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Local businesses get boost
Military spouses seize networking opportunity
web vendor fair 011
Master Sgt. Alvin Thompson tries out a Kimball-fit chair during the vendor fair. Total Office Solutions-GSA account manager Kim Brannen, left, helps make Thompson comfortable. - photo by Denise Etheridge

Around 600 people attended the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce’s vendor fair Tuesday at Fort Stewart’s Club Stewart, according to Leah Poole, chamber executive director. Poole said the wall-to-wall crowd included entrepreneurial-minded military spouses, soldiers with unit purchasing cards and local merchants.

“We think the event was very successful,” Poole said. “All the vendors seemed pleased. We do wish we had had more soldiers there. We did the best we could do to get people there.”

Many of the attending military spouses with home-based businesses networked during the event, and some signed up for free classes offered during the fair, Poole said. The chamber offered lessons in how to contract with the government and how to start a business. 

“We had one military spouse sign up to be a chamber member,” she said.

Poole was referring to Stacy Mojica, who made the rounds with baby daughter Mia Bella sleeping peacefully in a handmade, camouflage print baby carrier.  Mojica owns My Cute Genes, a home-based online business that sells cloth diapers and baby carriers.

“I’m a work-at-home mom,” Mojica said. “I came to the fair because I wanted to see what a chamber of commerce event is like.”

The young mother attended some of the classes offered at the fair.

Another military spouse, Tiera Johnson, also took the opportunity to make professional contacts during the chamber event. Johnson is a mobile agent; she markets through text messaging.

“I wanted to see what’s offered,” Master Sgt. Alvin Thompson said. Thompson, a reintegration noncommissioned officer in charge, has helped set up annual golf events. The sergeant spoke to fair vendors about products and services and even sat in a bright green, 100 percent polyester multifilament gaming chair manufactured by Kimball Office and sold by Total Office Solutions-GSA, based in Jacksonville, Fla.

Total Office Solutions is a woman-owned company that only sells to the federal government, said John Prather with TOS-GSA business development. Prather and GSA account manager Kim Brannen said vendor fairs are “a must-do” for reaching military purchasing card agents. Purchasing card agents are soldiers who are authorized to spend their unit’s discretionary funds on various services and products. The current limit on these purchasing cards is up to $3,000, according to Daniel Clark, vendor fair committee chairman and owner of Imprint Warehouse.

Even established local businesses like Vann’s Bar and Grill, Thomas Hill Jewelers and VIP Office Furniture & Supply benefited from the event by introducing their products and services to potential new customers.

“Because we’re hidden they don’t know we’re here,” Vann’s manager Christie Brown said, referring to Vann’s location inside the Econo Lodge between Pizza Hut and Western Sizzlin’ on Highway 84. Brown said a number of soldiers and military family members who stopped by their booth are new to the area.

In addition to business classes, the chamber set up matchmaking sessions pairing companies with government representatives. The chamber also promoted its “Shop, Save, Support” campaign. The chamber encourages residents to shop locally, thereby supporting Liberty County’s economy, Poole said.

As part of the fair’s relaxed and playful atmosphere, the chamber also gave away a number of prizes. Military spouse Allison Osborne won $200 in cash, Poole said.

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