When it comes to trade shows and conferences, you might say that I've been there and done that. This experience is one of the side benefits of being a business journalist and dabbling in a number of marketing and sales ventures.
If you want to talk diversity, try comparing the largest show I've ever attended -- called World of Concrete -- with one featuring a gathering of television programming gurus. Or compare going ga-ga at golf's PGA Merchandise Show with expos thrown by the go-go renegades in the dot-com world.
My feet have ached and my back's been sore from an eight-hour standing shift in a booth. I've ogled the "hired talent" in skimpy outfits, marveled at monstrous displays, helped give away a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. I've endured my share of keynote speeches, watched the evolution of technology that made PowerPoint presentations the standard seminar device.
And despite all that, I still can call the 2002 International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas a unique experience. In two days there, I saw most of the 375 or so exhibitors, met some intriguing folks and enjoyed the best trade show food of my life. Walking the floor with PizzaMarketplace editor Steve Coomes, I learned that the pizza industry is rife with colorful characters, mega-successful businesses, innovative marketers and a bunch of friendly pizzeria operators intent on improving their bottom line.
I learned about a can opener one operator said may revolutionize the industry, a POS system that keeps bartenders honest, ovens that cut cook time while saving utility costs, a half-century-old chain making a comeback, and why La Nova Pizzeria is the busiest independent pizzeria in the country ("Everybody works seven days," says 57-year-old Joe Todaro, Jr.) There also were cups that changed color with temperature, the "Mercedes of mixers," and I learned more than I ever intended on how dough, cheese and sauce get to the top of a pizza.
For the uninitiated, some background. This was the first International Pizza Expo for our company since the launch last November of PizzaMarketplace. In addition to Steve, and I, we brought our chairman, Alan Fryrear, executive vice president for sales, Bob Fincher, and our PizzaMarketplace sales executive, Phil Benninger.
This was Steve's first International Pizza Expo since leaving Pizza Today last summer. His network of industry contacts warmly embraced his return to the show, many of whom were curious about his changed career path. This was his fourth Pizza Expo in Vegas, but the first in which his assignment was strictly journalism.
On the first day, two stories about the show's seminars appeared on our site -- the only stories written and published on the show in such a timely manner.
The momentum for creating an online provider of daily news content for the pizza industry originated during a couple of lunches I had with Steve in Louisville last year. In August, our parent company, NetWorld Alliance, offered him the opportunity to be editor of that site. He accepted, leaving a safe and respected position at the magazine to head what he and the management team of our company believe is changing the way those in the industry find news.
There was risk involved, but we knew what we were getting into. It was all about a business opportunity, one that has massive potential.
We're proud of our first few months, as we've written about several industry trends, provided unique insights and showed that our daily delivery of industry news works as well for pizza as it has in our other successful sites, ATMmarketplace.com, KioskMarketplace.com, and Kiosks.org.
We've found that most of the stories we create can be found nowhere else, and that some of our content is picked up in print publications weeks or months after our original posting date.
We started PizzaMarketplace because we knew it was a good business opportunity, and of course we're in business to make a profit. We make our money through advertising sales on the site, and we're thrilled about the way the advertising community has welcomed our product.
But we also see an opportunity to help the industry by providing a much-needed resource for pizza companies, vendors and suppliers to share information. It's our belief that the more information that is readily available, the better it is for everyone in the business.