Cheryl Finch of York County was one of more than 450 people who participated in SwamFest at the Newport News Marriott at City Center on Thursday to learn the ins and outs of doing business with Virginia and state colleges and universities.
Finch said she started a small business and nonprofit consulting firm called Standard Impact in Hampton about a year and a half ago and recently became “SWaM-certified” through a state certification program to enhance procurement for small, women-owned and minority-owned businesses.
The two-day SwamFest conference hosted by the Virginia Association of State College and University Purchasing Professionals, which has 11 member schools, helped her connect with other small businesses and with university and government officials who could educate businesses on how best to market their services to meet needs.
SwamFest also connects larger businesses with potential small business partners for contract work, said Etta Henry, who is on the VASCUPP board and is an Old Dominion University procurement services director.
“I found it to be very beneficial,” Finch said.
Tiffanie Rosier, owner of AllStar Photobooth in Suffolk, said she started her business in 2014 and has been coming to SwamFest for three years to build relationships to grow her business. Because of supplier diversity initiatives across Hampton Roads and Virginia, Rosier said it helps to be a SWaM-certified vendor.
The event wrapped up with keynote speaker and government consultant Tammy Rimes, who encouraged attendees to build on their strengths to be their own versions of superheroes.
Rimes, a former San Diego purchasing agent, encouraged potential government or university suppliers and vendors to do their homework, focus on relationship-building and to differentiate themselves.
Rimes shared the story of how she was able to get a large contractor to immediately help manage incoming donations in response to San Diego area wild fires because the representative in a previous meeting had given his cellphone number and encouraged her to call if there was an emergency.
“They were my hero all because of one quick conversation,” Rimes told attendees. “You want to be that person they call when there’s an emergency. That’s the kind of relationship you want.”