Thirty years ago, Janet Killian didn’t have it easy. Jumping into a male-dominated industry where contacts were long established and newbies weren’t welcome left the janitorial business owner discouraged—and determined.
Killian, founder and president of Gemini Janitorial Services & Supplies, was named 2014 Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year at the 24th Annual Entrepreneurial & Business Women’s Expo sponsored by the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (NCCCC).
Her award was the sold-out lunchtime pinnacle of the event, attended by more than 600 people at UD’s Clayton Hall. Members of the chamber utilize the expo as a chance to meet other small business people, generate ideas, and of course, network with the hope of converting the meet and greet into long-term clients. Killian said it’s that kind of persistent confidence that will result in success stories like hers.
“If you really want it, you have to work for it,” said Killian, who taught herself the accounting software needed to handle payroll as her business grew. Today, her business has more than 100 commercial accounts from Middletown to Delaware County, Pa.
The event included plenty of vendors representing insurance and banking companies, marketing and social media firms and a number of personal and professional coaching shops.
Joanne Graves of Sanctuary Spa has attended four years in a row. She didn’t simply set up a table, she ran a small shop at the event that showcased skin care treatments, oils and scrubs she uses at her Marsh Road spa and salon, even offering passers by the chance to try a new oil rubbed into the back of the hand.
“Networking with other business women is priceless,” said Graves, who added that she reunites with old friends at the expo.
For other vendors, it was the opportunity to make new connections.
“I relaunched my business in June,” said Laura Ashby, owner of Painting Parties, an on-the-road instructional art class she offers by way of parties and showers. “As soon as I relaunched I joined the chamber, and the women there suggested this would be a great place to be.”
Creating a synergy among businesses tops the list for NCCCC Director of Events Pamela Mayse. She said she reminds chamber members that exchanging business cards is no longer enough, and resources and contacts created at the event are key to business development.
“We are one of the largest business women’s expo around, at least on the East Coast,” said Director of Events Pamela Mayse. “It’s the opportunity for connecting with other business women and growing of the businesses through this event. Our main focus is to celebrate entrepreneurialism and women in business.”
Small business expert Melinda Emerson was the event’s keynote speaker.
Planning is already underway for next year’s 25th anniversary celebration, said Mayse. “We learn every year, and we try not to be afraid of change.”
The 2015 Entrepreneurial & Business Women’s Expo is scheduled for Nov. 12.