Chamber fosters connection

Published 5:00am 10 June 2024

Chamber fosters connection
Words by Jodie Powell

The Hills and Districts Chamber of Commerce is finding new ways to connect with its members and reach new ones - and it’s proving to be a great success.

President Craig Shim says the Chamber’s strength lies in its ability to evolve, and adaptability has stood it in good stead for more than 30 years.

“Post-COVID we went through a big rejuvenation exercise and part of that’s been evolving our relevance to existing and new members,” Craig says.

“Earlier this year we started trialing new event formats.

“The events we were best known for were our traditional monthly breakfasts, but we asked people what they wanted, what was valuable to them - and they wanted a sense of community.

“Particularly for businesses that have moved away from being face-to-face they wanted to be able to connect to avoid isolation and going stale as a business.

“They didn’t necessarily want a formal breakfast, so we’ve flipped it around and the majority of events are now a networking format – we might have a speaker, but the focus is on networking.”

New events

Chamber fosters connection

Adding to the Chamber’s repertoire are Networking on the Deck – an after work event held once a month at the Arana Leagues Club – and monthly lunches at different venues.

“We have people sponsor Networking on the Deck and in return they have a 10-minute timeslot to share some wisdom – that can showcase the area of expertise that’s their core business, or it might be something general that they’ve learnt as a business person,” Craig explains.

“We have monthly lunches as well and those two new formats are proving popular.

“It’s a less formal education component, but people say they feel like they’re learning a lot more.”

Complementing the new networking activities will be a quarterly business workshop series focused on professional development.

“Our first one is an expert speaking about AI (Artificial Intelligence) and where the opportunities are for microbusinesses and SMEs to incorporate AI for better efficiency,” Craig says.

Spending locally

Chamber fosters connection

Also on the agenda for the Chamber this year is working with members to promote the Moreton Money program, which is a gift card system for use exclusively in the City of Moreton Bay.

Moreton Money encourages people to shop locally with its “closed loop” EFTPOS gift card that can only be used in the region at participating businesses – similar to Westfield’s gift cards that can only be redeemed at businesses within its centres.

“We see it as being a huge benefit for local businesses, as well as for local Chambers of Commerce,” Craig says.

“To be part of Moreton Money you have to be a member of a Chamber because we’re facilitating the roll-out, with the support of Council.

“As a business owner myself, I want to support local businesses and one of the really practical ways to do that is to spend money locally.

“Moreton Money’s a real game-changer for our community because it makes it so easy to shop locally and support your favourite businesses – local spending is like the fuel for our community’s economic engine.”

Sharing knowledge

Chamber fosters connection

Craig says the Hills and District Chamber of Commerce’s new volunteer executive committee is also keen to dispel common myths about Chambers being only for big corporations and discussing issues that are not relevant to small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs.

“The reality is the majority of our members are microbusinesses across a range of industries and sectors.

“A lot of business groups will say ‘come and meet with like-minded people’ - our attraction is having people from all different backgrounds, but there are a few values that we have in common.

“One priority that drives people to join our chamber is that we’re community minded.

“All of our members are very willing to share their knowledge with each other and with new members – there’s a real sense of connectedness.”

Fostering a sense of community is close to Craig’s heart.

As an intercultural consultant dedicated to helping people hone their cross-cultural business and relational skills, he deals with people all over the country and internationally – but currently has no clients in the Moreton Bay region.

“That’s one of the reasons I joined the chamber – for a sense of local community and connection.

“I don’t do business in the local area, but I do have a connection to the local business community, which is very rewarding.”

Find out more about The Hills and Districts Chamber of Commerce here.

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