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The NFL’s Emerging Business Program helps bring economic success to minority- and woman-owned small businesses in Super Bowl host cities.

When Super Bowl XLIII is played in Tampa, it is guaranteed to deliver an exciting game. It will also deliver some big returns for some small business owners. More than 400 minority- and women-owned small businesses have completed the process to become part of the NFL’s Emerging Business Program. The program aims to provide local minority- and women-owned businesses the maximum opportunity to participate in the Super Bowl procurement process.

In order to participate, businesses must be located in the Super Bowl host state and be at least 50 percent owned, operated, and controlled by minorities or women. Participation in the program also requires completion of the official program application and vendors must also complete the online application and submit proof of certification as a minority- or woman-owned business.

When the Super Bowl was held in Tampa in 2001, emerging businesses were awarded approximately $2.5 million in total contracts.

The program was conceived in 1994 and was initiated because the NFL recognized as a league that so many of these small businesses may not and do not have the opportunity to participate in an event of the Super Bowl’s scale, according to Tisha Ford, Manager, Special Events Business Development National Football League.

“We felt that by creating this direct link in order to offer them this opportunity to participate would be beneficial for both the business owners and also for the NFL,” she said.

Ford added there are a few reasonable expectations business owners can have of participating in the program. “It is a 14-month program, so within that time frame we host a series of workshops that can focus on not just doing business with the Super Bowl, but also general business development, that instill knowledge that can help take them far,” she said. “It also provides a networking opportunity, not only with the NFL, but also with one another.

These businesses go through a very rigorous process; the kind they would go through for any other type of business procurement. They learn how to do business on this type of level. We also help them with some matchmaking so they can display their services and show themselves in the best light to our contractors.”

Their workshops were quite different this year, according to Ford. The workshops typically focus on doing business with the NFL. The NFL also has their contractors there to discuss to how they do business and how they expect to do business with local business owners. Some years they may do a series that may focus on more broad subjects, such as what business opportunities are available locally. This year, they have another program called the NFL Playbook Workshop Series. According to Ford, it falls under the umbrella of the Business Outreach Initiative. The Playbook Workshop series focuses specifically on business development.

Being a part of the program definitely has a tremendous impact on the businesses involved, agreed Stephanie Owens Royster, Director of Community Outreach, Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host Committee.

“I think the program has such a huge impact because it physically goes out and finds these opportunities for these small business owners that they wouldn’t have an opportunity to compete for,” she said. “We don’t often get Super Bowls in Tampa and when we do, the NFL creates a chance for these businesses to be able to compete for some of the contracting opportunities. The Super Bowl is planned years in advance and in addition to that, the NFL has a very specific formula of how they do this. They are looking for something very special in their vendors and this type of specificity is something that some of the smaller vendors wouldn’t normally have the chance to develop. I’ve had the fortune of being involved with this program for two Super Bowls and I have certainly seen some of the businesses that have participated and their growth in terms of their ability to compete for other types of special events coming into the area based on their Super Bowl experience.”

Linda Caivano, Manager of Events by Amore first heard about the NFL Emerging Business Program through Tampa Bay & Company, the area’s Visitor’s and Convention bureau, and was able to land a contract for the Athletes in Action Super Bowl Breakfast, a section of the NFL Tailgate party and also feed a crew of 1,200 people on Super Bowl Sunday.

“This program has just really been a Godsend for us,” she said. “It’s really been a great opportunity for us for many different reasons. The training they offer to businesses is invaluable. It opens a lot of doors for opportunities that we weren’t aware of. It allows business owners to participate in continuing education without them paying for it.”

Caivano added that the most valuable thing she took away from the workshops was the professionalism they encouraged and the confidence she got in herself through the education they offer. “It gives you an edge when you speak to people,” she said. “It brings a little bit of credibility. All these big events we have coming up for us; we didn’t have all of this on our plate when we first started.”

She has high hopes for what will come from landing this type of contract. “I hope that we will ride out this economy. Seriously, we are a luxury business in a bad economy. The recognition we receive through being a part of this group will take us forward. I think this program has helped us learn to spend more wisely, so that we’ll be able to hold on to the profit we’re making. Without their support and knowledge we’ve learned, we wouldn’t be able to be in this position today.”

Al Silva, owner of Silva Specialties, hadn’t heard about the NFL’s Emerging Business Program, but he knew the Super Bowl was coming to town, made some calls and found out about it. Silva is providing small leather notebooks and pens with the Super Bowl logo on them for the reporters covering the game.

“I think the intentions of the NFL are tremendous,” he said. “In my opinion I think the NFL is 100 percent behind and committed to this program. Working with the NFL was a pleasure, because they are so organized that if you just follow the steps, it’s very easy. They are so structured and so professional in what they do. Everything is spelled out for you. All you have to do is follow the steps. I’m hoping that I can get some business out of the NFL going forward.”

The landscape of minority- and women-owned businesses has changed greatly since the 2001 Tampa Super Bowl, according to Owens Royster. “We certainly have more of them, although the number of businesses participating for this year is roughly about the same that participated in 2001,” she said. “Part of that is because some of the businesses who at the time were small businesses actually don’t meet some of the criteria that they met back in 2001. Meaning their businesses have grown to become too large to meet their small business criteria requirements.

In addition to the landscape, the program itself has changed over the years, added Owens Royster. “I think that probably the biggest change is that there are much more opportunities and so one of the challenges in the past has been that oftentimes there are many, many businesses competing for a smaller number of opportunities, she said. “With the growth of the game and will all credit to the NFL and working more closely with contractors, we’ve been able to take some of the larger procurement efforts and break them down to provide more opportunities.”

The Super Bowl will be held in Miami in 2010. South Florida small, minority- and women-owned businesses can start applying for the Emerging Business Program online in March 2009. For program inquiries, contact cminnis@SouthFloridaSuperBowl.com or call (305) 626-7341.

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Reader Comments

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 9:22 PM
tonya says:
This sounds like an awesome opportunity . I will definitely be checking this out. I hope i am not to late to get started. Than you for such great info. Small businesses need all the help they can get right now. Especially us green horns.

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