Membership means more than just a ribbon cutting
BERLIN — The primary notion behind small town chamber’s of commerce is to promote their area not only as a retail destination, but also to develop business-to-business opportunities within their membership. Over the past several years, the Berlin Chamber of Commerce has become even more aggressive in conceiving and fostering opportunities and events that have helped to position Berlin as one of the most economically stable and successful Towns in the region.
“In Berlin, we’re becoming more of a destination community,” said Chamber Executive Director Olive Mawyer. “Being a member gives businesses more opportunity and exposure.”
For the Berlin Chamber, success is as much about partnering with both the Town and other interested parties — such as the Main Street Merchants Association — as it is in developing networking opportunities for members to get to know one another and see where their common interests are.
Linda Dearing, who owns Copy Central and chairs the Chamber’s Membership Committee, said that providing these networking opportunities is among the biggest benefits to her. Although her shop is equidistant from the North and South Gates of Ocean Pines, being active in the Berlin Chamber has both social and economic benefits for her.
“By belonging to this Chamber, people know where I am,” she said. “By belonging to this Chamber we get access to all the networking and workshops.”
The networking opportunities for members who are out of town are even greater, given the limited chances for direct engagement. Dearing said that, at first blush, when people think of Berli, their thoughts are limited to Downtown. But it is precisely that draw that makes it worthwhile for Copy Central to be an active member.
The workshops are one aspect of the Chamber that may be a little underplayed, but that is something Mawyer expects to change in the coming year. The regular lunch and breakfast small business workshops have been successful and she hopes that by growing the membership the Chamber can offer more and more in-depth small business workshops.
“A lot of small businesses need more information,” she said. “Our workshops are a way to get access to aspects of running a small business with which some members might not be familiar.”
From talks by experts in finding funding opportunities to short social networking primers, the Berlin Chamber works to support members as they try and get a grip on which parts of the new economy are for them and which would be an unnecessary diversion.
Main Street is a part of the Chamber’s focus, but since it is so high-profile it is easy to lose track of the membership benefits for the area companies that operate throughout the county, from home-based businesses to direct to customer concerns to those industries that support other businesses exclusively, the Berlin Chamber of Commerce is about supporting and growing the entire network.
Maywer and the rest of the Chamber leadership work very diligently to ensure that they put as much energy into servicing members from outside or Berlin proper as they do inside.
“It has to do with connecting in Berlin,” she said of the way the Chamber is run. “We have more events, more networking and more workshops to keep members engaged.”
This week the Berlin Chamber kicked off their membership drive season with Connect, Support and Grow Chamber Member Luncheon at the Atlantic Hotel. It was the first opportunity for current members to renew their commitment and for potential members to see the kind of networking opportunities the Chamber provides.
According to a recent statement, the Berlin Chamber has more than doubled its membership over the last two years, and currently represents 230 businesses in Berlin and the surrounding area. As an incentive to get the drive off to a fast start, the Chamber is offering a 20 percent discount for businesses that join this month.
Each new member will be entered into a drawing for a Berlin Basket full of gifts courtesy of our current members. The drawing will be held at the conclusion of the membership drive.
For more information about how to join the Chamber of to learn about some of its other benefits call 410-641-4775 or visit http://www.berlinchamber.org/.