Nancy and Jim Renko of Floribbean Flo's in Sarasota, Fla., have enjoyed a steady flow of curious customers despite the turbulent economy. The community has learned that the tropical bakery and gift basket business is participating in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa Bay on Feb. 1 as a vendor.

"Our corporate business was substantially down 35 percent, but the local business that was produced because of the awareness made up for that," says Jim Renko, a co-partner and spokesman. His wife, Nancy, owns the majority of the business, which enabled them to participate in the NFL Emerging Business Program.

The program provides opportunities for local certified minority- and women-owned businesses to set up procurement contracts with the NFL. It has generated more than $50 million of contracts for minority- and women-owned businesses since its launch in 1994, says Tisha Ford, the NFL's manager of special events business development.

To be eligible for participation in the Emerging Business Program, a business first needs to be certified as a minority- or women-owned business from a certifying agency approved by the Super Bowl host committee.

It took two months for Floribbean Flo's to receive certification as a woman-owned business, Renko says. Once certified, the couple completed an official application and were included in the official Online Business Resource Guide, which is available to NFL contractors, affiliates, corporate sponsors and event planners looking for vendors. The guide includes more than 50 vendor categories for the Super Bowl, beginning with audio/visual and ending with waste removal.

Being included in the guide doesn't guarantee you'll win a contract. But a contractor for the NFL tailgate party was interested in the Renkos' catering services. They filled out forms describing what they do and how they do it, and were invited to bid.

They submitted their popular Key Lime, Honey Dell Orange and Jamaican Rum bunt-style cakes, which range from $18 to $20 and yield 14 to 16 servings. Floribbean Flo's was selected. The Renkos signed a contract and expect to serve 1,500 people.

How to Get Your Name in Front of NFL Contractors
Here are the steps businesses must take to be included in the official resource guide that NFL contractors can peruse for potential vendors. • Contact the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee for Super Bowl XLIV in Miami Gardens, Fla.

• Complete an official application.

• Submit proof of certification as a minority- or women-owned business from a pre-approved certifying agency identified by the host committee.
 

Serving the Community
Each year, the Super Bowl's host committee implements the program based on the needs of its community. The Tampa Bay Host Committee, for instance, decided to hold three workshops that attracted 300 to 400 people, says Stephanie Owens Royster, the Tampa Bay Host Committee's director of community outreach. At the workshops, NFL contractors explained what they needed to buy, the process and what they were looking for from vendors.

This is the second time Sol Davis Printing Inc. in Tampa is participating in the Super Bowl. It's printing how-to manuals for volunteers. The company's revenue increased during and after Super Bowl XXXV in 2001.

"Once you are able to put on your client listing that you did business with the NFL for the Super Bowl, it gives you a lot of credibility," vice president Solomon Davis says.

Francine Powers, owner of the Miami catering company We're Having a Party Inc., has participated in three Super Bowls: 1995, 1999 and 2007. She says the production company that requested her services during the 1995 Super Bowl also asked for her services at the Academy Awards Governor's Ball in Los Angeles.

Powers was working out of her home at the time and says the events taught her how to handle a high volume of customers. It also enabled her to increase the size of the business and purchase new equipment. Her company is now located in a commercial space. Powers was one of the speakers at the workshops in Tampa last fall, and she's looking forward to providing her services again in 2010.

Submit a Winning Bid
If your company lands in the resource guide and you receive a call from a contractor, take advantage of the following tips from participating businesses and coordinators of the program to help land an NFL deal:

  • Prepare. Make sure your bid is informative, addresses the contractor's needs and wants, and is polished and professional. Provide a reference list of customer comments and/or a visual presentation, such as PowerPoint slides. Respect the contractor's time. Respond in a timely manner if you are contacted. Prepare before speaking with the contractor so neither of you wastes any time, and don't contact the contractor unnecessarily.
     
  • Show creativity. Initially, it may appear as though your services may not fit the contractor's needs. "Really try to understand everything about the opportunity," Royster says. "You may bring an aspect the NFL hasn't considered." Show your creativity and know that your excitement will go a long way.
     
  • Know your capabilities. Don't exaggerate your capabilities or make promises you cannot keep, warns Rodney Barreto, chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee. Express openness and honesty about what you can do and describe your specific niche. Contractors have specific criteria they're looking for and a diverse array of needs.
     
  • Establish a website. Make sure you have a presence online and that your website is presented well and provides details about your business.
     
  • Demonstrate conscientious pricing. Don't think you'll hit the jackpot because it's the NFL. It's likely not the first time the Super Bowl has come to your area, and contractors will know inflated prices when they see them.