Tucker holds first Small Business ExpoL to R Tucker Director of Community Development Courtney Smith, Building & Permit Director Pamela Price, prospective business owner Irene Bethelmie. Photo by Sara Amis
Tucker, GA — The city of Tucker’s first-ever Small Business Expo at City Hall on April 20 was briskly attended, with 210 pre-registered attendees and a steady stream of walk-ins.
The event, aimed at connecting Tucker’s small business owners and aspiring owners with resources, was the brainchild of Small Business Outreach Coordinator Angela Brooks. Brooks said that she’d wanted to hold an event like this for a couple of years.
“We talk about how important small businesses are to our community, to our economy. They’re our backbone. I said, ‘You know, we probably could do a better job of reaching out to them, figuring out what their needs are and trying to address them as best we can,’” Brooks said.
Organizations represented at the event included the Small Business Administration along with the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center, the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, Atlanta Black Chambers of Commerce, the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, WorkForce DeKalb, and the Tucker Business Association.
TBA President Stephen Bentley said that the focus of the TBA is marketing local businesses, networking, and building skills such as giving presentations. Bentley said that the TBA has been around since the 1950s, but events like the small business expo didn’t happen before Tucker became a city in 2016.
“We love supporting businesses. We like to say that we’re the backbone of the Tucker business community,” Bentley said.
Business owners at all stages of development found something useful. Irene Bethelmie, who is in the beginning stages of establishing a “bevvy bookstore” called Books and Brews, said that she got helpful guidance on navigating the permitting processes for a location build-out, health department clearance for serving food, and alcohol license.
“I’ve owned home businesses before, but never something open to the public like this,” Bethelmie said.
Donald Johns, the president of DC Visual Communications, said that his established corporate branding business is ready to expand.
“We’ve been operating from home for the last three years, but we’re ready to move past the pandemic stage,” Johns said.
Johns said that he hoped to network, but was also looking for ways to accomplish specific things, such as workforce development. Johns said he was finding information at the expo that would support his goals.
Tucker Economic Development Manager Jackie Moffo said that while networking events like the small business expo are part of the city’s newly approved Economic Development Strategic Plan, her department already knew it was needed. Much of the data gathered while developing the plan validated what they already knew or suspected to be true, including the fact that over 50% of the businesses in Tucker are small businesses.
With that in mind, there was no reason not to go ahead and have the event. “It didn’t seem like we needed to wait until the plan was finished to make it happen,” Moffo said.
Moffo says that while historically, Tucker has been a manufacturing and industrial center for DeKalb, diverse types of businesses are better for the community. The city’s development plan reflects support for both large and small businesses.
“This is a chance to say, absolutely, while we love and support [manufacturing], we also love and support our small businesses,” Moffo said. “Both are critical to our community and healthy development.”
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