Imagine having a representative who hand picks potential connections from a pool of key players on Cabarrus County’s business scene.If you’re a member of the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce, that’s a reality.Roughly 270 people attended the chamber’s annual Business BBQ Bash Oct. 8 at zMax Dragway. The Chamber’s Ambassadors were in full swing during one of the county’s largest networking events of the year. Danielle Sumrell, the chamber’s vice president of marketing and events, said the chamber has 16 ambassadors, but they’re recruiting more. Some have served as long as 10 years, and serving as one can help forge connections that lead to new business.Aside from access to the ambassadors, benefits of joining the chamber include free business advice, event calendar listings and sponsorship opportunities, as well as access to monthly networking events and a business directory.Four levels of membership include free or discounted advertising, as well as member-to-member discounts. General membership starts at $325 per year, while the top level costs $3,000. Several larger businesses, such as US Airways, contribute even more.“Networking can be overwhelming, so ambassadors will find out who people want to meet and then take them around the room and introduce them to people so they feel welcome,” said Sumrell.“People who invest in the chamber believe in the work the chamber does. They want to see the business community prosper and grow. It also offers credibility, because some people only do business with other chamber members.”A success story of the ambassador program is Lynda Kuehni, the owner of Moxy Publishing, which distributes a direct-mail coupon magazine five time a year.“I know she gets business all the time from other chamber members,” said Sumrell. “Lynda – a new member who joined in early 2013 – jumped right in, identified events to sponsor and within the first few months, she became an ambassador. “You want to do business with people you know and trust, and these people see each other all the time and build relationships.”By attending and sponsoring a monthly Chamber 101, Kuehni met a Concord dentist who committed to buying two front-page ads for her magazine. “It’s sort of a passion of mine to be seen as a valued resource,” said Kuehni. “I like to get involved and learn the passions of others so I know who to connect them with in the future.”Chamber membership is an affordable way to meet community leaders, said Kuehni, but people get out of it only what they put into it. “The chamber is very focused on local businesses, and they’re very welcoming,” she said. “But if I didn’t show up at events, no one would know who I am, and I would’ve never grown my business.”As an ambassador, Kuehni takes pride in knowing she’s helping staff.“They’re so stretched, so thank goodness for the people who take on that extra responsibility,” she said. “It gives members a face-to-face person to connect to … and someone who will assist them with their needs. … We also provide insight as to best practices and how to get the most out of your chamber membership.”Jillene Emerich, 43, owns the Harrisburg-based Green Eyed Monster Studios, which provides photo booths for corporate events, weddings and private celebrations. The new business launched Aug. 20 after two years of planning and was a big hit at the networking event, she said.Emerich has lived in Cabarrus for 22 years, and she operates Blue Baboons Fun Time Events, an event and party rental company that has a rock wall, a trackless train, inflatables and a mechanical bull. She’s been a chamber member for about seven years.“I would impress on new businesses that it’s worth it because of the quality of customers and the frequency of exposure,” said Emerich. At the BBQ Bash, Emerich discussed a future partnership with the disc jockey who provided entertainment that night. She also was introduced to four people who host corporate events, and all of them asked about renting a photo booth in the future. “Ambassadors guide you to the correct people … ,” said Emerich. “The chamber ambassador program has been huge for me. … It’s like target marketing to individuals you most need to meet.”Networking is critical to grow a business, said Emerich.“You have to go networking events, and you have to put your name out there, because it’s the only way your name gets seen,” she said. “It builds recognition and company identify, which brings people to your business. “Whether it’s a future consumer or client, or a friend, being a part of these events definitely brings business to you,” Emerich said. “And making connections is absolutely critical.”Real estate agent Diane Honeycutt has been a member of the chamber for 23 years. Networking events are all about building lasting relationships, she said. Building a network of contacts also helps build a stronger and healthier community. “What has made me a believer in the chamber and its mission is that I have made friendships that have not just been beneficial from a business point of view, but that have become great friends,” she said. “I have always heard that people like to do business with folks they trust and like,” Honeycutt said. “The chamber, through its networking opportunities, provides the perfect environment to share who you are and what you do, and that leads to the chance to do business together.”
Monday, Oct. 14, 2013
Cabarrus Regional Chamber’s BBQ Bash opens doors to new business
Learn more The Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce is at 3003 Dale Earnhardt Blvd., suite 2, Kannapolis. Chamber 101 events take place the last Thursday of every month. Details: 704-782-4000 or cabarrus.biz.
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