What Is the Chamber?  And Why Should a Small Business Join?

According to Wikipedia, “A chamber of commerce (or board of trade) is a form of business network, for example, a local organization of businesses whose goal is to further the interests of businesses.”

When my husband and I first founded our business located in SeaTac, Washington in the Fall of 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.  Through 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 put 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.

Through Chamber functions I learned about local business resources such as the Small Business Development Center http://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 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 related 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 and 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 Chamber membership to any business operating within a ten mile radius of our contiguous local cities, Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac and Tukwila, Washington.  To learn more go to http://www.seattlesouthsidechamber.com.