News & Updates

3rd Annual Food Truck Competition

The Eaton County Expo Committee is now accepting applications for the 2024 Food Truck Competition.  There are limited spaces available for Food Trucks.  We are looking for a variety of cuisine.  Put your menu up against our returning winners and invite all your friends and neighbors to come support you.

The Eaton County Expo draws attendees from all over Michigan, Northern Indiana, and Illinois.  The Eaton County Expo is also one of the first events of the season, so it is a great way to get excitement generating for the season ahead and possibly gain some new loyal customers.

Applications are available on the “Join” tab.  Let’s kick off the 2024 event season in style.

Testimonial Of A New Business

This is such a great story from one of our 2022 vendors.  Helping local businesses is why the Eaton County Expo was started.  Give it a read.


Starting a new business is hard. Like, really hard. And I knew that, I worked in business development for almost a decade and coached entrepreneurs as they started out on their ventures. With all this experience, I still wasn’t prepared for the journey ahead of me. In this four-part series learn how I went from a dream to a brick and mortar location in just eight months.

Step One: Make A Entrance

I knew I was going to have to do something big to start my business, something that everyone would be talking about for a while. Blimp? Too flashy. Fireworks? Not permitted within city limits. Commercial? Too expensive. Then a member of Locals in Business reached out to me and asked if I would like to launch my business at the Eaton County Home and Business Expo. And “Bing!” just like that a lightbulb went off! The Expo!

I’d attended The Expo before and I had recommended it to many local business owners, but I hadn’t thought of it as a way to launch a small business. With encouragement from event coordinators, I was ready to take the leap and launch BlackDog Coffee.

I had two months to prepare everything–literally, everything. I didn’t have a coffee roaster yet, I didn’t have any machinery, I didn’t have cups–all I had was a dream and a lot of untapped potential. Everyday I worked tirelessly to create a brand, find products, and solidify a plan for The Expo.

The Expo gave me what I was missing the most, a timeline. On April 30th I had to be ready-to-go. No excuses. This lit a fire under me that was needed and gave me a very attainable goal.

Two weeks before the event I shared with my friends and family that I had quit my very comfy white collar job and was now pursuing my dream of starting BlackDog Coffee. While this came as a surprise, everyone was very supportive of me and my new pursuits. I continued posting and hyping up BlackDog Coffee and The Expo, these posts were reaching about three thousand people and everyone was ready to give it a try.

The day of the event we brought four pots of coffee, thinking that might be enough, unsure of how many people would actually show up. We sold through those four pots in thirty (you read that right) thirty minutes! We started brewing more like crazy!

At one point we had 15 cups sitting at our booth, paid for, and waiting for coffee. We couldn’t brew it fast enough–people loved the taste of our coffee and were impressed by the flavor and the low acidity. By the end of the day we went through 15 pots of coffee and we had gained hundreds of social media followers.

Day two we were much more prepared than we were for day one. Even with preparation, we sold out of our delicious coffee so quickly we had a line form once again. This day we sold 10 pots of coffee. Which is still more than I could’ve ever imagined!

Even though we were swamped, we continued to post on social media and invited our guests to do the same. This constant promotion of the event encouraged people to come out and support us, while also promoting The Expo and everything going on.

This launch was so successful for us, we were able to use the money as seed money to buy equipment, pay for farmers markets rentals, and tuck a little bit away to go towards our brick and mortar.

As a small business owner I don’t think we could’ve had a better first day. Thank you so much to the Eaton County Home and Business Expo for hosting this great event. We were able to connect with people who truly care about small business ownership, locally owned businesses, and their downtown economy. These are the people who still come out to support us today.

Since we’ve opened, we have had tens of people say “hey, I remember you guys from The Expo!” Having a booth at The Expo made us legitimate in a lot of people’s eyes and that very first day, where we were able to showcase a great product, was enough that people still remember us six months later.

If you’re a small business wondering if you should get a booth at the Eaton County Home and Business Expo–do it. Do it right, promote ahead of time, and ready yourself to build a customer base that will last long after the event.

Stop in now to grab some BlackDog Coffee at 120 W Hamlin, Eaton Rapids, or you can wait to see us at the 2023 Eaton County Home and Business Expo–see you there!

-Lisa Barna

Owner, BlackDog Coffee

2022 Eaton County Expo Presents Craft Beer Tasting & Food Truck War

Each year the Eaton County Expo Committee tries to bring new aspects to the event.  This year we have a few breweries from Eaton County that will be providing one of their Craft Beers for a tasting event.  The Craft Beer tasting will run from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on Saturday, April 30th and from 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm on Sunday, May 1st.  Participants that want to take advantage of the tasting will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite brew. Tokens will be available for purchase from the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce at the event.

Although we have had a food truck at the Expo before a new feature at this year’s Eaton County Expo is Food Truck Wars.  Voting for your favorite food truck will be through the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce App.  The App is available for Android and Apple devices.  Look for “MI Charlotte” in the App Store. The winner of this year’s friendly competition will get an award to display on their truck letting everyone know they won the Food Truck War at Eaton County Expo.

Come check out all the ways you can Shop Locally and sample some of what Eaton County has to offer.

2020 Eaton County Home & Business Expo Postponed

2020 Eaton County Home & Business Expo Postponed

As the COVID-19 pandemic began the Eaton County Home & Business Expo Committee were in the home stretch of putting together the 2020 event.  New features, a larger involvement from Eaton County businesses as a whole, and more talented youth presentations were just some of the highlights of this year’s event.  The Executive Orders issued by the Governor stopped progress for the event and the Expo Committee took a step back to find out what the vendors that were registered would like to see happen.

After sending out a survey to over 100 businesses and organizations that were registered for the 2020 Eaton County Home & Business Expo the overwhelming response was to wait until 2021 to hold the event.  Some of the businesses that were registered have been mandated to shut down operations at this time and they are doing their best to adapt and find a way to make it through this challenging time.  Vendors that are still operating are finding ways to adapt to the changed climate of how they must conduct business.  All vendors felt that our community will need time to recover from the economic, social, and physical effects of COVID-19 and the Executive Orders issued to help contain the spread of the disease.

Please continue to support our Eaton County businesses during this time, they need you more than ever.  We have many small communities and locally owned businesses that are doing some amazing things to pull together and support each other right now.  Thank you to everyone that has been and continues to be part of making Eaton County a wonderful place to live, work, shop, and call home.

Thank you for your continued support and we’ll see you next year at the 2021 Eaton County Home & Business Expo.

Charlotte Celebrates 2019

Thank you to all who joined us at Charlotte Celebrates this year! Support Local!

2018 & 2017 Eaton County Expos

Eaton County Home and Business Expo is a organized through a partnership between the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and Charlotte, Michigan LOCALS in Business.