The Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce has named Liz Holt its new executive director, following the departure of Cathy Yen in September.

Holt has served as deputy director of the chamber since April 2017, after a three-year stint at Oak Park’s Heritage Tile, 144 N. Oak Park Ave., where she worked in sales, design and community outreach. That’s how she first came in contact with the chamber, she said in an interview.

“I started going to chamber events, networking events, Women in Business, so I have experienced the chamber from the other side, as a new member and figuring out how you make your way, how you network, how you meet people, how you get in and engage with what the chamber has to offer,” she said.

Holt earned a bachelor’s degree in archeology and a master’s degree in environmental design from the University of Calgary.

She said the chamber just held its annual Spotlight Awards event and is now focusing on events and initiatives for 2019.

“Our special events, our programming, our professional development – that’s our biggest growing area,” she said.

Holt spent much of 2018 focusing on the professional development events that offer small business owners “a way to stay up to date and educated on what they need to know for running a small business efficiently.”

The chamber recently has held professional development events such as a roundtable discussion on human resources, where industry professionals gave members tips on human resources dos-and-don’ts and other tips, she said.

Another popular professional development forum focused on social media, which provided information on promoting businesses through Instagram and online video.

“The intent of the professional development series is that you leave your office for an hour and a half, you’re always going to have some networking, but you’re going to learn something that you’re going to go back to your desk, and you’re going to be able to change the way you do business right straight away for the better,” Holt said.

She said the chamber also continues to grow its new database of local businesses, which launched in early 2017.

“It allows every business with a business license in Oak Park to have an online presence,” Holt said. “The other thing is, it facilitates the village communicating with the business community, so if there is a road closure or if there is a disaster of some sort, it allows the village to be able to say to the chamber, ‘Can you tell everybody on this street this message?’ So it’s to facilitate that communication.”

Holt takes the place of Cathy Yen, who served in the position for five years before starting her new job as director of operations for Beat the Streets, a Chicago nonprofit focused on developing youth through mentoring and sports activities, earlier this month.

“She was fantastic,” Holt said of Yen. “We worked very, very well together. We both came to the table with big ideas and worked through ideas to get the best result.”

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