Buffalo's involvement with the National Small Business Festival started with an invitation by local public relations executive Craig Turner. Turner, the President of Momentum Public Affairs in Tonawanda, had read about the festival's founder Matthew Pollard, a 33-year-old Australian entrepreneur, who has built five multi-million dollar companies and frequently speaks on rapid growth businesses.
The invitation turned into a conversation between Pollard and Turner about making Buffalo one of four cities across the United States to host Small Business Festival, a week-long event that started in Austin in 2016 to coincide with National Small Business Week during the first week in May.
Turner is a member of SEAWNY, or the Small Enterprise Alliance of Western New York, a group aimed at assisting and organizing small businesses in Western New York. He and his board decided to accept Pollard's offer and, after just three months of planning, joined Austin, Texas, Sacramento, California and San Antonio, Texas to make Buffalo a host of this year's Small Business Festival.
"As soon as we got the word out, the city of Buffalo and Niagara region rallied to the cause," Pollard says. "We look forward to growing the footprint here next year and look forward to fostering an even stronger partnership with SEAWNY," he adds.
According to Pollard, the annual festival has three goals: to celebrate small business stories, educate people about building businesses and create strategies to move forward and inspire people to learn new skills and ideas. To meet these goals, Turner, who chaired the Buffalo event, said his group, with sponsorship from Lawley, Launch NY, and national sponsor CapitolOne Spark Business, organized 32 sessions or "tracks" as he called them. The tracks focused on digital marketing, traditional marketing, sales and networking and business in Canada.
“Small Business Festival Buffalo Niagara was a big success – especially for its first year when people weren’t quite sure what to expect. We’d set out with the primary purpose of creating energy around small business in Western New York, and from the moment the Kick-off Breakfast started Monday morning through our last educational session Friday afternoon at the Microsoft Store, that’s what we had," Turner says.
Turner said more than 400 people attended events focused on everything from how to network to increasing sales to best leadership practices and millennials in the workforce.
Starting from a chance partnership, Pollard and Turner already have plans to bring the festival back to the area next year.
"What a great experience, and we’re already fielding calls on how people can be involved next year," Turner says.