2018-02-14 / Business

News from Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber

Events to help you get connected

In meeting with several new or potential members over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed several questions continue to come up in my conversations. Most prevalently, people are asking me how can they get connected with other business people.

It’s one of the core principles of any chamber of commerce — to bring people together. We have events designed specifically to do that and we even offer assistance at these events to help promote conversations between strangers.

Then, they ask my favorite question: “But you have to be a member to attend these, right?” That’s when I smirk and give them the answer: “No.”

You see, we specifically design the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber to be different than other chambers of commerce. Yes, we need businesses to be members of our chamber — our budgets depend on it and more than two-thirds of our budget relies on membership dues.

But we feel it’s short-sighted that any chamber only serves the businesses that pay them dues and ignores the rest.

A well-run chamber supports the businesses in their communities regardless of how much the businesses pay them in dues. And why wouldn’t we?

When you think about the chamber, look at it like the fire station. The fire station needs the support of the taxpayers — both the citizens and the businesses — in order to survive. But if a church catches fire, and the church doesn’t pay taxes, are we still going to put the fire out? Of course we are — it’s in the best interest of the town.

We hope that this support will further represent our worth to those that do contribute, and often times it does. It’s the same for chambers, supporting all businesses for the greater good.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t value in membership — there absolutely is. But all of the chamber’s benefits don’t need to be exclusively only for the members — and that is the different philosophy we use at SMMC. We have member-only benefits, but our networking events, including ribbon cuttings, are not included in the member-only category. We find these networking events are a key way we tangibly demonstrate the value of the chamber. And they’re a great way for a prospective member to see what membership can be like.

Two of the premiere networking events we run are open to non-members and are completely free to attend. The first is Chamber After Hours. You may have seen this event listed before but you may not know what it is.

Essentially, it’s an open house that a member hosts monthly after typical work hours (normally 5-7 p.m.). The hosting business puts out a spread of food and drink and the chamber works with them to secure a few door prizes and to promote the event. The result is anywhere from 40-80-plus business people coming together to explore a business and connect with one another.

The last Chamber After Hours was in January at the new café space at Frontier in Brunswick with more than 80 attendees coming to build on existing relationships and to create new ones.

A unique attribute about a Chamber After Hours is that we have local ambassadors who can meet you at the registration table to walk around with you to introduce you. It’s a great way to meet the others in the room, as our ambassadors are very well-connected and can help you build those relationships quickly.

Also, about midway through the event around 6 p.m. the host will welcome everyone and say a few words before giving out the door prizes. After the host is done, we open the floor up to anyone in the room who wants 30 seconds to introduce themselves or give an update on their business. This leads to many follow-up conversations when the mingling resumes.

Another great networking event is the 12 @ 12 free lunch networking series. Hosted by a member business, this event is 12 business leaders getting together from noon to 1:30 p.m. to have lunch together and each person gets five minutes to talk to the other 11 people about their business. It’s simple but super effective as there is usually a chance for good connections.

Both the 12 @ 12 and Chamber After Hours are monthly events, and the attendees are encouraged to bring several business cards. Numerous deals have been made at an After Hours and even more follow-up meetings get set.

The 2018 12 @ 12 series kicks off Feb. 26 at Sunnybrook in Brunswick. This is an event you must register for as there is a hard limit of 12 attendees at each session. If you are interested, contact the SMMC office at (207) 725-8797. The following one will be March 30 at the Maine Energy Marketers Association. Where these are business networking events, you must be a business person to attend.

The 2018 Chamber After Hours schedule is almost full with our only available months being February, November and December. If a member business wants to host, please contact the chamber — however, any business person is welcome to attend an After Hours.

The March After Hours is March 9, and is actually a special one as it is the SMMC’s annual awards night, The Big Night Out. This year it will be back at Southern Maine Community College in Brunswick starting at 5 p.m.

On April 12, the After Hours will be at Maine Energy Marketers Association in Brunswick as they will be hosting and showcasing their workforce training facility. May 22 brings us to Sebasco Harbor Resort in Phippsburg for their opening week. June will be a cookout at Burgess Technology Services in Bath.

The rest of the schedule will be Vicarage By the Sea in July, Cook’s Lobster & Ale House in August, Maine Maritime Museum in September and Atlantic Federal Credit Union’s main branch in October.

We hope to see you at one or more of these events in 2018.

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