While planning may have been interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show has gone on for Super Bowl LV.
The Super Bowl LV Business Connect program spotlights the accomplishments of qualified suppliers and local companies who participated in the year-long program that was created to bring Super Bowl-related contract opportunities to the Tampa Bay area businesses.
In addition to contracting opportunities, the Business Connect program offers networking, educational and business development opportunities to encourage success for over 200 local woman, minority, LGBTQ+ and veteran-owned Tampa Bay companies.
The programming includes a Playbook Workshop series to help vendors prepare for the nature of the Super Bowl bidding process along with a professional development workshop series focused on new business strategies that help businesses enhance company growth.
The process of choosing the list of participants starts 15-18 months in advance. The Business Connect team researched the Bay area to identify diverse businesses to work with them alongside NFL vendors.
“We look at how they present their business on the internet, how they utilize social media and ecommerce. We help share educational info with the suppliers that can make their business stronger," NFL Business Connect Program Lead BJ Waymer said.
In just six years Waymer has grown Business Connect from an introductory small business program into a business-to-business venture that brings millions of dollars worth of contract opportunities to local, diverse communities in NFL event markets.
Although the coronavirus pandemic created roadblocks, adjustments were quickly made and the show went on.
“We had to re-tool," Waymer said. "We quickly went from in-person to virtual but we were still able to develop relationships and everyone was in full participation."
Cristina Martin, owner of uDream Events, started her business locally in 2007 out of her garage. Being a woman-owned business set her up for adversity from the beginning but over the years, she continued to grow.
When the pandemic hit back in March, Martin sat down with her director of operations and came up with a game plan to survive what looked like an unknown future.
“Like most small businesses we always have a thousand things we want to do," Martin said. "We made a list of what was most important. We didn’t have events happening, so we worked on our goals so that when we re-opened we were ready to go.”
“We met on Zoom and everyone was always available," Martin added. "We all had a lot of questions in the beginning because we didn’t know what was happening with Covid but there was a lot of communication. They were an amazing resource and always there for us.”
Zenaida Lopez, owner of Innovative Cleaning Services earned a last minute contact through the program.
“It was a refreshing feeling to have at the beginning of 2021 after such a long year," Lopez said. "We're so grateful for them to keep us involved and enthusiastic.”
Lopez explained that her cleaning business started in the Tampa Bay area only but has continued growing due to the pandemic.
“We are helping our clients through this pandemic," Lopez said. "We’ve been asked to sanitize facilities throughout the state.”
Waymer said they will not leave these small businesses once the Super Bowl is over. Through their legacy program, participants will have access to their resource guide with any event.
“Business Connect is focused on spotlighting a wide variety of people with different life experiences," Waymer said. "Those experiences add to the creativity that those suppliers have and can bring to our creative efforts. We wanted it to have the look and feel of Tampa in order to have our events to reflect on the community.“