NFL’s Business Connect program involving metro Phoenix businesses in the Super Bowl

Feb 10, 2023, 4:35 AM

(KTAR News Photo/Luke Forstner)...

(KTAR News Photo/Luke Forstner)

(KTAR News Photo/Luke Forstner)

PHOENIX — There have been dozens of events in the weeks and months leading up to the Super Bowl in Glendale.

All have relied heavily on local businesses.

The NFL’s Business Connect program is part of every Super Bowl. It’s a way for the league to connect with the cities that host the biggest sporting event of the year.

Jennie Patel works with the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee and said they received hundreds of applications.

“We selected over 220 local diverse businesses,” she explained. “’Diverse’ being woman-owned, LGBTQ+-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses.”

All those businesses fill a lot of needs surrounding the big game.

“Essentially everything and everything that goes into putting on an event, [like] décor, food and beverage, and janitorial needs,” Patel said.

“At the tailgate, there are a ton of Business Connect suppliers. At the Super Bowl Experience at Hance Park, many of the food trucks out there are our Business Connect suppliers.”

One example is Wok This Way, a food truck owned by Kris Mill and her business partner/nephew Jake Lipovitch.

“We are the first zero-waste food truck in the state of Arizona,” she said, “[Serving] vegan and vegetarian Asian wok-style.”

The food truck started small through its founders’ shared love of cooking.

“Jake and I were doing pop-up restaurants, then we raised enough money and we bought a truck,” Mill recalled.

The Business Connect program gave small start-ups like Wok This Way a chance to grow.

BJ Waymer, who leads the Business Connect program for the NFL, explained part of the program’s mission is also business education.

“The whole objective of Business Connect is to make sure that the National Football League impacts the lives of the local business suppliers who live in any market we work in,” she said.

The program does this by offering resources to the participating businesses.

“We host workshops and do networking events,” Waymer said, “all making sure that they’re prepared to compete for business and will be successful in whatever contracts they’re awarded.”

Waymer believes this work will help businesses long after the Super Bowl leaves town.

“We have introduced our local diverse suppliers in the Business Connect program to procurement executives all over the city of Phoenix and Arizona,” she added.

“That means there could be ongoing contracts, because we’ve made a connection.”

Mill certainly thinks the program has helped Wok This Way.

“[At workshops] we would learn marketing and how to connect with the community,” she explained. “It was a way for us and other small businesses to connect and network, and a way for us to build our business. It’s priceless.”

Heather Lennon was also a new participant to the program, although she’s no stranger to small business.

“I’ve been a residential and commercial general contractor for 25 years,” she said. “I’m the owner of a variety of small businesses … and I specialize in retail and adaptive re-use of historic buildings.”

An example is Warehouse 215, an old linen and laundry building in downtown Phoenix that has been re-purposed as an event space. Warehouse 215 hosted multiple events put on the by the Super Bowl Host Committee.

Lennon said although she already has the business acumen, what the Business Connect program offers is important to the Valley’s business ecosystem.

“The wealth of knowledge that they provided to people was really amazing… it was really inspiring,” she said. “It’s lovely to see all of these small businesses getting what they deserve.”

Lennon added that she believes Business Connect will be meaningful to the participating small businesses for years to come.

“I think it shows you that, even if you are a small business, that you can compete with the larger companies,” she stressed. “It’s wonderful networking, and it’s great to see the community come together to help out small businesses.”

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NFL’s Business Connect program involving metro Phoenix businesses in the Super Bowl