Early every Wednesday morning, Lisa Farquharson, president and CEO of The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce can be found seated at the table of a downtown coffee shop, laptop in hand and ready to help people connect with the Chamber and the community.
“Wired with the Chamber” happens every Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., at Kainos Coffee & Pizza, 418 E 2nd St., The Dalles.
“We developed Wired because I didn’t see a spot to just connect with the Chamber,” Farquharson said. “It’s a drop-in opportunity, an opportunity to explore membership, ask questions.”
The Wired event began in August of 2018. Since it started, there have only been three days when no one showed up, Farquharson said. On one day, eight people showed up in succession.
It isn’t just a way to connect to the Chamber, she emphasized during a recent Wired session.
In addition to questions regarding the Chamber, Farquharson provides advice and tools for businesses and nonprofits seeking to connect with the community, especially in the realm of social media.
The Chamber is the first place a business—or anyone interested in starting a business in The Dalles—should turn to, Farquharson said. Do you have a business plan? No? The Small Business Development Center at Columbia Gorge Community College can help. Do you have funding? Liability insurance? The Chamber can help with that as well.
“It’s all about connections,” Farquharson explained. “The Chamber is the best place to start for any business. It is a real resource for connecting with resources. A lot of people don’t realize that.”
Izetta Grossman, who works as a clerk for the City of The Dalles and also as a volunteer Chamber ambassador, is well aware of the value of the Wired with the Chamber opportunity.
“Lisa is connecting with people all the time,” said Grossman, who attended in search of guidance and advice in regards to her work with the city’s Facebook page.
She said the city, like other businesses and organizations, has to use Facebook and social media to connect with the community. “The notice on the door is no longer effective,” she said. “When I post it on the door, it’s just a waste of paper.”
Even newsletters are limited in their ability to communicate things like meeting notices, hearings and other public business of the city.
Social media is effective, but complicated, and Grossman was looking for tips on improving how she managed the city’s Facebook page.
“My goal is to get information out better,” she told Farquharson “I need to organize it better, make sure everything gets posted.”
She had come to the right place.
“Social media is my thing, I’m really good at it,” Farquharson said. She works primarily with Facebook, but Twitter and other social media platforms play a role as well. She asked Grossman“Pick three different kinds of posts, and send me the data on impressions, shares and likes,” she suggested. “I’ll take a look at the page.”
“We can help people build engagement page likes,” she said. “It’s all part of your membership,” she told one attendee. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to me.”
“I get into the mechanics of it—help them get more action on their posts, show them how they can be more effective and more active with their Facebook page,” she explained.
Non members are also welcome, she said. In fact, those seeking to start a business in town would do well to connect with the Chamber as a first step.
“I have a lot of knowledge, and a lot of experience,” she said, noting that a successful business has to be done right, and starting off wrong can waste time and funds. Something as simple as liability insurance, for example, can kill a good business idea if the insurance cost is too high. “You have to be real,” she said, and a there are lot of requirements people aren’t aware of. But there are a lot of resources in the community as well, she added.
The weekly Wired event is one of her favorite Chamber events. Another is Coffee Connections, a second networking opportunity offered every fourth Tuesday of the month at different businesses in town. Details on upcoming Coffee Connections can be found on the Chamber website or newsletter, call 541-296-2231 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
One great feature of each Coffee Connections opportunity comes at the end, when those attending gather in a circle and briefly introduce themselves.
“You get to know people,” she said. “It helps people connect. You can’t be in business without connecting with people.”