Program connects Bay Area businesses with Super Bowl opportunities

Fans are pouring into Miami ahead of Super Bowl LIV this Sunday, but in Tampa people are already thinking about Super Bowl LV.

Some small businesses hope for a big boost from a special Super Bowl connection.

Michelle Palini, owner of Michelle's Chocolates in Port Richey hopes to renew a Super Bowl connection she established at Tampa's 1991 Super Bowl.

"I was asked to do a gift basket in the shape of a helmet for Whitney Houston's brother," smiles Palini. "That's as close as I got to Whitney Houston."

But doing business at that Super Bowl meant more than fond memories for Palini. It meant dollars.

Now, Palini is one of the dozens of female and minority-owned business people who have registered for the Business Connect Program, sponsored by the NFL and the Tampa Bay Host Committee. It offers mentoring, networking, and help with contracting surrounding the big game.

"If Connected was not here we would not know who to go to and get to the people we need to have a chance," says Carolyn Lawson, owner of CSS Marketing in Tampa.

She believes her products can compete in quality with those offered by larger firms - but she has to get them in front of the right people.

"It opens the door to the people we need to talk to," says Lawson.

Palini agrees.

"You want something special? I can build it for you. I can make it," she says.

For more information on the Business Connect Program, visit