Small businesses angle for piece of the big game

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Big Game isn’t necessarily big business for small firms, but entrepreneurs across Indiana nevertheless are eager to be part of the greatest spectacle in football.

More than 400 companies statewide qualified for this year’s NFL Emerging Business program, an initiative that aims to open doors for minority- and women-owned enterprises seeking a sliver of Super Bowl spending.

“It is truly a business-development program,” said Marshawn Wolley, director of emerging business and community outreach for the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee. “Many of these businesses are being exposed to the [bidding] process for the first time.”

Firms selected for the program are listed in the Business Resource Guide, a searchable database made available to the NFL and its “procurement family”—the host committee, league sponsors and private contractors—as they line up vendors for hundreds of Super-Bowl-related events. The list also is available to the general public.

It’s a big opportunity, but Wolley has been careful not to elevate expectations. Despite the size and scope of the game and its associated activities, he said businesses shouldn’t count on landing a quick trip to Easy Street.

“There are limited opportunities and nobody is going to get rich,” he said, repeating the message he’s been sending since the local program kicked off in November 2010. “We are trying to position businesses beyond the game. It’s what happens afterward that is important.”

Indeed, Trans-Plants owner Chris Combs has landed several Super Bowl gigs—providing centerpieces and rental plants for a Feb. 1 event at the Indiana Roof Ballroom and putting together VIP gift baskets for the host committee, among other tasks—but doesn’t expect much movement in her bottom line.

“The best part is, you’re involved,” she said. “We may never get another Super Bowl. Whether we make a ton of money or not—and it’s not—we’re part of it. … It’s a shot in the arm.”

Combs said she already has made connections through the program that she’s hopeful will pay off down the road. Her six-employee Indianapolis firm has struggled to make inroads at the Roof, for example, but it is on the event coordinator’s radar screen now.

The 54-year-old founded Trans-Plants in 1986, providing plant-leasing services to companies and property management firms. It has added products and services, including gift baskets, over the years as clients requested extras.

Despite her experience, Combs attended all three of the NFL Playbook business-development workshops developed for program participants. Other benefits include access to special scholarships from WGU-Indiana and the Emerging Business Challenge, which offers customers of participating firms the chance to win Super Bowl tickets.

“It’s definitely a wonderful program,” Combs said.

Still, it has had detractors. In the past, critics complained that the program was cumbersome and oversold.

Wolley is unapologetic about the selection process, which varies from year to year. He said Indianapolis’ Emerging Business committee—composed of representatives from local certifying agencies and chambers of commerce—wanted to make sure the companies on the list would be able to deliver on their promises.

So the committee hosted “Super Pitch Monday” before procurement began, lining up experts to give businesses feedback on their Super Bowl proposals. Organizers also stayed focused on firms that actually provide the services NFL buyers need.

“It was very targeted,” Wolley said. “We didn’t go looking for accounting firms or law firms because we knew we didn’t need them.”

All told, 880 businesses in 10 states applied for the program. More than 400 Indiana-based firms completed all the requirements to be selected. Over 900 businesses made the cut in Dallas last year.

Although the number varies from year to year based on participation, about 25 percent to 35 percent of the selected businesses land a Super-Bowl-related contract, according to the NFL’s participant handbook.

Keith Walker, owner of Indianapolis-based Above and Beyond Limousine, is gearing up for five days of around-the-clock activity. He plans to more than triple his work force during the Super Bowl buildup, bringing in 35 to 40 temporary employees to meet the needs of corporate clients.

Despite the boost in business, he’s just as excited about the connections he has made through the Emerging Business program.

“We can help each other down the line when all of this is over,” Walker said.

Wolley said the local Emerging Business committee plans to meet periodically even after the game, continuing what has become a valuable collaboration.

To get the most out of the Super Bowl, local businesses can’t throw in the towel when the final whistle blows.

“This is a great moment in time, but it’s just that—a moment,” said Tony Mason, senior vice president of the Indianapolis host committee.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Thank you to the scientists who care enough to find a cure. We are so lucky that their intelligence has brought them to these understandings because it is through these understandings that we have new hope. Certainly the medicine will be expensive, these drugs usually are, especially the ones that are not mass produced. If I know anything from the walks that my town has put on for FA it is this: people care and people want to help. Donations and financial support can and will come to those who need it. All we need is a cure, the money will come. I mean, look at what these scientists have done thanks to the generosity of donors. 30 million dollars brings us here where we can talk about a drug's existence! There is so much to be frustrated about in this world, but this scientific break is not one of them. I am so happy for this new found hope. Thank you so much to the scientists who have been slaving away to help my friends with FA. We wish you speedy success in the time to come!

  2. I love tiny neighborhood bars-- when I travel city to city for work, it's my preference to find them. However, too many still having smoking inside. So I'm limited to bars in the cities that have smoking bans. I travel to Kokomo often, and I can promise, I'll be one of those people who visit the ma and pa bars once they're smoke free!

  3. I believe the issue with keystone & 96th was due to running out of funds though there were other factors. I just hope that a similar situation does not befall ST RD 37 where only half of the overhaul gets built.

  4. It's so great to see a country founded on freedom uphold the freedom for all people to work and patronize a public venue without risking their health! People do not go to bars to smoke, they can take it outside.

  5. So, Hurko, mass transit has not proven itself in Indy so we should build incredibly expensive train lines? How would that fix the lack of demand? And as far as those double decker buses to bus people in from suburbs, we can't fill up a regular sized buses now and have had to cancel lines and greatly subsidize others. No need for double decker buses there.