March 4: Sellout alumni trade show adds after-party

CougsFirst-250BELLEVUE, Wash. – More than 100 businesses with alumni ties to Washington State University will exhibit their products and services at the third annual CougsFirst! trade show 4-8 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center. A new networking after-party will be 8-10:30 p.m.

Both events are free, but pre-registration is recommended. Register here.

Waiting list of exhibitors

CougsFirst! is a volunteer nonprofit organization created by six WSU alumni on the belief that the bond Cougars share around academics and athletics extends to the business arena.

That premise appears to be valid, given the growth from 40 exhibitors in 2013, the show’s first year, to 100 exhibitors and a waiting list this year.

“Our goal is to use special events, social media, advertising and other marketing so WSU alumni and friends can network and interact in a positive business environment,” said former WSU and NFL quarterback Jack Thompson, a CougsFirst! founder, board member and a vice president at Umpqua Bank.

Music, networking at after-party

Sister band Falk will perform.

He said the board added the after-party this year to facilitate networking and in response to feedback from attendees at last year’s show. The party will include complimentary hors d’oeuvres, a no-host bar and performances by the country pop band Falk, two talented sisters whose brother is a WSU student.

The duo’s credits include recognition on FOX TV’s “The Next Great American Band” and selection of a song as the winner in CosmoGirl magazine’s 2007 songwriting competition.

Products, services on display

Exhibitors will represent a wide variety of businesses around the state. They will be marketing everything from homes, cars and home improvements to resorts, recreation and restaurants to accounting, tax, refinancing, legal and other services.

A past year’s CougsFirst! trade show.

“Apparel, cheese, stationery and wine are just a few of the products that will be displayed,” said Rob Tobeck, a CougsFirst! founder, officer and the owner of Griffin Maclean Insurance.

Several exhibitors will hold drawings for valuable prizes. Others will offer one-stop deals and discounts.

Even job seekers and entrepreneurs can make connections; exhibitors include several WSU divisions such as the Academic Success and Career Center and the Small Business Development Center.

First-time exhibitors include the Boeing Classic benefit golf tournament, 710 ESPN Seattle radio, Flatstick Pub craft beer bar in Kirkland, Wash., Robinson Paints in Redmond, Wash., and PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company, to name a few.

More information

“I know how special it is to be a Coug and the kind of loyalty it stimulates,” said Rod Brooks, vice president and chief marketing officer at PEMCO. “We expect the upcoming show to be a successful part of our marketing and events plan for 2015.”

Although CougsFirst! operates as a standalone nonprofit organization, it maintains close ties to WSU, and its trademark is owned and protected by the university.

For more information about CougsFirst!, see