The Opportunity Antenna: Inauguration Business Taught a Lesson

by Jill Foster on February 6, 2009

As a DC resident, my thoughts still linger with inauguration two weeks ago.

Remember the crowds…the waves of people, all of them DC-bound and eager to witness President Obama’s swearing in?

It was incredible watching business engage. The security measures and huge influx of potential customers impacted business here in unique and obvious ways. But the businesses based on the inauguration specifically – the street vendors and day-of sponsored services – just blew my mind. The sheer volume conducting business underscored the perceived opportunity here.

Women-owned business and more And last week, I shared related stories on three women-owned businesses in the District and how they were affected. But the story didn’t stop there regarding this city and inauguration commerce. And before time slips too far away, I wanted to better share how vendors and other businesses capitalized on events.


Here’s a snap shot of business observed en route to the ceremony. Vendors slept in tents. Walking south down 16th Street, vendors lined the main thoroughfare with Obama-faced trinkets. Some vendors set-up their business tables by sunrise while others staked out their site by sleeping next to their chosen area. Streets this far downtown were closed; so what were regularly streets packed with traffic were now filled with crowds, surrounded by sales.

Vendors draped themselves with product. Some stood on benches or on cars to draw attention to their products.

Company logos laced stone columns of historical buildings. Imagine a historical structure that often hosts stately events adorned with company banners (image at left depicts part of Best Buy signage draping Constitution Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution).


Best Buy leased the hall to invite crowds in from the biting cold to view inaugural ceremonies (on huge flat screens).

Beyond 1.8 million visitors: seeing opportunity Granted with the gigantic onslaught of new people to DC, the business opportunity for many small businesses and vendors was evident. Yet it got me thinking the past few weeks with this question: How much opportunity exists right before me that may not be as obvious as a massive inauguration crowd (but there’s still a chance to serve and provide value)?

How keen is my ‘opportunity antenna’?

Since really confronting this question, it’s been made clear there were plenty of idea partners and internal customers I had yet to reach out to. As a small business advocate, it was a humbling moment.

Have you encountered similar realizations? I’d love to hear your experiences; and here’s to keeping that opportunity antenna way, way up!

(images used with permission from Kelly Bowers)

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