Chambers of commerce help businesses reinvent themselves
Being there when they’re needed the most, chambers of commerce continue to pave the way for members to stay on track as the pandemic lingers.
Beyond being a main resource in helping to apply for loans and grants available for businesses, chambers are finding creative ways to make sure members are on a long-term road to recovery.
A lot of people are looking at the pandemic as a crisis where businesses are completely shut down, but there are businesses that see it as an opportunity to reinvent themselves, said Mark Trowbridge, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce’s president and CEO.
In one of those alterations, he said, trustee member Intermedia Touch focused its resources and created digital signage solutions that address current needs during the pandemic.
Intermedia Touch is offering three products that businesses can use to protect staff and the public. The products are a temperature control module with facial recognition feature, antimicrobial screen protector for kiosks and hand sanitizer display stations.
“We switched into pivoted mode on how to get through this crisis and what we are going to offer to our clients,” said Cristina Miller, Intermedia Touch’s president and CEO.
Once the chamber went virtual there were no charges for any webinars, events or meetings. Members were getting valuable information that was impactful for her business and lives, she said.
“That was extremely helpful financially, the chamber continuously posting on social media giving us briefings on what’s going on within the community, what official restrictions we should know about and updates of what’s going on in Coral Gables in general,” Ms. Miller said. “If I needed to get in contact with specific companies for business, Mark [Trowbridge] would make a personal introduction, which was very helpful.”
With 70% of the company’s business coming from casinos, the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce assisted Intermedia Touch to connect with institutions and banks that were providing PPP loans, which was crucial for survival, she said. “We really owe them a lot.”
The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce has added its latest program through GMCC Unites initiative, to help small black-owned businesses join the chamber with a mentor member company and engage them in the work of the chamber and its resources, said Joe Zubi, the chamber’s senior vice president of communications.
“Our goal is to try to get 30 companies for the year, but it depends on how many mentors are available and willing to work,” he said.
The silver lining of the pandemic is how natural competitors have set that aside and are working together to get through challenging times, said Brittnie Bassant, ChamberSOUTH’s executive director.
The Scoop on Miami, a social media podcast show that spotlights places, people, businesses and some of South Florida’s hidden treasures joined ChamberSOUTH when the pandemic first struck.
“When the pandemic started, I started to think of ways to stay relevant and at the same time give back to business owners,” said Ernie Emad, host and creator of The Scoop on Miami. “We feature small businesses from all walks of life, from print shop to restaurants and nonprofits.”
The show focuses on services provided by featured companies and helps them connect with the community on a personal level by podcasting and creating a short commercial for social media, Mr. Emad said. “We bring these businesses the spotlight and encourage listeners to think and shop local.”
It was a perfect match to join the chamber as a trustee member, with its resources and networking opportunities, he said, and The Scoop on Miami will be able to reach even more small businesses that need promotion and publicity.
Since the pandemic, the show has reached over 31,000 listeners and viewers each month, with about 8,000 people tuning in every Saturday night when the new episode is released, Mr. Emad added. “We get to know the people behind those businesses and their struggles to put a business together.”
Fifteen local chambers of commerce have joined forces in making sure South Florida’s business community survives during and long after the pandemic, Mr. Trowbridge said.
“It’s wonderful to see for the first time in history,” he said, “how 15 chambers are working together and collaborating in leading these efforts to support members and non-members alike.”