The Best Business Resource Young Adults are Missing Out On

Why Young Professionals Should Join the Chamber of Commerce
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If you're a young entrepreneur starting a local business, a big part of your success will depend on engaging your community.

And while you might be inclined to engage locals through social media or email, there's one offline method that deserves another look: your local Chamber of Commerce.

Young adults and Chambers of Commerce actually value a lot of the same things:

  • Prioritizing local business
  • Building relationships
  • Sharing knowledge

Despite this, it's often difficult for Chambers to recruit and retain younger businessowners. Discover why local Chamber membership may be the missing ingredient to your business's success below.

What is a Chamber of Commerce?

A Chamber of Commerce is a network of local businesspeople who come together to collaborate on and promote the interests of their businesses.

While Chambers of Commerce don't enact laws or regulations directly, they elect their own leaders who often work closely with local politicians to promote business-friendly policies.

Chambers are actually the lead business advocacy organization in your town, representing business at all levels of local government. Think about it: any legislation is likely to fare better with the entire Chamber behind it, rather than just one lone advocate.

Fun fact: There are roughly 13,000 Chambers of Commerce in the U.S. No matter how small your community is, it's almost guaranteed to have a Chamber of Commerce. The city of Washington, D.C., alone has 19 Chambers of Commerce.

If there's no Chamber directly in your town, then it's likely nearby. Otherwise, national Chamber organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offer another way to reap the benefits of membership.

Why Young Businessowners Should Join Their Local Chamber

You might be surprised by how much you stand to gain from Chamber membership. Discover our top 5 benefits below.

1. Educational Resources and One-on-One Help

Sure, the internet is a great educational resource. But there's no replacement for intimate, personalized help from real people, in real life. That's where Chambers come in.

A big draw of Chamber membership is the educational resources they offer, usually in the form of workshops, economic development summits, and even 1:1 mentorship.

Members can expect resources on a wide range of topics, from workplace safety regulations to local taxation to city permitting - info that's crucial for avoiding hefty fines.

If you're in the process of starting a business but not totally off the ground yet, you can also look into Chamber workshops on business plan writing, conducting market research and more.

2. Dedication to Local Businesses

Despite being known (and critiqued) for their heavy phone-usage, young adults show an unrivaled enthusiasm for small, local businesses. And it's not just a hunch - a study conducted by Vistaprint offers the stats to back it up:

  • 45% of millennials would spend more on a product or service if it supported a small business (compared to 27% of consumers age 55+)

  • 61% expect to shop more with small businesses during the year, compared to 15% of those 55+

  • Millennials spend an average of $197.32 at small businesses per month (Boomers spend about half that: $85.99)

Bottom line: Because Chambers of Commerce depend on prioritizing small business, young adults are likely to fit right in.

3. Networking and Collaboration

It's not what you know, it's who you know. When you join the Chamber of Commerce, you're connected with a diverse group of people who can help grow your business.

You may meet the local banker who helps you get that small business loan, or a graphic designer that ends up creating your company's logo. There's even a good chance you might even meet your first customer.

These local businessowners can be an invaluable resource for advice and can even help you avoid common mistakes. This can be critical, as 8% of businesses fail due to a lack of this kind of support.

4. Visibility, Offline & Online

Most Chambers hold community events like 5ks, local restaurant showcases, meal programs, and benefits for local charities. They also set up info booths at seasonal fairs or sports events.

And while it's easy (albeit misguided) to assume that all business advertising can be done online, these in-person events go a long way to reach offline customers. Plus, by providing offline opportunities for promotion and volunteering, they can help reinforce your online branding.

Chambers also provide plenty of online visibility: Members are listed in Chamber newsletters, on its social media pages, and its website. Plus, individuals and other companies often call their local Chamber to ask for referrals to local businesses.

And get this: If a consumer knows that a business is a Chamber member, they're 49% more likely to think favorably of it, and 80% more likely to patronize that business in the future.

5. Better for Your Budget

Starting a business has a lot of overhead. You might need commercial space, office supplies, accounting and payroll services, IT services, and marketing services - just to name a few.

So it's no wonder that the most frequently cited challenge for young businessowners (36%) is lack of capital, according to a survey conducted by Guidant Financial.

Because of this, Chamber members will often extend discounts to their fellow members for various services. Not to mention, hiring fellow members helps keep money in your community.

The benefits of membership exceed what we've included in this article, so it's worth reaching out to your local Chamber for a full run-down of the perks. For example, many Chambers also offer:
  • Health Plans
  • 401(k) Plans
  • Monthly Networking Events
  • Lobbying with federal/state/local elected officials
  • A Directory for residents/visitors to see all Chamber members
  • Discounts from other Members
  • Weekly or Monthly Newsletter
  • Opportunities for Board Membership
  • Annual Leadership Program enrollment

How to Join Your Chamber of Commerce

The process for joining varies for each Chamber, so for exact details, contact your local organization. But here's what's usually involved:

  1. Request a membership packet to understand the costs and benefits of joining.

  2. Attend an event if possible. Some Chambers hold mixers that prospective members can attend to get to know current members.

  3. Choose your level of membership (if there are different tiers.)

  4. Fill out and submit an application (this can often be done online). Some Chambers allow you to join as soon as you've submitted, and some require all applications to go through a review process before approval.

  5. Hold your ribbon-cutting ceremony when the Chamber announces you as a new member. (Who doesn't love those giant scissors?) This can be done even for those who have already established businesses.

How Much Does It Cost To Join A Chamber of Commerce?

Membership dues vary from Chamber to Chamber. Some have tiered memberships (i.e., more expensive tiers offer more benefits.)

Others base the cost of how many employees you have, or which industry your business is in.

In general, membership fees are usually between $200-$500 per year.

If you're considering joining, be sure to ask your local Chamber if they require the fee upfront when you join, or allow you to pay it throughout the year.

Is it worth it to join a Chamber of Commerce?
If you're still on the fence about joining your local Chamber, this is probably the biggest question on your mind. While some of your ROI depends on how engaged you are, most Chamber members feel that membership is worth the cost.

Between increased visibility, service discounts from fellow members, and business-friendly political advocacy, you're likely to earn back your investment.

What Experts Say

CreditDonkey recently asked a group of Chamber experts about the benefits of membership, responsibilities of Chamber leadership, and how they engage young business owners.

Here's what they had to say:

The Bottom Line

Joining your local Chamber of Commerce can make a tremendous difference for your business, but don't be fooled into thinking Chambers are only looking out for businesses. As a group that represents dozens (and sometimes hundreds or thousands) of people, they largely advocate for the health of the community as a whole.

If you decide to join, be sure to engage in events and collaborate with fellow members so you can take advantage of all the opportunities your membership affords you.

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