Last updated 7/14/2020 at 10:58am
As I’ve been slightly avoiding a Chamber progress report as the Executive Director, I’m now ready to go for it!
The Chamber Board hired me on Feb. 11, around 9 a.m .; I officially started working at 10 a.m., that same day.
My thoughts were “I’m here, so why not jump right in.” And jump right in I did with meetings and taking pages of notes about what needs to be done, contacts I should have, grants, permits, events and so forth. I look at those notes now, and realize I’ve barely looked at them since, because after talking to my incredible assistant Debbie Woollet, and thinking about what I find missing from some of the Chambers I’m a member of, I immediately made my own list of goals (I’m a list person) and refocused.
The Chamber is about representation for its members, the community and our visitors that should also be a positive experience.
We started out with a bang, working on member relations and pouring over lists of actual members with benefits versus those who had not renewed and were still getting benefits. After two months of calls, website comparisons, sending out invoices and some wonderful conversations, I’m happy to say our paid/active membership has increased from the low 90’s to close to 130. For those who had a free ride, sorry it’s over, and now it’s time to join the Chamber.
One month after starting and after attending only one Sundowner, the virus hit putting a screeching halt to everything. All of the members and business owners I wanted to meet, the Farmers Market, Sundowners, visitors coming to town, the Chamber being open, etc., done. However, what the virus did do was give Debbie and I uninterrupted time at the Chamber (except for answering the phone) to work on reorganizing all of the inside storage areas, inventory, new landscaping, fixing the website, keeping the community updated on virus issues and so on.
During this same time, the reformatted Chamber Weekly was born. Normally event/business inclusion is for members only, however, during the pandemic, we opened it up to all businesses in the area, and all they had to do was get us the info. Debbie then spent hours going through our data base creating a members only folder and a media folder. Why is this important, the general public should not be receiving members only notices and the media shouldn’t be bombarded with everything we send out ultimately blocking the Chamber eblasts.
I’ll be frank; I’ve never seen so many stacks of papers, and piles of stuff everywhere I looked. Organization is key for a business to function well, but I could feel that seemed to make everyone nervous when I mentioned getting rid of things so I quietly set out to clean and organize the Chamber. Volunteers led by Fred Jee cleaned, organized and inventoried the Chamber sheds (I think they were worried I’d throw too much away), and now we know exactly what we have in storage and all of the broken items are gone. I also found some interesting items that made me smile, pictures and articles about Borrego Springs and the Chamber from years past. These wonderful items I have set aside to showcase at upcoming events and perhaps make wall art out of some. I don’t have enough space to list everything we’ve accomplished, but I will say we are far from finished.
Currently in progress is revamping the membership benefits and perhaps levels, permits and planning for Borrego Days, as no one knows what will happen, giving the Sundowner a refreshed new feel, more additions to the website for ALL member levels to use, the ‘Embrace Borrego’ guide so it’s ready for maximum exposure, growing the Farmer’s Market, media exposure, recruiting more volunteers, business mixers and invitation only events for members, town halls open to the community and so on.
Many things are in limbo as the world reopens, but we will get by this. I can’t express how grateful I am for the supportive board of directors, the warm welcome from so many locals, the offers of “if you need anything just call me”, the sometimes humorous wishes of “good luck,” and the steady stream of positivity. I quickly discovered there are many committees, sub-committees, kinda committees and budding committees in Borrego Springs, and I’m still trying to understand their different agendas, what I do understand is that the actions of the Chamber will never please everyone, and I’ll strive not to take it to heart.
However, I do feel if the Chamber keeps moving forward with creativity, be open to suggestions, help our local economy prosper, listen to the needs of the community and do the very best we can every single day, we are well on our way to a brighter future in Borrego Springs.
– Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce Executive Director