Four benefits to joining your local chamber of commerce.
I recently joined the board of the Sleepy Hollow Tarrytown Chamber of Commerce so that I could help support small businesses in my community, especially those that are Latino-owned. Even though more than 50% of the 10,000+ residents of the Village of Sleepy Hollow (located in New York State) are Hispanic and probably close to 50% of the small businesses located there are Latino-owned, only a handful of Latino owners are members of the Chamber.
I understand that the membership fee ($200 to $400 depending on the size of the business) and carving out time to attend the events might be deterrents to joining, especially during these difficult times. However, to prosper and scale their businesses Latinos need to be part of these types of organizations in order to level the playing field.
Local Chamber membership provides opportunities to:
- Access information, resources, and discounts that are crucial to local businesses.
- Network and collaborate with other businesses.
- Expand your customer base.
- Gain a voice in local government.
I have learned through my short time with the Chamber Board that unless a business is a member, it will not be included in any of the community events, promotions or other marketing initiatives executed by the Chamber. More importantly, businesses that are not members will not be part of the legislative and public policy advocacy work that the Chamber does to help promote economic growth.
To narrow the disparities between Latino- and white-owned businesses, we need to start by eliminating the knowledge gaps that exist and making a greater effort to become an integral part of the entire community that we serve, not just the Latino segment.
Furthermore, joining the chamber is not enough! Members need to be vocal about the needs of Latino businesses. If your Chamber does not have a large and unified Latino voice, then seek out more experienced members or mentors who can show you the ropes and provide advice. Search for a sponsor who will help your business gain more visibility and advocate for your unique needs.
Latinos need to weave themselves into the fabric of their communities to succeed. I realize that it may be uncomfortable to join an organization where you feel like you don’t belong. However, Inaction is not an option! We cannot just sit and wait for these Chambers to understand and engage Latino businesses. We must take the first step!