04/03/11 — Wayne County Chamber looks to get back to basics with members

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Wayne County Chamber looks to get back to basics with members

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 3, 2011 1:50 AM

Chamber of Commerce President Marian Mason wants the Chamber to get back to the basics.

Through a new program she aims to put on quarterly, Chamber 101, she hopes new members of the Chamber will be better informed about their benefits and opportunities. The first installment of the event was held Thursday at the Holiday Inn Express on Spence Avenue.

"People are easily confused by what the term 'chamber of commerce' means," she said. "We have somewhere along the way lost our connection with our members in communicating our purpose. This, today, was a method of reestablishing that connection, particularly with our new members."

The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce helps to facilitate communication and advertising between more than 700 member businesses in Wayne County through benefits ranging from business expositions to online advertising and referrals, though Mrs. Mason said she'd like to introduce more member benefits.

"We're a big organization and we haven't done a very good job of marketing ourselves or communicating to our members. Those are things we need to strengthen. We've also got to strengthen our benefits to our members," she said.

Mrs. Mason, who is in her second month as president, said the ratio between membership dues and membership benefits currently calls into question whether being a member is beneficial.

"To me, what they invest in the Chamber and what they get back is out of whack," she said. "I want them to get more than their money's worth. I don't want there to be a question about joining this Chamber and what it does for the community. I want people to know immediately."

A new member, although she's not new to the Chamber, Sharon Thompson of Park Lane Jewelry, said she joined during her first week as an entrepreneur because of the benefits she witnessed during her time as an ambassador with the organization. Mrs. Thompson had worked in Wayne County for 20 years and was a Chamber ambassador for 15 before striking out on her own by selling jewelry at dress-for-success seminars and accessory parties, as well as doing personal consultation work and helping to put together new wardrobes for customers.

She said she's glad the Chamber is now focusing on making sure that new members know right off what the organization does in the community and how membership can help their businesses. Having been involved, she said she realizes what an asset the Chamber is, but she doesn't think the public is as aware.

"A lot of the community things that just happen that make us a great community to live in -- people don't realize that it's basically because the chamber has had a hand in it, whether through a committee or people that have volunteered or working with them to help it come together," Mrs. Thompson said.

Michele Derwitz has a similar story which led her new business, Body & Soul Massage Studio, to become a member of the Chamber shortly after it opened Dec. 7, 2010. Mrs. Derwitz said she worked for the Chamber seven years ago to help bring in new members.

"I obviously believed in it because I sold the memberships to other new businesses previously," she said. "I knew that they would help us get some advertising. They were really helpful with getting us started and introducing us to other businesses."