Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 | 6 a.m.
Now more than ever, Henderson businesses are turning to each other and their chamber of commerce for some encouragement and guidance. And chamber officials are responding.
“I would say clearly the businesses that are out there and want to be around down the road are reaching out and finding different, creative and innovative ways to do things. … We’re seeing a lot more outreach by small businesses as well as the chamber toward one another,” said Kirk Clausen, chairman of the Henderson Chamber of Commerce. Clausen is also a regional president for Wells Fargo Bank.
The chamber’s Henderson Business Resource Center, which is housed inside a Wells Fargo Bank branch on Water Street, has kept an open ear for business owners, while trying to respond to today’s changing needs.
Rebecca Fay, who runs the business resource center, isn’t adding hours to entrepreneurs’ days, but she’s putting together training programs that produce results. For some it’s as simple as learning how to launch a Facebook page, Web site or Twitter campaign for their businesses, Fay said. Others are embracing the center’s “Roadmap to Success” training program, which offers three different monthly breakfast seminars. Topics can range from taxes to marketing to technology and others.
“Business owners are hungry for information and any kind of edge they can get right now,” Fay said. The business resource center has also created an online social networking tool called Face to Face Henderson.
Fay also says the seminars are a way to connect businesses that may be able to help each another.
“It goes back to people wanting to surround themselves with other people, to network, engage. Business is all about relationships,” she added.
Bill Bokelmann, owner of Maxx Promotions, a Henderson-based specialty advertising consulting firm, takes advantage of the several monthly seminars under the Roadmap to Success program. Only in business for 18 months, Bokelmann also uses his chamber membership to network, but said the seminars are a big perk and psychological boost for sole proprietors.
“It’s comforting to be participating with people who are upbeat, energized and excited about the future. It keeps me excited about the potential available for my business,” he said.
Bokelmann, who has 25 years of marketing and operations experience for large corporations, said the networking and educational programs help him not only meet prospective clients, but to better connect with his community.
“I’m meeting so many people. Yes it’s business people. But what they do is help forge a connection. It helps tie you to the community,” he added.
Others can’t overstate the importance of networking opportunities that come with a chamber membership.
Vera Leake, co-owner of The Soggy Dog, located at 1450 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, recently joined the Henderson Chamber of Commerce and likes its “pro-small business” stance. The business owner holds a “yappy hour mixer” every fourth Friday at her dog grooming and bathing shop. She recently opened a mixer up to chamber members as well.
“A lot of chamber members have pets. They’re always referring people to us. … It’s been a strong networking opportunity,” Leake said.
The Henderson Business Resource Center is in its 10th year of operation. Along with providing seminars and reaching out to small businesses to gauge needs, Fay also helps run the city’s small business incubator program at the site, as well as the Leadership Henderson program, which helps business leaders learn more about the city and how they can make an impact on pressing community needs.
The small business incubator is designed to help companies that are pure start-ups or those that are expanding from an at-home business. The center offers office space, meeting areas, reception services and access to seminars. Fay said, today, the incubator is full, and there are more applications than ever for Leadership Henderson.
“The trend I’m really seeing right now is that a lot of people have lost their jobs and are really experts at what they do … suddenly they’re thinking ‘maybe I should start a business.’ I think with this economic downturn there’s a greater increase in entrepreneurship,” she added.