Former WSU quarterback Jack Thompson thought WSU alums in the business world should try to help each other. So he enlisted some WSU friends and started an independent business network called CougsFirst!

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The idea first came to former Washington State quarterback Jack Thompson when he was at a USC football game and saw booths set up by Trojan-owned businesses at Los Angeles Coliseum: Why not start a network of Cougars-owned businesses that would help Cougs find other Cougs every time they needed a service or had a new purchase in mind?

Thompson went home to Seattle, enlisted the help of fellow Cougs Robbie Tobeck, Paul Dent, Mike Bernard, Kyle Basler, Mike Politeo and Glenn Osterhout, and founded a Cougars non-profit support network that is independent of the university.

Thus, CougsFirst was born.

Led by a board of WSU alums, the CougsFirst network is independent of WSU, but is geared toward helping Cougars find each other in the business world.

This Thursday, organizers will welcome more than 150 different businesses to the Washington State Convention Center for the fifth annual CougsFirst trade show and after party. Doors for the trade show open at 4 p.m., while the after party, which will feature country music star Chance McKinney, begins at 8 p.m. Attendance for the trade show is free.

Osterhout, a WSU alum, and the chairman of the 11-member board that runs CougsFirst, says the organization expects about 2,000 attendees at the event. Sports-related vendors include the Seattle Seahawks (Paul Allen is a WSU alum), the Tacoma Rainiers, the Everett Aquasox, but the list of businesses includes local staples such as Beechers Cheese, Homestreet Bank, and MTR Western and national names like Marriott, Wells Fargo and Windermere. Vendors will showcase their products and services.

WSU President Kirk Schulz will be in attendance along with former WSU football players Thompson, Tobeck, Rueben Mayes, Jed Collins and Jason Gesser.