This Sunday, Pat Paolino Cruz will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the bi-annual Southern New England Women’s Expo, an event she founded in and has co-produced since 2005.
The expo, held twice a year at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, features more than 150 vendors from local businesses, makeovers, seminars, presentations, fashion shows, cooking demonstrations and more. Sunday’s expo runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“It is such a collaboration of interests for women,” said Cruz in a phone interview. “There are so many different things and there is not one thing that makes it stand out.”
A Warwick resident since 1991 and a graduate of Cranston High School West, Cruz says she is a self-taught networking event coordinator and trade show producer.
In addition, Cruz is a social media specialist who has been ranked as one of the top five Rhode Islanders for social media influence by KLOUT, a company that measures and scores influence on social media sites. She is also the host of the radio show “Social Women.”
Cruz came up with the idea of a women’s expo while working on the Spectacular Bridal Event, a wedding expo that occurs every Thanksgiving weekend at The Crowne Plaza. She is also founder and co-producer of that event.
“Running that show made me watch and realize how much fun women have at the event. I thought there should be an event like this for all women, not just brides. The mothers, sisters, bridesmaids – all of them are having fun,” said Cruz.
So Cruz decided to create an expo that would allow local businesses to reach who she says is their most influential consumer.
“Most of the things I do revolve around women. Most businesses should pay attention to women because they make 85 percent of purchasing decisions,” said Cruz.
The press release for the expo explains that American women account for $5 trillion in consumer purchases each year, which is equal to half of the U.S. GDP.
According to Cruz, the Southern New England Women’s Expo is the oldest-running and most attended event for women in the area. She estimates 8,000 women will attend on Sunday.
“There is really nothing else like it,” said Cruz, who believes her expo caters to the average woman. “I don’t know of any other event that brings in that many people in one day.”
The size of the event is exactly what Cruz says is the benefit to small- and medium-sized businesses in the area. Exhibitors can pay as low as $395 for a table and booths start at only $495.
“Where can they go for that money and be in front of that many women,” said Cruz.
This expo allows for smaller businesses with limited budgets for marketing and advertising to make a big impact. There are also larger companies such as Walgreens and Care New England that will be part of the expo.
As for the attendees, Cruz says there is something for everybody.
“There isn’t a woman who wouldn’t benefit from attending the event, plus they leave with tons of goodies from the exhibitors,” said Cruz, adding that the first 300 attendees will receive goodie bags, but exhibitors give away free items at their tables and booths as well. Many vendors are even having prize giveaways valued up to $500.
Cruz says that the wide array of vendors, demonstrations and speakers are all things that bring women to the expo.
“There is not one particular draw of the event. You can’t say people only come to see this or they only come to see that,” said Cruz.
This year, the expo features all-day entertainment with speakers and presenters from all walks of life.
“I pick topics and speakers that I think I would like to hear,” said Cruz. “I am actually excited for all of them. There are so many coming in.”
For starters, Jonathan Joseph Peters, creative director for StyleWeek LLC and a designer featured on season seven of “Project Runway,” will be speaking with Bethany Wood, also of StyleWeek, on fashion and trends.
Rhode Island medium and psychic Matthew Fraser will be appearing. Pat Olsen, another renowned medium from Massachusetts, will also give a presentation.
Single women may enjoy a presentation by Janis Spindel, a matchmaker from New York City who has been featured on programs such as “The Today Show,” “Dr. Phil” and “The CBS Early Show.”
For mothers in the audience, Providence resident and soon-to-be mother of five Audrey McClelland will be giving a presentation. McClellan founded MomGenerations.com along with her mother and sister. Also presenting is NBC 10’s health reporter, Barbara Morse Silva, who will be speaking about women’s health issues.
“[Women] want to listen to things, all different types of things,” said Cruz.
In addition to the Southern New England Women’s Expo and Spectacular Bridal Event, Cruz is hoping to host a second women’s business conference this October. She hosted the first back in 2010.
Also, she says she will begin planning the fall Women’s Expo right away.
“Businesses will begin registering for the fall at Sunday’s event,” said Cruz.
Tickets for Sunday’s Southern New England Women’s Expo are $18 at the door, but discount coupons are available at certain Walgreens locations and online at www.snewomensexpo.com.