DALLAS — BEMA, in partnership with the American Bakers Association (ABA), aims to foster connection and collaboration in the baking industry through its inaugural Nexus event, Sept. 25-28 in Dallas. 

To get the most out of Nexus, event organizers recommend that attending companies bring representatives across departments in their companies as there is something for everyone. 

“Nexus will be a great week for the baking industry to come together between the Spark Sessions, the networking opportunities and education that will be available,” said Morgan Gittemeier, project coordinator, BEMA. “It’s the inaugural year for this event, and we get to move Nexus forward together as an industry.” 

Though the Nexus schedule is packed with education sessions, networking events and the NextGen Leadership Forum, one of its differentiating opportunities from other events are Spark Sessions.

Spark Sessions are collaborative team-to-team meetings between suppliers and bakers to either forge a new relationship or for those existing relationships to have space and time to work on existing or future projects. These meetings are pre-scheduled for 45 minutes, and each one can be purchased by suppliers at registration for $2,500. Suppliers who are already registered but did not purchase a Spark Session can do so by logging back into registration. While multiple people from each supplier company are encouraged to register for Nexus, only one person from each company needs to purchase a Spark Session for the company to participate. 

“One of the special things about a Spark Session is it eliminates the need to relay one person’s conversation back to a full team,” Ms. Gittemeier explained. “The spark session allows multiple people from both companies to come together with their expertise to move forward with an idea.” 

Once registered, suppliers and baking companies will each complete a company profile. Suppliers can use this to detail what products, services and expertise they can offer baking companies, while bakers can detail what they are looking to gain from a session. Supplier profiles are visible to all bakers, while baking company profiles will be confidential and only seen by Nexus staff and the supplier they are eventually matched with. 

“We are already getting back baker surveys, and those that I’ve reviewed have been very specific about what they’re looking for,” said Emily Bowers, vice president, education and operations, BEMA. “The more specific the bakers can be about their goals, the more productive the sessions will end up being.” 

Suppliers and bakers will be able to respond to surveys, ranking which companies they would like to meet. Nexus staff ultimately will finalize the matches. The deadline to be included in the first round of matching is July 31. Spark Sessions can continue to be purchased after this deadline as they are available. 

“We want to get as many bakers and suppliers together as possible, obviously,” Ms. Bowers said. “But the earlier you buy the more time you’ll have to prepare.” 

Nexus staff anticipated matches from the first round will be announced before the end of August. 

Preparation is key to having a successful team-to-team meeting. Supplier companies will have the opportunity ahead of time to know what their matched bakers are looking for and the projects they’d like to discuss. And as Ms. Bowers said, the more specificity baking companies can provide, the better. 

Nexus isn’t all about Spark Sessions, however. The event boasts a robust educational agenda that repeats throughout the week so that those participating in Spark Sessions don’t have to miss out. Attendees will be able to hear from JJ Birden, former NFL wide receiver, on Tuesday, Sept. 26. 

During ABA’s NextGen Baker Leadership Forum, attendees will be coached through interactive leadership training by keynote speaker Tyra Bremer, director of business development and executive consultant for Stewart Leadership. Attendees will also hear from a panel of senior baking industry executives on their leadership lessons. The panel, moderated by NextGen Baker committee co-chairs Bradley Cain, Cain Food Industries, and Lili Economakis, division vice president, customer development, non-commercial, Aspire Bakeries, Los Angeles, will include Dan Dye, chief executive officer, Ardent Mills; Tony Martin, president of Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe, Chambersburg, Pa.; Clay Miller, president of Burford Corp.; Chimene Ross, president and chief customer officer of The Killer Brownie Co., Dayton, Ohio; and Bill Quigg, president of Richmond Baking, Richmond, Ind. 

Attendees will also have an opportunity to participate in several networking events. Nexus opens with a launch party the evening of Monday, Sept. 25, and the ATBI Top Golf networking event in addition to other networking events throughout the week. Those who participate in Spark Sessions will have the opportunity to participate in the exclusive Business After Hours on Wed., Sept. 27.

“Spark Sessions are embedded into the Nexus event, which allows more networking to happen naturally before and after the sessions,” Ms. Bowers explained. “Often when you’re in a conversation you think of another question you have 20 minutes later. We’ll still all be at Nexus, so the networking built around the spark sessions offer more opportunities to connect.” 

To learn more about Nexus and register, visit www.nexusofbaking.com.