Hooray! Searle Business Solutions, LLC, just celebrated its third anniversary and survived the crucial two-year period when 33 percent of all new businesses fail. So how did I beat the odds? Looking back at all the things I did, engagement in the Arlington Chamber of Commerce tops the list.
Three years ago this month, I quit my full time job, launched my website, and started networking. I was ready for a change and determined to build a sustainable business helping nonprofits, businesses, and individuals get control over and understand their finances. Back then, “chamber of commerce” was just a vague term that I had heard on NPR.
I joined the Chamber in September 2014, and jumped in with both feet by joining committees, participating in programs, and sharing knowledge through the Small Business Roundtable and a three-part Nonprofit Finance Workshop series, all while having a lot of fun and making new friends. I could write pages about all the great experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met since joining the Arlington Chamber. My space is limited, though, so I’ll only mention two highlights.
Because of my work with nonprofits, I immediately joined the Community Action Committee after joining the Chamber – what a fantastic resource for nonprofits and the businesses who serve them! By attending the monthly meetings, I’ve learned about local nonprofit activities and events, met nonprofit leaders who might need my services, and supported the nonprofit community. Volunteer Arlington Day is organized by the Chamber every April to match volunteers with nonprofit service projects. Sure, I need a vacation when tax season is over; but participating in Volunteer Arlington Day has been rejuvenating enough for me.
When the Chamber brought the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) program to Arlington in 2015, I volunteered to be a mentor to a young entrepreneur. YEA! is an afterschool program that transforms middle and high school students into confident entrepreneurs. For several weeks, I worked with a high school sophomore to develop her business plan and presentation for the Investor Panel event, during which YEA! students pitch their business plans to a panel of investors, who decide which students receive funding to start their businesses. I was almost as excited as she was when the Investor Panel awarded her even more business funding than she requested. It was a memorable experience and I have a new friend. We still get together, most recently at her high school graduation in June.
Fast forward three years. How do I measure the return on my investment in Arlington Chamber membership? The returns are incalculable because I have achieved what I set out to do. My vision to work independently and help clients achieve their goals is a reality. My business revenue doubled from year one to year two, and I’m on track to grow another 50 percent in year three. I have a whole new world of friends and I am more deeply connected with my community. It’s impossible to know what would have happened if I had not joined, but I’m convinced that my goals wouldn’t have been achieved as quickly without my engagement in the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.