on June 1 from 7 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. at the University of Hartford, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford.

Prime registration for the 2017 event opened January 9 and small business registration opens April 24. Event sponsorship opportunities are available now. Visit www.hartford.edu/matchmaker for more information on registration and sponsorship.

The University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center provides training for new and expanding small businesses, as well as aspiring entrepreneurs, throughout Connecticut. Part of the nationally-renowned Barney School of Business, the Center helps small business owners and employees gain the business skills needed to succeed in the marketplace through business advising, technical assistance, educational programs, and networking events. The Women’s Business Center, which specializes in serving women in business, is the largest initiative of the EC. For more information, visit www.hartford.edu/ec.

Additional organizing partners for the CT Business Matchmaker include the University of Hartford’s Construction Institute, U.S. Small Business Administration, CT Department of Administrative Services, CT Procurement Technical Assistance Program, CT Human Rights and Opportunities, and U.S. General Services Administration.

Shelli McMillen Soto is marketing & technical assistance program manager for the Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Hartford, Conn.

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