I, as founder, owner, and CTO of Sol Minion Development, was recently elected to a seat on the Tempe Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. This is a great honor and it made me think about the impact joining the Chamber has had on my business. To be perfectly honest, without the Chamber, I wouldn't have a business.
Very often, people look at me like I'm out of my mind when I say that. "I joined a Chamber once - got nothing from it" is the common response I've come to expect and shrug off. The more neutral response I occasionally hear is "You don't usually hear that when it comes to Chambers." If you don't know what a Chamber of Commerce is (and I've met many Millenials that don't), it's a business advocacy organization. It's also a mentoring program (albeit an unstructured one that only works when you try to use it as such). It's also a referral networking group (one that works if people know who you are). It can also be a professional development organization, a Toastmasters club, or a catalyst for personal growth.
I find that there really isn't any one thing which defines a Chamber of Commerce, because it is whatever you want to get out of it, providing you're willing to put something into it. For me and my company, the Tempe Chamber has been all of those things. After just over three years in business, I remain a very small business, but that hasn't stopped me from trying to make an impact. I may not have the budget of an SRP, State Farm, or APS, but being able to say I've built my entire business from being a Chamber member is an impact and one that I know will continue as I work on my other ventures.
I'm in the midst of a pivot for a Web service venture I created almost two years ago called MerchantFeedr, a service which will assist small businesses in tying their sales and marketing systems together. I'm thrilled to be helping a local specialized CRM startup grow for the last two years. It's exciting to be a part of their growth and provide the technical assistance they needed. I was excited to hear about the first ecommerce sale on a local shop's new site which we created for them. I've been lucky to become connected with someone investing in their first wine label and building their ecommerce site.
Each one of these opportunties came about because of my involvement with the Tempe Chamber and getting to know the community. It's been an exciting three years and I'm looking forward to serving the next three on the Board of Directors and continuing to build the best development team in the Valley.