Today marks the end of Chamber of Commerce week. And if I’m being totally honest, I completely forgot about it.
I know, I know. I wrote about it in the weekly e-newsletter just last week, and I still forgot. I even started a Chamber of Commerce Engagement Contest for you, our loyal members, to earn a $25 gift card to Truxton’s American Bistro, and I still forgot. Luckily, I wasn’t alone (since nobody entered the contest), but still. I feel a little bad. After all, I love my Chamber of Commerce.
It probably sounds silly, but I’m being honest. I love this organization, the people that are involved in it, and the communities we represent. This isn’t me kissing up to my boss or my board, this is a feeling that took months to come into fruition, maybe even longer, because there’s something else I would like to confess:
Before I worked here, I had no idea what a Chamber of Commerce even was.
My first introduction to the LAX Coastal Chamber was through my Integrated Learning course over at Otis College of Art and Design. The fabulous Andy Davis was my teacher, and a fellow lover of all things Halloween, and his class partnered with the Chamber for their (formerly) annual Kid’s Window Painting Contest and Halloween Fair. I met Christina Davis. I visited the Chamber office and often stayed later than I intended to. I attended meetings in the Drollinger Building across the street where I met Stephanie Davis, Miki Payne, and Karen Dial. I mixed paint for children. I met Jaren Rhodes, who told me he wanted to change his paint to purple, almost more of a magenta color. I face painted. I listened to a Halloween scream contest. I ate from a taco truck. I had more heart-to-heart conversations with professionals than I ever had in my life before as I was introduced one after the other to the influential men and women who helped make Westchester the community it is today. I passed my class (with an A, of course). And I still had no idea what a Chamber of Commerce was.
Okay, I had a little bit more of an idea, yes. I knew it was an important part of the community and that the organization hosted a variety of events, but that was about it. Really, all I knew was that a Chamber of Commerce was the best way to connect to business in your area, and when I graduated that information translated into: a Chamber of Commerce can help you get a job.
So I came over here and asked Christina for a job.
And, after a few months of testing the waters and trials at other locations, she offered me one. Thus, the Creative Director was born! (PowerPuff Girls, anyone? No?)
In the beginning there was a lot of figuring out what we do, a lot of attempting to explain what we do to my former classmates—“Kirby works for the government” was the story that was going around the campus… I think the majority of them still think that—and a lot of learning about the community (because even though I had lived here for over 2 years I knew nothing beyond my commute to and from my apartment and Otis). It wasn’t until I had worked here for a few months and graduated from Leadership Academy that I truly understood what a Chamber of Commerce was, and I was honestly surprised at how integral a Chamber of Commerce was to the community it represents.
As a child I remember my parents being involved in our local Rotary Club. I spent many nights hanging out at our local City Hall for meetings—fun fact, that’s where Kirby learned to square dance—and attended a multitude of events that my parents volunteered for, so when I started my job here I assumed it would be something along those lines. Well it was, essentially, just on a much larger scale.
It wasn’t until I started to get to know the membership and my Board of Directors that I noticed how connected everything was. How the President/CEO of the LAX Coastal Chamber is the sister to the owner of the HomeTown News who is the friend of the owner of Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Restaurant who attends Rotary with the owner of SECO Investigative & Security Services whose grandchildren have playdates with the small business owner of the J. Rosen Group who used to rent an office at LAX Coworking with the fellow entrepreneur of Woodhill Solutions who serves on the LAX Coastal Board of Directors with the Co-Owner of Tony P’s Dockside Grill… Must I go on? The connections and relationships made through the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce and within the LAX Coastal region itself are phenomenal. And they aren’t solely felt within the business community, either. They extend to politics, to government, to education, to residents, and to understand that each individual that becomes involved with the LAX Coastal Chamber—no matter the capacity—is working to make our backyard a better place to work and live is a powerful notion.
Through my time with the LAX Coastal Chamber I have seen business owners become friends, I have seen professionals share knowledge, I have seen individuals learn something new from a different industry, and I have seen growth happen, everywhere. I watch careers grow right before my eyes as those involved in the Chamber offer just the right amount of support and resources in order to help a fellow professional succeed.
We are in a community like no other, and I truly believe that the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce is one of the reasons why. And, without this job, I might’ve spent my entire life never knowing it existed.
So thank you, to the LAX Coastal Chamber and the amazing men and women who make both it and our community what it is. While I might not have remembered this was Chamber of Commerce week, I definitely celebrate you each and every day.
For those who would like to give it another try, I have extended the deadline for the LAX Coastal Chamber Engagement Contest!
LAX Coastal Chamber Engagement Contest
Deadline Monday, September 19
Post your answer on the LAX Coastal Chamber’s Facebook Page or in the comment section below to one of the below three questions to be entered to win a $25 Truxton’s American Bistro Gift Card!
- Why is a Chamber of Commerce an important addition to your community?
- What is your favorite thing about your local chamber?
- How has your local chamber helped your professional success?