November 1, 2022
Reading time: 5 mins
When you own a small business, it pays to be aware of your surroundings. If you want to involve yourself in the community and learn from other business owners in your area, join your local Chamber of Commerce. Chambers of Commerce can provide expertise on various issues, networking opportunities, and resources to help your business thrive. If you aren’t familiar with Chambers of Commerce, this article will give you an overview of what they are, how they work, and what they can do to help your business.
Chamber of Commerce Overview
What is a Chamber of Commerce?
A Chamber of Commerce is an organized group of business owners and professionals that support each other through networking, marketing resources, financial assistance, and guidance. Chambers can differ slightly in what they offer, but ultimately, they all share the same goal: improving a region’s economic health and business environment.
There are approximately 4,000 Chambers of Commerce in the United States, working at either national, state, regional, or city levels. In some cases, Chambers focus on a particular interest group, such as the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce, a Chamber for female-owned businesses.
In short, no matter where you are or what kind of business you have, it's safe to assume there’s a Chamber of Commerce that can support you.
Who runs a Chamber of Commerce?
Most Chambers of Commerce are private, non-profit institutions run by their members. Members are individuals, businesses, and other organizations interested in helping their respective communities. They elect a board of directors to set goals and determine policies the Chamber should follow. A professional manager (a salaried employee) handles the Chamber's day-to-day operations.
How are Chambers of Commerce funded?
- Member dues: Members pay annual dues in exchange for the benefits they receive when they join the Chamber. Member dues vary by Chamber, but they’re usually a function of your business's size (in terms of employee count or annual revenue). Furthermore, some Chambers offer more expensive membership levels with greater access to services.
- Fundraisers: Chambers also finance their activities by holding community fundraiser events, asking for donations from attendees.
- Private donations: Sometimes, Chambers of Commerce will have one or more individuals who act as financial supporters through their contributions.
- Event entry fees: Furthermore, business events hosted by a Chamber (such as conferences or tradeshows) might require an entry fee to participate - these can serve as additional opportunities to raise money.
Benefits of joining a Chamber
By joining a Chamber, you instantly leverage the Chamber’s credibility and integrity. Having the Chamber’s sticker on your window or displaying the Chamber’s logo on your website makes your business seem more professional and legitimate. Furthermore, consumers will start associating you with community interests, making them more likely to buy from your business. According to a study by the Schapiro Group, 63% of consumers are more likely to buy products or services from businesses that are members of their local Chamber.
- Discounts: Some Chambers obtain exclusive (member-only) rates for products and services you use to run your business. For example, you might receive discounts on insurance, office supplies, shipping, software for human resources and accounting, etc.
- Access to financing: Chambers of Commerce foster relationships with banks and other financial institutions to help you look more trustworthy in the eyes of lenders. That makes it easier for you to obtain loans and other forms of credit.
- Hiring: Chambers can also provide immediate access to job listings and employee referrals, which is especially useful to businesses with seasonal hiring needs.
A lot is happening between local, state, and federal regulations - too much for anyone to track by themselves. Chambers of Commerce will let you know of any changes regarding taxation and permitting issues in your area. That gives you more time to plan for legislative issues affecting your business.
Chambers of Commerce put on events (meet and greets, networking lunches, conferences, etc) where members can interact and learn from each other. While Chamber events are great for discussing business (ongoing problems, strategies, etc) they're also fun - you might even make a friend!
Moreover, consumers and other businesses often contact Chambers for opinions on local businesses before deciding where to spend their money. Chambers can pass on relevant information and recommend your business, which means you may receive customer or client referrals through your Chamber.
If you want to take the initiative, the Chamber's membership directory can help you locate other businesses to work with. The Chamber’s membership directory is also available to the public, but being a Chamber member gives you that extra edge when reaching out to other businesses on the list.
Many Chambers of Commerce offer their members business workshops throughout the year. These workshops can help you identify areas in your business that need improvement. Industry and local experts will share tips on business operations, hiring, marketing, and financial management. For example, a representative from a local financial institution may hold a workshop that explains various loan options available to small businesses.
As a Chamber of Commerce member, you can be listed in the Chamber’s newsletter, appear in other Chamber publications, or be displayed on their social media channels. Also, the Chamber can promote your grand opening/ribbon-cutting ceremony and assist with any public relations efforts. Some Chambers offer sponsorships or set up fundraisers for member businesses. For example, the Dallas Area Chamber of Commerce provides local sponsorship events and partnership opportunities for members.
While there are many benefits to marketing your business online, the advantages of networking in person through a Chamber of Commerce are still undeniable. Don't wait any longer - join your local Chamber today!
If you would like us to help, reach out to email@example.com and tell us about your business. Schedule a free consultation at your earliest convenience!