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Northeastern hosts networking event for minority-owned businesses

Northeastern played the role of matchmaker on Thursday as the university hosted the third annual Local, Minority, and Women-Owned Supplier Networking Event, which aimed to forge working relationships between small businesses and some of the Boston area’s most prominent institutions.

This event was held in the Curry Student Center Ballroom and co-sponsored by Northeastern and the Supplier Diversity Office, a state agency dedicated to promoting minority-​​owned businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Representatives from 300 small businesses attended the event and pitched their goods and services to about 25 vendors, including universities from around New England, state agencies such as the MBTA, and the casino industry, a new and growing market in Massachusetts.

During his welcoming remarks, Northeastern Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Steven Kadish expressed the university’s continued commitment to supporting small businesses in the Boston area and the importance of these networking events. In the past year alone, Northeastern, he noted, has engaged with about 15 new firms as a direct result of the event.

“We know these larger institutions aren’t the easiest to find your way around,” Kadish said. “So we are very much trying to make it easier for you to do that through one-on-one contacts.”

Susan Payne Bacher, vice president of Steere Engineering, a structural engineering firm based in Warwick, Rhode Island, said the event allows new small businesses like hers the chance to see where their services are most needed.

“Because we are a small and new business, this event helps us introduce our services to people and learn what these larger institutions needs are and how we might be able to meet those needs,” Bacher said.

As she made her way around the room, Bacher stopped to speak with a representative of the Museum of Fine Arts, which has been represented at the networking event every year since its inception. Before attending Thursday’s event, Bacher had never considered the MFA as a potential institution to work with, but was she soon found herself learning about how the museum hires structural engineers to make renovations to the building.

Kathleen Yoffe, assistant director of purchasing for the MFA, noted that the event gives the museum the opportunity to expand its vendor network. “We are part of Boston and this is Boston,” he said. “We want to utilize what is out there. It’s very important for us to be here and it gives us the chance to grow our vendor database.”

In addition to establishing working partnerships, the event gave the small business owners the chance to meet with organizations geared toward helping small businesses grow and flourish, including the Massachusetts Small Business Association and Interise, a Boston-based group that provides small business owners with entrepreneurial education, new networks, and access to markets.

“It’s very important to be able to offer small businesses access to additional networks and opportunities for growth,” said Johnny Charles, Interise’s Boston program manager.