A chamber refresher is good for everyone
October 26, 2020
By TERI ASHLEY
The Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce certainly does a lot of stuff. And there is nothing like an orientation for new members to make you sit back and actually think, “Wow.”
Those that attended our briefing last week, which was the first orientation in a year, were busy taking notes and even photos of the presentation on the big screen. I think that even though we said we would be emailing them a copy following the program, they wanted to sear a few tid-bits into their minds right then and there.
The first order of business was to introduce the group to the entirety of the chamber staff. Along with myself, they met Director of Finance Ruth Uzonyi and Information, Customer Service Manager Janet Caffee, and … well … that’s all of us! We know they may see our names in print and communicate with us on the phone and in email, but it’s always nice to meet the actual people. They also received the current list of our new board of directors and saw the board group photograph. Actually TWO photographs. Their socially distanced group shot, and a masked group shot.
We proceeded with an overview of chambers, and why in the world it is called a chamber in the first place. It all started back in the oldie days when merchants got together for what we now call networking. They usually met in someone’s offices, rooms, or “chambers.” So chamber became synonymous with a form of business association or network.
Oldie days means REALLY oldie days. In 1599 (that’s not a typo) the first chamber of commerce was founded in in Marseille, France as the "Chambre de Commerce." The first English-speaking chamber of commerce, and oldest chamber of commerce in North America, is the Halifax Chamber of Commerce which was founded in 1750.
One hundred and seventy five years later, in 1925, what is now the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce was founded as the Board of Trade in Punta Gorda, which was the commercial center of the region. A few years later this same organization became the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce, which later merged with a new, small Port Charlotte chamber to become the Greater Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce.
There have historically been two prominent locations for the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce since the 1960s … one in Punta Gorda and one in Port Charlotte.
Fast forward 95 years from 1925 and here we are. It was stressed at the orientation that members can participate and attend as much as possible. But we understand when they can’t. They were provided with a printed bullet point list of chamber activities. We reviewed a few of them including the Third Wednesday Coffees, Networking at Noon Luncheons, Business Card Exchanges (Returning in January!) (We hope.), Lunch and Learn Seminars, and occasional Special Events.
It is always stressed that whether our members can attend events or not, that their chamber is ALWAYS working for them and their customers. We suggest they take advantage of as many perks as possible and we always stress the importance of member-to-member business.
There were a few biggies that we made sure they not miss. First and foremost is their new member ribbon cutting. This can be a simple snip of the ribbon with a photo of the joyous occasion, or it can be consolidated into a grand opening or open house celebration.
The next biggie is to keep their business contact information up-to-date. That might seem like a simple request, but you would be surprised.
Us: “Oh, you haven’t been receiving your email from the chamber? We have been sending it to Suzie Smith’s email address.”
Them: “But Suzie hasn’t worked for us for the past nine months.”
Another major opportunity for every member is the weekly submission of an announcement for inclusion in the Monday morning e-newsletter, Business Online! It’s part of the membership perks, and anywhere from 30 to 50 members take advantage of their free space every week, depending on the time of the year and their target customers.
The final three biggies which were reviewed for the newbies were the upcoming “10th Annual ‘Hottest Business Day in Paradise’ Expo” on February 10, the new Chamber Ambassador program, and how to access their new business portal on our website at CharlotteCountyChamber.org. More details will be coming on these highlights soon, including a website portal workshop.
Can you believe we covered the orientation within our self-imposed 30 minutes? Me neither, but we did. And we’re going to do it again in January!
Teri Ashley is the executive director of the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce, now in its 96th year. She can be reached at 941-627-2222 or at email@example.com.