Nine months ago, Jennifer Martin stepped into her new position as executive director of the Sierra Vista Area Chamber of Commerce.
It’s been a whirlwind nine months, said Martin, who was recently named as the chamber’s chief executive officer, representing one of a number of changes happening within the organization.
“Since I came on board last September, it’s been one event after another for my team and me,” Martin said. “We’re out there promoting local businesses and strengthening connections in our community.”
The chamber is in the midst of a rebranding process, complete with a new logo, website redesign and a shift in the organization’s focus. The rebranding aims to redefine the chamber’s role in the community as it keeps pace with marketing and advocacy trends being adopted by chambers across the country.
“As a chamber of commerce, we need to be the voice of business,” Martin said in a recent interview where she talked about some of the organization’s new programs and its vision for the future. “We may be a not-for-profit organization, but we need to distinguish ourselves from other not-for-profits by looking, acting and running like a business. As we move forward with our rebranding, we’re very excited about all the positive things we’re planning for local businesses and the potential we expect these changes to bring to our business community.”
One component of the transition is for the chamber to become more involved with economic development and advocacy.
“For years, the chamber industry has been celebrating business, but was not working on the commerce side of business,” Martin said. “They were working as a chamber, but not as a chamber of commerce. As an industry, chambers are working to change that by adopting a new focus with commerce at the forefront. Our chamber is completely on board with that change.”
Chambers are transitioning into what they are calling a “3 C Chamber” format, a move Martin says is right on target with what her board of directors wants for the organization. At the Sierra Vista chamber’s annual gala in May, she unveiled the new logo design and revealed the “3 C” format to the business community, showcasing the progress the organization is making as it moves forward with the rebranding.
The new logo, designed by chamber member Laura Jones-Martinez, has been very well received, said Martin, who also noted that the former logo has been in place since the chamber’s start some 60 years ago.
“The three Cs stand for convener, catalyst and champions,” she said. “We are saying that we are a convener of leaders and influencers to get things done, we are a catalyst for business growth and we are the champions for a stronger, thriving community. All chambers in the industry are adopting this new focus, and here in Sierra Vista, we’re in the process of transitioning into it as part of our rebranding.”
Martin also touched on the importance of encouraging the input of young professionals through a networking group.
“Chambers are about networking and connecting people, so having a dedicated group to help our young professionals connect with other, more experienced professionals serves as a valuable mentoring component for our chamber,” she said.
With more than 500 members, Sierra Vista’s chamber is a good size compared to other chambers in the western region.
“Although we’re a little over 500 members, we represent more than 11,000 employees,” Martin said. “That makes us one of the larger organizations in the community. Thus, we should be a leader in the community for the businesses and their employees. We represent them all.”
For members to benefit from the organization, participation in events and programs is key, Martin said.
“It means showing up for some of the events and different activities the chamber is facilitating,” she said. “The best salesmen and speakers for an organization are the people who work there.”
The chamber’s job is to provide ways for businesses to connect with other business owners for opportunities to talk about partnerships, mentoring, good news and day-to-day frustrations. Networking opportunities are a big part of what the chamber provides for businesses and it’s important to take advantage of those opportunities, Martin said.
While she recognizes that it’s sometimes difficult for business owners to attend events because of time constraints, Martin said that social media is a great avenue for businesses to announce the good things that are happening in their organization.
“I encourage our members to take advantage of social media, or pick up the phone and let us know what’s going on in their business so we can put the good news on our website,” she said.
The chamber is currently working on educational classes to help members understand how to best utilize the organization to their advantage.
“Our new website, when it’s up and running, is part of our education and rebranding and will have a lot of great information about our programs and what we’re doing for the business community,” she said. “We’re still building the website, but we expect it to be completed sometime in August.
“We’ve been your chamber, now it’s time to be your chamber of commerce,” Martin said, quoting a sentence from a video on the new website. “That sentence encapsulates our new direction and what we hope to achieve as we move forward.”