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Business crowd mingles at annual Tradefest

Tradefest Chairwoman Janet Michael stands behind a booth for her marketing firm, Java Media. She designed the booth after Lucy's advice stand in "Peanuts." Ryan Cornell/Daily (Buy photo)

Jennifer Condon stands by a table displaying her Origami Owl lockets at Wednesday's Tradefest. She's been with the direct sales company for three months and was a contestant in Tradefest's Entrepreneurs Cafe. Ryan Cornell/Daily (Buy photo)

By Ryan Cornell

FRONT ROYAL -- Local Warren County businesses and residents attended the 20th annual Tradefest at the Holiday Inn and Suites in Front Royal on Wednesday.

Niki Foster, president of the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce -- the organization hosting the event -- said 36 vendors participated in the event. She said she was pleased with the public turnout.

"It's nice and steady," she said. "It's not like a big rush right when we opened and then quiet."

Booths advertising Royal Oak Computers, Dominion Health and Fitness, Best Exterminating, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Century Link, CruiseOne vacations and numerous banks and radio stations filled the room.

Just outside the entrance of the conference room sat a table loaded with jewelry and charms. Jennifer Condon, an independent designer with Origami Owl, was showing off clear lockets that customers could insert charms and display around their neck.

Similar to Tupperware or Mary Kay, she explained that Origami Owl is a direct sales company. She said the company was started three years ago by a 14-year-old girl who wanted to earn enough money to buy a jeep. Today, Origami Owl has 40,000 independent designers across the country, including several in Warren County.

After spending 20 years working in the U.S. Navy civil service, Condon said she switched to sell the custom jewelry about three months ago. She said that Tradefest, her first one, was a good way for her to get the word out about her company and meet new people.

One benefit of new technology, she said, has been the advent of Facebook parties. She said she invites people to attend an event on Facebook, but instead of organizing and hosting an actual party, she provides information about her company and products online and directs people to her website.

"It's like a party I don't have to clean up after," she said.

Harriet Harris, owner of Best Exterminating, stood next to a table decorated with rubber creepy-crawlies and vials of dead pests. She said the company has been getting lots of calls about stinkbugs lately and said homeowners can expect to see more rodents and cockroaches as winter draws nearer. She said that one time a bedbug infestation was so fierce that her exterminators had to wear Tyvek suits when they entered the house.

Travis and Tiffany Falls were informing people from behind a booth about their home-based travel agency, CruiseOne vacations. Tiffany Falls said that people haven't been vacationing any less over the years, even when the economy has gotten rocky. Travis Falls said two of the most popular destinations people have been going to are cruises to Alaska and the Caribbean.

Tammy Carlyle, owner of Green Clean, was telling people about her business' all-natural cleaning products. She said the products can be used for residential and light commercial cleaning, and they contain no harsh chemicals.

She said she got the idea to create the products after she noticed her kids getting sick and developing bloody noses in response to some of the store-bought products she was using.

"I feel that my children had allergies growing up and that there weren't any safe cleaning products," she said. "This is healthier."

She said she was using Tradefest as an opportunity to launch her newest product, a set of soy-based candles made out of essential oils.

Janet Michael, chairwoman of Tradefest, stood behind a booth for her marketing firm, Java Media. Built like a lemonade stand, she explained that she modeled it after Lucy's 5-cents-for-advice booth in "Peanuts."

Holding up a jar partially filled with nickels, she said she had been dispensing marketing advice to people throughout the day. She said she was inviting people to search for their company's name on Google to see how they ranked.

Kristie Sours-Brown, a mammographer-turned-auctioneer who started Bearfoot Enterprises LLC this summer, walked from booth to booth. As one of the contestants at the Entrepreneurs Café, she pitched that she wanted to build a website for online auctions.

"It allows you to take pictures of the items at their house and sell it online," she said. "It eliminates the out-of-pocket cost of moving it to a gallery and storing it."

She ended up winning the Café with her pitch and a $500 grant, which she said will go toward buying a domain and building the website.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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