Flushing International Business Expo Showcases Small Businesses

By Luyuan Zhang, bostonese.com

Flushing, N.Y., August 30, 2013, –The Phoenix ballroom became bustling after the opening remarks. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and LinaMei.com held an international business expo on the second floor of LaGuardia Sheraton East Hotel this Friday. The expo attracted exhibitors from about 30 businesses, as well as more than a dozen of non-profit organizations and government agencies.
Lina Mei holding a poster at the Expo. (photos by Luyuan Zhang)

The Expo was operated mainly by four consecutive parts. Registration started from 8:00 am, but it actually lasted almost throughout the event. Between 9:30 am to 11:00am, there were opening remarks and 2-minute representations of the exhibitors. Closely followed were the two 30-minute seminars. The first one was led by Man-Li Kuo Lin, Economic Development Specialist of SBA, on the issue of government contracts. And Kyle Brittingham, a member of Community Service Society of New York, organized the second one on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for small businesses. The exhibition began at noon, and ended around 2:00pm.

“To help more businesses succeed is one of the best ways to help people find jobs,” Ms. Kuo said. Born in Taiwan, she earned her Bachelor’s degree from National Taiwan University and two Master’s degrees in the U.S. During her 14-year-employment at New York State Department of Labor Employment Services Division, Ms. Kuo increasingly realized the lack of government information within the Asian community.

Why did the Expo take place? Ms. Kuo felt that the Asian community needed to outreach toward a bigger one. Many Asian business owners rarely attend any expo or seminar. “As it’s very difficult to ‘force them to outreach’, I am trying to bring those non-Asian organizations to our community,” Ms. Kuo said. As a result, those businesses will have the chances to meet many Non-profit organizations and government agencies, knowing more about available free services and information.

The other organizer, Lina Mei, Publisher and Editor in Chief of LinaMei.com, a website promoting the community activities in Flushing, and a business owner of antique and jewelry, had similar views. Ms. Mei said that this Expo was very helpful to small businesses, at least in terms of the inexpensive fees of the exhibit tables ($125 each). It offered them opportunities to brand their companies and meet many new customers.

After figuring out the plan together, Ms. Kuo and Ms. Mei promoted the Expo by taking full advantage of their own networks. “Most of the business owners were invited by LinaMei.com,” Ms. Kuo said, “We mainly invited those U.S. Non-profit organizations and government agencies.”

It was just one month ago since they began organizing this Expo. They were working around the clock. But both of them felt pleasurable about their first collaboration. Ms. Mei said that the scale of the Expo, with about 50 exhibitors, was almost ideal.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Widely called as “Obamacare”, it is a set of national health reforms, including Medicaid expansion, health insurance marketplaces and subsidies, individual and employer “mandates”. Obamacare requires businesses with over 50 employees to provide health insurance for their employees starting 2014. The impact of Obamacare was a topic that many small business owners at the expo were interested in knowing more about.

Concerning the exhibitors of the Expo, 29 of them were companies from a variety of sectors, including insurance, banking, jewelry, and immigration services. The rest were non-profit organizations and government agencies such as Health First and NYC Dept. of Transportation. Bixia Xie of USANA Health Sciences Inc. thanked Lina Mei and SBA for putting together the Expo so that she could showcase water and air purifiers from her company.

Friday’s Expo was the second one SBA held with other organizations. The first one was organized with Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce of America (ZCCA) on March 22, 2013. About 70 businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies participated in it. But for many of the exhibitors this Friday, especially those business owners, it was still the very first time to attend an expo, or at least one in Queens.

In terms of the two seminars, many business owners considered it a good opportunity to learn about the latest policies and available services. “It was a pity that many people at the Expo were not listening to the speeches,” Ms. Kuo said, a little disappointed. She understood that some business owners didn’t attend probably because all the speeches were given in English. Ms. Kuo added, they would be able to catch up by attending her scores of Chinese seminars afterwards.

However, certain exhibitors seemed to have their own reasons not attending them. Some were either busy answering questions from inquirers, or showing products and services. Some didn’t think those services will apply to them. And some others might have already had basically the same ones in the past, such as Marcia R. Fox, CEO of Fox Management Consulting, who has been very familiar with those services and information.

Ling (Randy) Chow, partner of New York Life Insurance Company, told the reporter that there were three reasons why his company attended the Expo. “The first one is to do marketing on our services to U.S. and non-U.S. citizens. The second is to introduce our insurance products to local and international companies. Also, the Expo may attract people who are interested to start their careers in our company.”

In general, most of the exhibitors said that the Expo met their expectations. Some thought it was helpful to outreach more people and build relationships with the targeted community—Queens Community, which has a large Asian population. Some even found business opportunities and set up meetings with potential clients on the spot.

In the meantime, a number of exhibitors felt that there was still room to improve. Qinni Lee, Designer & Manager of Aqua Queen Jewelry, said it would be even better if the event was held outside during weekends or throughout the day, so that more people might come over. Also, Tak Chio Cheong, NYS licensed Acupuncturist of Tong Ren Acupuncture. PC, felt the need to attract more attendants by having more promotion to the public before the Expo.

Similarly, Ms. Kuo thought about attracting more non-Asian exhibitors to diversify the expo. Due to limited choices, the Expo was set on a Friday just before the Labor Day weekend. Many business owners from non-Asian communities called her saying that they couldn’t make it on this Friday.

“I have never attended any expo before. So I just want to take a look first and probably participate next time,” said Min Chen, a small business owner. She just came in after the seminars, continually wiping off the sweat from her forehead. “I think expos like this can help to promote our businesses, since the economy is really tough nowadays.”

On October 11, SBA and ZCCA will hold another Expo at Sheraton LGA East Hotel with themes on health insurance, health and fitness. Also, there will be an auction of antiques, jewelries, china and alike at the same hotel on December 1.