Following social distancing guidelines, the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce will present a virtual Business After Hours May 21. The Zoom event, which will be sponsored by Styles Auto Care, will take place from 4 to 4:45 p.m.
“One example of our adaptability to meet the needs of our members is the creation of a virtual Business After Hours,” said Cindy Williams, CEO of the local chamber. “Many chamber members depend on networking as a means of growing their business contacts and ultimately securing new business. Since large gatherings in person are still not possible, we researched ways to host a virtual networking event and are excited to announce our first ever virtual Business After Hours.”
Starting with brief introductions and comments from its sponsor, the virtual meeting will continue with attendees heading into networking breakout rooms consisting of up to five people.
“If the guests already know one another, we will encourage them to share unique products and services related to the current environment and/or best practices for business success,” Williams said. “We anticipate two to three different breakout rooms during the 45 minute event. Our Business After Hours events do not usually require a registration or a chamber membership, but with limited capacity, we are requiring both for this event.
“We have just begun promotions and are at approximately 1/3 of capacity,” she said Tuesday morning. “At this point, I think our members are curious more than anything, but we are confident it’s going to be a fun event with both a social and business component.”
The revamped Business After Hours will be limited to 50 Chamber members. Participants must preregister at www.cartersvillechamber.com.
“Right now we have had to either postpone or cancel all events in April and May and are even looking toward our June events for the next steps,” said Jessica Sewell, the chamber’s community development director. “We are hoping that things will start to clear up sooner rather than later so we can finish out the year strong.
“The Business After Hours is our first stab at offering a virtual event. We are excited to see the level of participation already and look forward to how successful this will be.”
The Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce is situated at 122 W. Main St. and consists of 885 members.
“As a Chamber of Commerce, we are still working diligently to provide the necessary resources, tools and knowledge that our business owners need to make the best decisions possible moving forward,” Williams said. “In speaking with our members, it is encouraging to hear that we have been an essential partner to help guide business owners through this period of time. Our #ForBartow Campaign is thriving. Our website continues to provide access to up-to-date information from local, state and federal sources.
“We also have a video library of interviews with individuals and companies that are providing unique and necessary business services. Our social media channels, Facebook and Instagram have seen exponential growth and are providing an avenue for sharing business openings and offerings of interest to the general public.”
At this time, Williams is encouraged to see many area businesses start to reopen.
“The last two months have no doubt been a time of uncertainty, and I have to imagine that many businesses are still unsure about what the next 12-24 months will bring,” she said. “COVID-19 is a national pandemic and that cannot be taken lightly. However, despite the challenges, I remain optimistic about Bartow County’s future.
“While the Chamber of Commerce may not be the first phone call a struggling business owner will make, membership is typically a leading indicator of a community’s economic health. Through the month of April, our overall membership revenue is almost 7% over budget, with renewal revenue at 14% over budget.”
As Williams worked remotely during the pandemic, she conversed with chamber members and found “the ability of each of them to adapt has been phenomenal.”
“The most visible changes were in the restaurant and retail sector where we saw services shift to takeout, curbside pickup and delivery, but many other businesses adapted as well,” she said. “Fitness centers offered online classes, financial advisors were able to meet virtually with clients, and even those businesses deemed essential were able to modify workspaces to ensure the health and well-being of their employees and customers.
“Additionally, many business owners used the time to deep clean their facilities, work on restoration or organizing projects, adopt new technologies for use beyond the pandemic and several, like Southern Cove and Etowah Valley Yoga, even moved to new and bigger spaces.”
Noting travel and tourism is Bartow’s “hardest hit industry,” Williams shared it may take longer for them to regain their footing.
“The message of buying from and supporting local businesses cannot be emphasized enough,” Williams said. “As a community, we must consider where we are spending our dollars and make small or large shifts to buy from our neighbors.
“The impact of dollars spent locally is tremendous. Not only are you supporting your neighbors who have chosen Bartow County as the home of their business, but you are helping retain local jobs, contributing to the local tax base, which helps maintain things, like parks and recreation facilities, and you are giving back to the business community who is called upon daily for sponsorships of sports teams, school functions, community events and support of services to our vulnerable populations.”