January is renewal time for membership organizations, that annual event when our Chamber asks member businesses to stick with us another year – and vote with their pocketbooks by sending us a dues check.
Aside from the accounting paperwork, emails and invoices, asking businesses to invest in us is a humbling experience. It is an important time to reflect on what it is we do at the Chamber and why that is worth $300 annually to a local business.
Describing what we do does not make for an easy soundbite. Sure, we provide exclusive benefits for our members such as professional development, resources, opportunities to connect and a business promotion toolkit. We also showcase to residents various industry verticals that are so important to our local economy: healthcare, retail, hospitality and trades.
But mostly, we build community for local business. We create a shared space, a voice, a home base for those committed to economic prosperity.
We show up. We speak the language of business. We translate it into the “local dialect.” We listen. We problem solve. We represent business at countless government meetings. We believe that small business is hard. We try to educate the public about the realities and challenges of small business. We celebrate openings, anniversaries and milestones. We curate information needed to run a business. We coordinate merchant associations and holiday lights. We sit in on economic development meetings to ensure that small business interests are not forgotten. We bridge the gap between for-profit entities and non-profit organizations. We stick up for small business owners. We keep our finger on the pulse of our Villages so that business owners can stay current and informed. We help spread the story of local small business.
We take our role as caretakers of this wonderful small business community here in Oak Park and River Forest very seriously. We believe in small business – as a vocation, an industry, a lifestyle, and a community.
We need funds to do what we do, so this week I will dutifully – and hopefully – send out renewal letters this week. Hopefully our member businesses will continue to put their faith in us.