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Last week, in partnership with Cox Communications and Cox Business, I attended the Arizona SmallBiz Con 16, held at the Arizona Biltmore hotel.

It was part of SBA, the U.S. Small Business Administration and was a day full of information, practical advice, awards, breakout sessions and networking.

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Arm Chair Discussion with Shark Tank Participants

I’m going to assume you watch ABC’s Shark Tank like the 48% of the over 2,000 American consumers polled by Cox Business, who claim it was their favorite small business reality show!

The Mr. and I can hardly do much in moderation so we DVR it and binge watch – you may recall the Veteran episode that featured two Arizona veteran run businesses – Bottle Breacher, a beer and wine bottle opener that’s a 50 caliber ammunition, and Major Mom, an organizing company. This is when I say, oh my goodness look, celebrities!

IMG_0265Administrator of the SBA interviewing Former Shark Tank business owners and Vets
Bottle Breacher + Major Mom

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The day kicked off with an armchair discussion, seen above. Eli of Bottle Breacher and Angela of Major Mom talked about the journey of their businesses and challenges along the way.

Eli and his wife Jen (a UofA grad) started selling their creative bottle openers on Etsy. After popularity began to soar, Eli sold his motorcycle for a laser engraver and it increased his sales in one month by 2.5x! It allowed him to personalize the bottle openers which were a hit for wedding gifts – like groomsmen.

Angela was in the real estate business until it tanked and realized after waiting tables she decided she wanted to start an organizing business. She took a SBA emerging leaders course, learned her numbers. She remembered hearing, “If you are not profitable then you are not a business, you are a hobby.”

A few takeaways

  • There are over 100,000 small businesses in Arizona (small businesses are 20 employees or under)
  • Since appearing on Shark Tank, Bottle Breacher has made over $8 million. Buying a laser engraver helped enter wedding business.
  • “Work as hard as you did to become (US service) if you apply that to business, you will be successful,” said Eli to fellow veterans in the audience.
  • Angela, aka Major Mom practices good time management and blocks her schedule from 6-8 am and 3-6 pm for kid time. There are some circumstances she’ll break away but typically not to keep her focus on her family.

Luncheon + Awards

After the panel discussion there was a luncheon which awarded several Arizona businesses for their contribution to employment in the state of Arizona. Cox Busuiness SVP Steve Rowley was there and gave out two awards – seen giving Major Mom her 2016 Woman-Owned Small Business Champion of the Year award.

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Bottle Breacher was awarded the 2016 Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year
Major Mom was awarded the 2016 Woman-Owned Small Business Champion of the Year

Steve also shared a survey by Cox BLUE – a realtime resources for small businesses powered by Cox Business. Steve shared a consumer pulse on small businesses – read the article here.

Educational Breakout Sessions

After lunch, educational breakout sessions took place, three courses to choose from, every hour. Session topics ranged from how to expand and find employees, to how to ask for a loan, to when to sell your business.

If small business owners didn’t have a chance to network at the luncheon or between sessions, there was a Mini collaborMIX of Power Networking event to help with building professional connections!

Get Started – a Shark-Tank like event

  • If you live in Arizona and are a small business owner, keep your eyes out out Get Started, coming later this year, November 3 in Tucson. It’s a Shark-Tank like event with Cox Business and Inc. Magazine that is hosted around the country. Check out this article about one entrepreneur’s vision of a waterless car wash – he won a prize package worth $10,000. See a video here on the latest event and this one from last year, and get ready to share your idea! Good luck!

See the video below about my recap and stats about small businesses and consumers – for Arizona and nationally.

Thank you Cox Communications for sponsoring this post.