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BGSU Firelands, The Minority Business Empowerment Team, and RISE hosted a successful 2023 Small Business Symposium on April 14th, at the BGSU Firelands Campus. The event yielded nearly 100 attendees and provided an opportunity for small business professionals to learn from experts in various fields concluding with a keynote that encouraged the crowd to embrace change by practicing mindfulness and conquering fear. 

The symposium featured five breakout sessions that provided hands-on learning. Attendees learned about becoming more effective in addressing resistance to change and polarization from Dr. Barry Johnson, co-founder of Polarity Partnerships. Andrea Flack-Wetherald, who also presented the keynote, led a session on building resilience for change using mindfulness and improvised comedy. Erin Lydy, founder of Risen Path Consulting, provided attendees with a lesson on change management. John Edwards and Deanna Lawrence from Communica shared information on demystifying marketing, the role of AI, ChatGPT, and emerging technologies in businesses. BGSU Firelands Professor, Dr. Michelle Brodke, and student, Derek Rogers, led a session on embracing the multi-generational workforce. 

The symposium received positive feedback from attendees, with one stating, “The generational workshop was very informative and eye-opening.” Another said, “I learned a lot about using AI in ways that I have not thought about before.” A session attendee also commented, “Andrea’s session was a lot of fun and pushed us out of our comfort-zone.” 

The keynote address, Embracing Change with Mindful Improv Thinking™, presented by Andrea Flack-Wetherald, was a highlight of the symposium. Flack-Wetherald is a social worker turned comedian, motivational speaker, and best-selling author. She shared the core tenants of Mindful Improv Thinking™, a combination of mindfulness practice and improvised comedy, and how this way of approaching life and leadership can equip one for navigating change with confidence.  

RISE Coordinator, Alissa Fisher, expressed her appreciation for the attendees and stated, “We were glad to have so many local business professionals join us for the event. This is only our second year presenting this symposium, and we’ve received great feedback so far from those who attended. We are looking forward to doing it again next year with similar activities and networking opportunities.” 

Overall, the 2023 Small Business Symposium was engaging, informative, and captivating, with expert presenters and practical sessions. Small business professionals who attended gained valuable insights and skills that they can apply to their businesses. 

The event was sponsored by BGSU Firelands, Christina’s Creations Bakery, First National Bank of Bellevue, The Huntington National Bank, Mary Giles (Realtor, North Bay Realty), Sam’s Club Sandusky, Stefano Professional Aesthetics, VacationLand Federal Credit Union, and Waterstreet Financial.