April 13 is the Made in Monmouth exhibition at the Ocean First Bank Center on the campus of Monmouth University from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's sponsored by the County of Monmouth Economic Development.

Freeholder Thomas Arnone said bringing businesses into a county but retaining businesses is another story. About 95% of businesses in Monmouth County are small businesses with 100 employees or less and it's tough to market themselves. In order to help them, Arnone said the freeholders developed this idea.

Made in Monmouth began eight years ago with about 80 businesses participating. Now it has exploded with Saturday being the biggest event they've done in the past eight years. More than 250 vendors will be showcased and more than 5,000 people are expected to attend.

Arnone said small businesses love this event because it's a way for them to sell and showcase and build a clientele.

Vendors include winemakers, eateries, craftsmen, artists and jewelry makers.

Arnone said Monmouth works with the Junior Entrepreneur Training program in Asbury Park. The 7th and 8th graders get a loan and create a product. They have to then sell their product, pay the loan and keep the rest of the money.

But the thing that's so amazing to Arnone is all the types of creativity and people that have such talent.

For example, during the first year of Made in Monmouth exhibition, a small business came in and made some friends with other small businesses. They wound up opening up a business in Middletown called Junction Boutique. It's seven businesses but Arnone said they never would have been able to open a business or a storefront for themselves.

The event is free for all the businesses participating. Check the event's Facebook page or call 732-431-7470 for more information.

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