Trent Ernst, Editor
If you own a business in town, chances are you recently received a mailout from the Tumbler Ridge Chamber of Commerce.
In the envelope, you would have received an application, inviting you to join the Chamber.
And, if you’re like most small business owners in town, chances are you set that aside and haven’t done anything about it.
Carmen Drapeau is the manager for the Chamber. She suspects there are a lot of businesses who are waiting until the start of the next fiscal year to join, so they aren’t paying full membership fees for two and a half months.
However, says Drapeau, businesses don’t need to do that. “The rate is prorated for this year; if you only sign up in December, you will only get charged for one month. So if you want to get benefits for your small business right away, you can.”
Medical and dental benefits for small businesses is one of the best reasons for signing up, she says, but it is far from the only one. “Of course there’s the gasoline and fuel discounts, merchant services, discounts at places like Staples, hotel discounts, but its more than that,” she says. “It’s also a great place to network. We’re organizing events so people can get together with other business owners. The chamber is an advocate for businesses to town hall. As we go on, we’re going to be doing more and more. For instance, one of the things we’ve talked about is creating a map of where the businesses are in town. There are so many home-based businesses, and finding them for the first time can be difficult.”
And if you are looking for business, you’ll find it through the Chamber. “When people call us asking for suppliers, we refer them to our chamber members.”
Drapeau is a small business owner herself. “When I first got my business licence, I was really excited about the chamber,” she says. “When you’re new to the community, you get to meet other people who are in the same boat as you.”
The Chamber has recently moved back into its old office in the Community Centre, which has proved to be more of a challenge than one might expect. “We won’t even talk about trying to get a phone line in there…”
Even though the Chamber is just starting its membership drive, it has been extremely active behind the scenes. Over the summer, the Chamber helped organize the Grizfest parade. More recently, it put on the all-candidates forum for the recent by-election, and just last week brought in a person from Canada Revenue Agency to talk taxes will local business owners.
Drapeau says the chamber has big plans for the future. One of the next steps will be to get a website up and running, with links to current chamber members. “We’re looking at a couple of providers for that.”
Drapeau says the return on the current membership drive has been slow. “One of the things with people signing up with chamber, it’s hard to just get out and do it. Because there hasn’t been a chamber for so long, people are used to not having one.”
But she’s convinced that people will join, because the benefits are so obvious. “As a small business with a chamber membership, customers look at you more seriously as well. It has an appearance of professionalism. It goes on and on. We are talking about doing a trade show here in Tumbler Ridge. We’re networking with other chambers in the area. I know what they’re doing, so we can coincide our events and not overlap. I think collaborating like that is a huge boon for the businesses of Tumbler Ridge.”