Hundreds seek business contacts at annual ProcureCon

John Reid Blackwell | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Eileen Park wants to build sales of her Korean-American “fusion” food sauces and dressings.

“I started making it in my kitchen,” said Park, a Charlottesville resident of Korean descent who sells her sweet, spicy and tangy bottled sauces under the Palcha brand name.

“I started with two dressings and took it to farmers markets and then to local specialty foods stores.”

She now sells six types of dressings, marinades and sauces at Whole Foods stores in Virginia and is looking to expand sales.

On Friday, Park put out samples of Palcha at the Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce’s ninth annual procurement conference, or ProcureCon, held at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel on Koger Center Boulevard in Chesterfield County.

About 300 people, many of them small-business owners, attended the conference to promote their goods or services and to make contacts with larger companies in Virginia looking to do business with small firms and minority- and women-owned vendors.

“It is really about networking and getting people to know about my product,” Park said of the event. “I have a small business, and so it is hard to get the brand name out there.”

ProcureCon included a “matchmaking” session in which vendors and suppliers could be matched with companies. Large companies in the Richmond region with representatives at the conference included Altria Group Inc., MeadWestvaco Corp. and Capital One Financial Corp.

Several large Virginia construction and general contracting firms also attended the conference, which included a workshop on how architectural and engineering firms owned by people of Asian background can develop their business in Virginia.

The Asian Chamber of Commerce has created a special council aimed at helping architectural and engineering firms market their services. In construction, diversity supplier efforts have tended to focus more on the construction end of projects rather than the design end, said Neil Bhatt, president of NBJ Architecture in Henrico County.

With the new council, “the Asian Chamber of Commerce is bringing the focus back to early on, when you are conceiving a project,” he said.

Copyright Richmond Times-Dispatch. Used by permission.