By Brian Bearden, TSB Contributor
The second in our series on how shopping local benefits McKinney residents, TownSquareBuzz.com asked McKinney Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jodi Ann LaFreniere how a new or small business can benefit from joining and taking part in community and chamber activities. Our Q&A:
How many business members does the local Chamber have?
Jodi Ann LaFreniere: The McKinney Chamber of Commerce represents more than 1,200 member businesses and empowers our members to achieve economic success.
What benefits does a small business receive at the entry-level of membership?
Jodi Ann LaFreniere: By joining the chamber network, businesses are part of our exclusive referral network through our relocation guide, online business directory and direct referrals through chamber staff and volunteers. We provide access to a full range of business programming that includes networking, professional and leadership development as well as legislative activities to represent the interests of small businesses at the local and state levels.
Once a member joins they have the opportunity to introduce their business at a ribbon cutting event and at a quarterly member showcase event with a display table. They also have access to a Chamber member logo that they can use as part of their marketing materials – a study completed by The Shapiro Group indicated that consumers are 64 percent more likely to do business with a company that is a member of their local chamber of commerce than a non-member.
Through regular communications distributed weekly as well as on our website, we strive to provide our members and partners with timely information that will help them be successful in business in our region.
In addition to offering several Chamber membership levels, what methods of payment are available for a new member in a tough economy?
Jodi Ann LaFreniere: In response to the challenging economic environment the Chamber began offering a monthly payment option to its members in January of 2010. The program has been well received, particularly by small business members with more than 10 percent of our members now paying for their membership using this new payment option. Members can also pay for their membership on an annual basis.
What does the Chamber do to retain small business members?
Jodi Ann LaFreniere: The Chamber actively uses its staff and Ambassadors to keep our membership base engaged. Ambassadors serve as the public relations arm of the Chamber and attend ribbon cuttings and ground breakings to welcome new businesses to the community and the Chamber and call and visit existing members to make sure they are aware of upcoming opportunities that they can take advantage of to grow their business and professional network.
The Chamber works to ensure it has a full range of programming options to assist businesses at every stage of their business growth and development.
How can a small company get the word out on what they offer without spending a lot of money?
Jodi Ann LaFreniere: LINKS is part of our programming options for our business members. It is a weekly networking meeting held every Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. at Saltgrass Steakhouse. More than 100 business professionals attend each week to promote their business with a 30 second introduction and develop a strong network of professional contacts. All area businesses are welcome to attend as a guest and experience the value of LINKS.
McKinney has a lot of people in their 20’s and 30’s starting companies. How can they get involved?
Jodi Ann LaFreniere: McKinney Young Professionals is a network of up and coming young business professionals between the ages of 21 and 40. Through networking, professional development and volunteer opportunities, the program’s mission is to attract and retain a young talented workforce by empowering young professionals to get connected with their community and grow their professional network to achieve success.
What leadership opportunities are available for a small business person in the chamber as a member?
Jodi Ann LaFreniere: The Board of Directors of the Chamber is made up of volunteers from the general membership that set policy and direction for the future of the organization. The Board represents the general membership by encompassing a broad range of industries including both large and small business members.
Members have the opportunity to be involved as volunteers on various committees as well as leadership roles for these areas to help achieve the mission of the Chamber.
Some examples of the opportunities include: Government and Legislative Issues, McKinney Young Professionals, Business Development, Women’s Alliance of McKinney, McKinney First! Be Vocal. Buy Local, Ambassadors, LINKS and McKinney Magazine Editorial Committee.
How can members get the most value out of their membership?
Jodi Ann LaFreniere: Our members get the most value from their membership when they set a plan of action as to how they will engage with the chamber and have a clear understanding of their expectations and how they will measure success from their involvement. We offer a monthly Benefits and Breakfast program once a month on the third Thursday for members and prospective members to learn about the many benefits of the Chamber and develop a plan for getting the most from their chamber investment.
We suggest that members get to know the staff of the Chamber and their areas of responsibility, attend various events and learn about the structure of the Chamber so they can understand how their time can be best spent to help their individual business needs.
What does the Chamber do to build business in McKinney?
Jodi Ann LaFreniere: Not only does the chamber work to empower our members to achieve economic success, we also work cooperatively with our community partners to move our community in a positive direction for the future and maintain a healthy business environment.
We offer a program called the McKinney Experience which offers an exclusive look into how our community and government operates to be well positioned to serve in leadership positions and be a good steward to the community.
The Chamber has a strong partnership with the City of McKinney. One particular example is our legislative partnership to jointly employ a legislative consultant in Austin who works on our behalf on community issues important to both the City and business community.
The Chamber also spearheads the McKinney First! Be Vocal. Buy Local. Initiative. Together with our community partners we work to educate and raise awareness of the tremendous impact buying locally has on our community.
For every $100 spent in our community with a local merchant, $73 stays in the community to be reinvested. Local purchases create sales tax revenue that help fund important community projects such as parks, cultural heritage, tourism promotion, and other recreational amenities. For more information visit mckinneyfirst.com.
We manage several important programs that impact the community as a whole including the State of the Community Event, Community Awards Celebration and Business Education Event.
The Chamber office is situated between Valley Creek Drive and Country Club Drive at Summit Office Park 1, 2150 S. Central Expressway, Suite 150 McKinney, Texas 75070.