Local and small business owners showcased their products and dope talents at this year’s I’m DOPE (definitely on personal elevation) Expo .
Dozens of people attended the expo held on Friday and Saturday at the Holiday Inn Gainesville-University Center at 1250 W. University Ave.
Katie McKnight, CEO and founder of I’M DOPE, is a native Gainesville who grew up in the Copeland community. She said the mission behind the organization is to recognize, assist and highlight the everyday woman doing dope things.
“We have been in existence for about four years now,” McKnight said. “I created it to make sure every woman has access to the tools to be successful in all she does. Whether if shes a housewife or working in corporate America.”
Nearly 50 vendors participated in this year’s expo, which was the third one hosted by the organization. Vendors from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale showcased their products and services that included ice cream shops to empowerment organizations.
On Friday night, Gainesville native Lakendra Garrison and Duchess McKnight of Atlanta, Georgia, were guest speakers.
Garrison focused on the power of networking and Duchess McKnight spoke about perseverance.
“I love the networking, fun, wonderful shops and great people,” Katie McKnight said. “I have learned that we have some wonderful businesses and amazing people right here in our hometown.”
McKnight said meeting new people and learning about new businesses is why she created the expo.
Lynette Anderson, of Gainesville, is creator of The Daily Battle Devotional, a gospel recording artist and a hairstylist.
Anderson was one of the vendors at the expo.
“I loved everything about the I’m Dope expo,” Anderson said. “It was so many powerful women in there. It felt good to be in a room full of women entrepreneurs. I’m so proud of all of us, but especially Katie McKnight. She is one of my biggest encouragers as well as supporters and I’m so glad that she had this opportunity for us to come out every year and promote our businesses as well as make sells.
Marriette Ellis is the owner of Head’n Treasures, which was established on April 20, 2020 and launched on Nov. 16, 2020.
During the expo, Ellis sold head wraps, turbanettes, men, women and children’s apparel, cultural wear and jewelry.
“Supporting small businesses is important because it allows revenue to circulate in the community, it can create potential jobs locally and nationally and builds attractions for tourists to engage actively,” Ellis said. “Social media and word of mouth are two great marketing strategies that can be utilized to bring awareness and attention to support local and small businesses as well as the history and culture in the community.”
Ellis said she loved being one of the vendors at the expo.
“There was plenty to love,” Ellis said. “The expo provided a space for all attendees and vendors to connect, engage and support each other with words of encouragement, acts of kindness and it gave us a great opportunity to learn more about business owners as well as the history behind their businesses. was such a pleasure to be in the same room with so many DOPE people.”
Ellis said she is thankful for McKnight’s vision of bringing local and women-owned businesses together.
“She has created and provided a platform for business owners to network and develop healthy partnerships,” Ellis said. “Katie pushes each person to come outside of their comfort zone, to keep pushing toward their goals and her overall message is: ‘W can all thrive in life and in our businesses.’ Katie and her team are forever appreciated for the major work they’ve done for this community and for all vendors she’s come in contact with.”
McKnight said she will continue hosting expos and bringing like minds together.
“Our plan is to continue to host expos and the evens that we have throughout the year like our self love and wellness retreat,” McKnight said. “We also have a few other things that are in the works.”
For more information about I’M DOPE, visit www.wearedopetogether.com.