According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a chamber of commerce is “an organization consisting of people in business, who work together to improve business in their town or local area.”1
When my husband and I first founded our business in SeaTac, WA in Fall 1998, we felt we could not afford the modest annual membership fee. But after four months of trying to drum up business, we found we couldn’t afford not to join the local chamber of commerce.
While chamber membership didn’t immediately produce new clients for our business, it did provide us with immediate mentoring. Because of the chamber, I learned to describe the services our business provided in less than 20 seconds and in less than 20 words. I also learned essential tips for networking such as putting your name-tag on your right side near your shoulder so that when people go to shake your hand, their eye is pointed in the direction of the name tag.
Through the chamber, I met successful entrepreneurs who had weathered decades of owning a family owned business, and I received words of encouragement that helped me carry on through difficult downturns in our country’s economy.
During chamber functions, I learned about local business resources such as the Small Business Development Center https://wsbdc.org/about/our-leadership-staff/ and business to business service providers such as promotional product sales companies, accountants, attorneys, and health brokers.
In recent years, our local chamber’s name has morphed from a mouthful (Southwest King County Chamber of Commerce) to something a bit simpler, Seattle Southside Chamber. This change has helped it more closely align with our local tourism promotion authority, Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority. Given that tourism and retail fill major niches in our local economy, this closer alignment is critical to continuing economic development in our area.
I am thankful for our local Chamber. While I realize it doesn’t meet every need of an emerging business, it does meet some mentoring, training, and networking needs in a very affordable manner.
I highly recommend getting a chamber membership to any business operating within a ten mile radius of our contiguous local cities: Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac, and Tukwila, Washington. To learn more go to https://www.seattlesouthsidechamber.com/.