If you’re a solopreneur, you’re likely putting in some long hours building your business. Anything that helps you be more productive for little money is a necessary investment for you at this point.
You may have thought briefly about the chamber and then decided against it because when you think of older people standing around talking about business, you probably figured it wasn’t for you. It’s not how business gets done nowadays. But the chamber offers a lot more than what you imagined and a lot of it can help you build a strong business in a much less time than going it on your own.
Your Local Chamber Has Evolved It’s not the 1950s anymore. Chambers do a lot more than ribbon cuttings and host two-drink networking functions. They offer advanced programming, mentoring, business matchmaking services, social media resources, valuable content, trips, and member discounts.
If you have an antiquated view of the chamber offerings, it’s time you reacquaint yourself with today’s chamber. Networking Opportunities Yes, they still have plenty of networking opportunities but a lot of these events have become more niche focused. Some chambers have CEO-only groups, young professionals, women-in-business networking, mastermind groups, leads groups, industry-specific networking, and other different kinds of networking opportunities to ensure you find something that fits your tastes and business needs. These niche groups mean a lot more value to you and a lot less standing around with people who can’t help you grow your business.
Low-cost Classes The chamber may offer low-cost classes in areas of interest to you such as how to start a business or social media 101. Often, they’re offered around a business person’s schedule like over lunch or during breakfast. They may even have an after-hours learning session. These classes may be free with membership or deeply discounted. Many times, the presenter is a local expert. Sometimes the chamber may host larger names for special occasions.
If your local chamber doesn’t offer these types of learning opportunities, they can still tell you where you can find the information you want locally, which is a lot more reliable than trying something online from someone you don’t know for several hundred dollars.
Meeting Space Many solopreneurs operate on a shoestring budget, at least initially. They don’t rent out office space or buy/rent copiers. Then when a client wants to meet or someone wants to do a conference call and your noisy dog, and home by the railroad tracks doesn’t give you the peace you need, you suddenly wish you had rented that office space. Fear not. Your local chamber can come to the rescue. Some chambers offer space in their offices to members for just these needs. Book a conference room. Assemble a mailer on their large table. Conduct an interview without concern of your children and spouse running into the room.
Some chambers also operate as business incubators that bring together entrepreneurs in shared workspaces. New Ideas Life as a solopreneur can be extremely liberating. No answering to the man because you are the man (or woman). But that comes with a downside too. When you’re the only one making every decision, you are also the only one whose ideas are being heard. This means you can be very agile but it limits your perspective. The chamber can help increase the depth of your perspective because they’re not only giving you advice from their business experience, they’re sharing everything they’ve seen in the community over the years they’ve been there. A Tax Deduction Membership is likely tax deductible and you’ll need plenty of them, especially if your business is predominantly online and start-up costs are small.
Membership in the chamber has changed a lot since your childhood. They’re more than just the people with the huge scissors. As you design the future of your business, why not seek the help of a partner that you won’t have to give stock options or an ownership stake to? Their only desire is to see you succeed.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.