Associations offer education, support

Specially focused chambers of commerce and business associations around Southern Nevada are gearing up on initiatives for the coming year to help businesses make connections and progress in the Las Vegas market and across the globe.

Planned initiatives through the Urban Chamber of Commerce, an organization that carries a focus on minority-owned businesses, could reach across three continents this year.

In an initiative with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, in particular with the agency’s International Trade Director Kris Sanchez, the Urban Chamber is sending members to Poland, along with developing plans for members to land on the continent of Africa. Visiting China also is a possibility.

Ken Evans, president of the Urban Chamber, added the 330 chamber members have access to other chamber members with knowledge on how to navigate international markets.

On the domestic side, local and state efforts, Evans is focusing on GOED’s nine sector councils, which represent the nine areas Gov. Sandoval is focused on growing including health care, the drone industry, information technology and others. Evans said the chamber educates its members on these topics during its Roundtable events.

Access to capital is an issue for Urban Chamber members, Evans said, noting membership is predominately small businesses.

That’s why the chamber has connected with Accion, an organization that helps fund ventures that are smaller or haven’t been in operation long enough to qualify for most loans from conventional sources.

The Urban Chamber also has relationships with other local lending institutions and SCORE, which provides — at no charge — counseling from experienced corporate executives and successful entrepreneurs.

The Urban Chamber also offers its members onsite access to the Nevada Small Business Development Center, which is funded, in part, by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The rest of the funding comes through the state of Nevada, but that funding has been cut by 40 percent, said Evans.

Overall, Evans referred to the organization as “a one-stop-shop for people that are either interested in business, recently started, or trying to do things to grow.”

Women’s Chamber

The Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Nevada also keeps up on its partnerships, something that helps many of its members, said June Beland, founder of the organization.

“We’re community partners with almost everybody here, and we make sure we have a lot of educational opportunities for these ladies,” said Beland.

Some of the chamber’s diversity partners include MGM International Resorts and RTC and several more.

The chamber has been in operation for 14 years and is one of a few women’s chambers that operate as a stand-alone entity, said Beland. Many women’s chambers are coupled inside another organization such as a city chamber, she added.

Beland said she uses her marketing skills to increase attention to the organization. She retired from the publishing and media world before founding the organization. Many of her previous efforts in that industry have given the organization tools to help it grow by bringing many of her publications into the fold and using them as marketing tools, Beland said.

Membership sits at around 500, and Beland hopes to grow that number to between 700 and 1,000 by the end of 2016. Beland, however, said that she wanted to keep that number at a manageable level, or not everyone would get service.

Beland is hoping to end the year with a bang at the Athena awards in October. The larger event will help increase the chamber’s efforts to bring scholarships to at-risk high school students.

Henderson Chamber

Growth is also happening at the south end of the valley. The Henderson Chamber of Commerce is increasing its efforts on business connection with its new, monthly roundtable breakfast.

The program is headed by one of the chamber’s board members each month, leading a group of four or five, up to a dozen, hand-picked chamber members, explained Henderson Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Scott Muelrath.

The meeting builds off a theme —healthcare, development or small business — Muelrath said, pointing to recent examples.

Along with making connections, the chamber also brings education to the table with its Roadmap to Success Workshop. The seminars have been offered twice a month at no cost to members for the past several years. The topics also vary.

“Generally right now, membership is hungry for initiatives around marketing and social media because the economy’s doing better,” said Muelrath. “So they’re looking to budget and spend a bit more in the marketing realm.”

The chamber itself has been on the move. Muelrath said the chamber has grown by 10 percent a year for the last three years, with February being the single biggest growth month in membership in the chamber’s history. The chamber added 47 new members.

Sponsorship also grew by 300 percent in that period.

“Everything is pointing in an upward trend,” said Muelrath. “There’s a lot of momentum right now.”

Hispanic Business Group

On the move in recent months is the Nevada Hispanic Business Group. The organization, which has a membership of 50 after one year in existence, moved into its new home in North Las Vegas in what’s been dubbed Mini City Hall.

The space is being offered to the group free of charge by Arsen Ter-Petrosyan.

Before this, the group brought education and other services to their member businesses. Today, the organization is sponsored by big names like Wynn Resorts, Cox, RTC, Nevada State Bank and others.

Leadership members including Laura Nowlan, executive director; Joe Hernandez, president, and Orlando Gallegos, vice president. The organization operates as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, so the group doesn’t define itself as a chamber of comkmerce. The group hopes to eventually expand their efforts throughout the state.

The group is offering Spanish-speaking members education in their native language. This effort allows Hispanic businesses to gain knowledge on how U.S. businesses are run and managed in the open market, said Hernandez.

With its recent move into its new space, the group is also planning a business incubator. This effort includes offering small businesses affordable space with office support that many need to survive, especially in the first couple of years in operation, said Nowlan.

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