The Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce is rolling out its plan to offer new forums, programs and training opportunities with the goal of having area businesses not only succeed, but prosper.
“The role of the chamber is to help businesses thrive in 2016,” Executive Director Victoria Wortberg said. “To do that, we needed to launch a lot of new programs that businesses have been asking for.”
That includes networking with other businesses, being a part of leads groups and attending after hours events. According to Wortberg, leads groups are shown on a national level to increase sales by as much as 30 percent in a year.
“The way leads groups work is it’s a group of people who meet regularly who share what’s going on in their business ... and they agree to support one another and they agree to share the information about what’s going on,” she said. “So geometrically, it starts to increase tremendously. ... Leads groups are very effective at building those relationships that help people increase sales.”
After hours events will be held at various local businesses and are a chance for business owners to get to know each.
“Small business owners need the support of other small business owners,” she said. “It’s a chance for the business community to have a good time together, to see what other businesses are doing in a relaxed, fun setting.”
Marketing might be the chamber’s word of the year as Wortberg is preparing a veritable cornucopia of offerings throughout the year around that topic. At the center will be a new website hosted by the chamber that will launch by March 1 where any chamber member can have their own page that they maintain, control and update.
“They’ll be able to put in videos, they’ll be able to link it to all of their social media accounts,” Wortberg said. “It’s their own member page on our member portal.”
This will also allow businesses to sell their products, goods or services to all of the other members directly.
“It’s a great way to do businesses to businesses marketing,” Wortberg said. “But in a town like this, businesses to businesses marketing also means getting well known to be able to pull in business to consumer.”
Another opportunity the chamber will be offering its members who are interested in putting together a high quality marketing plan is having experts who will work with a business for four to five hours and brainstorm how to increase the effectiveness of its efforts. This will include individuals with experience in social media, digital marketing, sales, customer service and loyalty, market researching and marketing strategy.
“It’s like having a marketing team available to you, look at your marketing plan and make recommendations on what you can do to improve it,” Wortberg said.
In order to encourage more people to join, the chamber will be offering four levels of membership. The Entrepreneurship level costs $250 annually and is designed for businesses with one to five employees who are just getting started, but want to have access to the chamber. The Championship level costs $350 annually and is designed for businesses with fewer than 25 employees. The Leadership level costs $500 annually and is for any sized business. The Visionary level costs $1,000 annually and includes the production of a professional video of the business that can be used on its website and will be shown at kiosks around town.
“This stories about area businesses are going to run on a regular basis to kind of promote our area,” Wortberg said. “We’re also looking at getting some of those outside of our area. This is good for a company that really wants to grow and wants a professionally done video about their company.”
To make it easier for businesses to pay membership fees, the chamber will accept quarterly payments. Fees will be prorated if a business decides it would like to purchase a membership mid-year.
The marketing team will be available for Leadership and Visionary level members, but every member will have access to business coaching every Friday by appointment.
“If you would like to learn how to better the business of your business, we will have professional business coaches,” Wortberg said. “They will be able to provide to you support on financial issues, marketing issues, problems with employees, issues around L&I, basically anything that has to do with the business side of the business.”
She also has deep-dive workshops planned, multiple day workshops with hands-on experience on a topic.
“These workshops aren’t going to be just a talking head,” Wortberg said. “The workshops are going to be interactive, and the purpose of them is not just to learn, but come out with something that really will help your company and you can use tomorrow.”
Additionally, the chamber will be bringing in lenders and Angel investors into town to do matchmaking between businesses and those who can lend them money or invest in their company. In order to help businesses deal with this opportunity successfully, the chamber will hold trainings.
All of these services could be found outside of Yelm, but Wortberg is excited to bring that professional talent into the community so business owners do not have to lose revenue by traveling.
“Now it’s coming to you,” she said.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, the chamber will also begin hosting town hall meetings with government staff on-hand.
“Town halls meetings are a chance for businesses and government to talk about what’s working, what’s not working, what we can do better to make this a town where we’re very business friendly,” Wortberg said. “The city staff is excited about the chance to come and have that dialogue with groups of businesses. Everybody will be invited.”
Each meeting will have a specific topic to help focus the discussion, and some meetings will include members of county and state government.
“It’s giving our business owners a chance to have a voice with government,” Wortberg said.
The monthly forum format will also be changing slightly, with respected business coaches and trainers doing presentations that will give businesses information they might not know about.
Finally, Wortberg is reaching out to neighboring communities to ensure those small businesses know they are welcome to be a part of what the chamber is doing.
“The Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce is called the Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce for a reason,” she said. “We’re here to also help businesses in Rainier and McKenna and Roy to succeed as well as Yelm.”
Wortberg claims this is just some highlights of what the chamber will be offering local businesses in 2016.
“Our purpose is to make sure that businesses have all the tools they need to succeed,” she said.
All of these offerings are available thanks to partnerships with the Thurston County Economic Development Council and businesses that are willing to donate their time and expertise.
“Everyone believes that Yelm has the potential to be an incredible location for business and an incredible location to live,” Wortberg said. “The job of the chamber is to make sure we help businesses in whatever way we need to thrive. So our motto is ‘Success 2016.’”