Most anyone who's started up a small business knows how hard it can be if you don't know the right people. Sometimes it's impossible to get your product past the office assistant. But small business owners in the North Country are trying out a pretty unique way to bridge the gap. As our Brian Dwyer tells us, think Shark Tank and speed dating.
WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- Mary Anne Kaputa took the chance a few years ago and started her own business called Adirondack Operations.
"We're an asbestos design firm," Kaptua said. "We do asbestos survey work. The initial survey, we do abatement design. We do construction administration project monitoring and air monitoring during the asbestos abatement process."
Adirondack Operations is based out of Croghan in Lewis County. But so far most of her work comes from Syracuse, including Upstate Medical.
"Travel costs are astronomical right now," she said. "So we end up traveling to Syracuse weekly or bi-weekly right now. It's just too far to travel."
But like most everyone else in this room, Kaputa doesn't have the connections to get local contracts and that's why she's here. The Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College coming up with pretty neat way to introduce people like Kaputa to local government agencies, think speed dating meets Shark Tank. Kaputa gets ten minutes with each agency to make her pitch.
"They have a chance to meet that representative," JCC SBDC Business Advisor Robin Stephenson said. "They sit down at a spot and then these small businesses who try to reach out, branch out into that government procurement, selling their goods and services."
Stephenson says like dating, it's the first few minutes that will leave agencies wanting more or saying they're out.
"Bring your product and bring your 'a' game," Stephenson said. "You only have ten minutes and it's all about that first impression."
And after her speed meetings, Kaputa is confident it's just a matter of time until a company calls her back.
"I met specifically, probably three or four really good contacts today that I know will call me to work for them, which is excellent," Kaputa said with a smile on her face.
And she says it may just take a few before she can finally stop having to go so far to make her business successful.
Kaputa says she's also hopeful that new requirements for government agencies to hire women and minority owned businesses will give her chances she never got before.