‘Schmooz’ a new take on business networking

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Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 12:00 am

Sometimes the first step to succeeding is business is finding yourself a catchy name.

Schmooz-A-Palooza can check that one off the list.

The April 24 networking expo hosted by the Ralston Area Chamber of Commerce at the Ralston Arena will take the place of the Metro Commerce Expo the chamber had held annually since 2010 and is intended to be a shorter, punchier and bigger way to showcase chamber members.

“It’s got an awesome name,” chamber Chairman Joe Kilzer said. “It’s going to be an exciting time for chamber members and good opportunity to strengthen our Ralston-area businesses.”

Schmooz-A-Palooza is the brainchild of chamber President Tara Lea, who said she’s trying to build off the Metro Commerce Expo’s success and also take it in a quicker, more targeted direction.

“They’ve tried this concept in larger cities and had huge success,” Lea said. “This is the future of trade shows and expos.

“We want to be cutting edge and we want it to have the focus right where it needs to be: on our businesses and chamber members in Ralston and the Ralston area.”

Instead of going all day like the Expo, Schmooz-A-Palooza will be a three-hour event from 4 to 7 p.m., giving exhibitors and attendees a laidback, after-work option to get to the arena, check out the vendors and network.

The event is the first of its kind in the metro area and Lea said with 50 vendors lined up to have a booth at the event, the chamber has already met one of its goals in rolling out the new program.

“Now the idea is to pack the arena with people,” she said.

With a $5 admission charge — or bringing a can of food to get in free — along with free food from Maria’s Mexican Restaurant, Dairy Queen, Jimmy John’s Godfather’s Pizza, Ragazzi’s Pizzeria, Applewood Hy-Vee and TCBY — Lea said the chamber should have plenty of help to attract a large audience. There will also be two bars.

“A little hump-day happy hour for a Wednesday event,” Lea said.

Lea said exhibitors have been encouraged to come up with some sort of game or activity at their booths and provide small prizes for attendees.

The chamber is also holding a pair of door games with prizes.

The draw of the Ralston Arena is also hoped to work in the event’s favor.

“It becomes a truly Ralston event,” Kilzer said.

Switching gears with the chamber’s signature business and networking event, Lea said she’s hopeful there’s a good reaction from attendees and vendors and there will be constructive criticism to make future events even better.

“As with everything this year, we’re just kind of testing it out, trying to see how it goes,” said Lea, who is in her first year at the head of the chamber. “We’ll take some suggestions and we’ll see if it works and if it does, try it again next year.”

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