Natural Foods Merchandiser

Get the most out of your chamber membership

Finding ways to catapult your business to the next level can be challenging. Joining a chamber of commerce may be the answer. Chambers offer solutions to promote and protect your business. They are one of many tools retailers can utilize to increase store exposure and sales and ensure your community concerns are being addressed by a body that gets the attention of policy makers and community leaders.

The chamber of commerce is an organization made up of business-minded individuals. It works to promote business interests and advance the interests of its members. Chambers operate on local, state and national levels. While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce focuses on national legislative issues that affect business, owners of small and medium businesses mainly belong to local chapters that help shape the economy, promote community awareness and set the pace for the future.

For natural food manufacturers and retailers, a chamber of commerce membership can help you become more business savvy, says Gina Elliott, co-owner of Colorado’s Best Beef Co. in Boulder, Colo. She joined the Boulder Chamber of Commerce two years ago to take advantage of its plan that offers lower rates on worker’s compensation insurance. But she has benefited from many of the networking activities and general business development courses.
“Naturals companies, especially farmers and ranchers, are not extremely business oriented, and the chamber has helped me become a better overall businessperson,” Elliott says.

Chambers can also help naturals companies communicate their messages to the public. Natural products manufacturers and retailers can draw in more customers through member-sponsored events and business directories that are distributed to thousands, if not millions, of consumers.

Susie Harvey, a retired president and CEO of the Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce in California, says the best deal in chambers right now is Chamber Plus, which goes beyond member mixers to provide business information and education that increase skills.

“Gone are the days of your father’s chamber of commerce, where the main activity was getting together at the end of a day to have a drink and meet with other downtown businessmen,” Harvey says. “Mixers or ‘business after hours’ are great for networking, but in today’s economic climate, businesspeople must get more out of their professional memberships.”

Harvey says other chamber of commerce services include keeping members informed about changes in labor laws, tax laws or business regulations. Chambers also research issues, make formal statements of support or opposition, work with industry-specific organizations to understand their concerns and lobby on behalf of chamber members. This advocacy role often spurs city leaders to redraft sign ordinances, rethink general plans or fail to pass onerous business regulations, she says.

Many chambers also offer SCORE, a free one-on-one counseling service for businesses sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Visit for more information.

Your chamber should be your business advocate. Before joining, interview chamber members carefully and make sure their leadership shares your values.

The Boulder Chamber of Commerce offers the following tips on what to look for when shopping for chamber offerings and how services can affect you:
  • Member-to-member discounts help retailers offer specials.
  • Ribbon cuttings for store grand openings provide visibility and maximize publicity.
  • Listings for your store in a chamber resource directory provide exposure.
  • Group insurance plans provide significant savings for members.
  • Seminars that focus on networking, technology and marketing techniques help increase your skills.
  • Forums where local business leaders share their sustainable business practice ideas can lend you inspiration.
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