SEFFNER — Running a chamber of commerce with an all-volunteer crew has its challenges. But in an area like Seffner with a business base made up almost exclusively of family-owned small businesses and home-based businesses, it just makes financial sense.
Leaders of the Greater Seffner Chamber of Commerce say they have been trying over the past few years to make the chamber more professional. At the same time, though, they want to keep that small-town, welcoming feel. And the volunteers help them do that.
“If we tried to be like other larger chambers, we would just fail,” said immediate past president Lori Libhart. “We can help our businesses be successful by encouraging them to partner with each other.”
Newly elected Chamber President Meredith Tucker said she wants to see five businesses a month joining the chamber, up from two or fewer a month. And she wants those chamber members to get to know each other and learn from each other.
“After hours events at a bar just don’t work in Seffner,” she said. Events that promote area non-profits or direct students toward volunteer hours that will help them with scholarships are more in tune with the community, she said.
“An essential part of any chamber is to know the community you serve,” Libhart said. “I worked on programs and events and succeeded in making them focus on business and being more professional,” and Tucker will continue that, Libhart said.
One way she’ll do that is to add more monthly events that will educate members on how to grow their businesses. For example, during Ask the Expert evenings, one chamber member will talk about something within their own realm of expertise, like business law or real estate, to educate others.
Tucker, market leader for the BB&T Bank branch in Seffner, is fairly new to the area, but has been busy getting to know all of the players, she said.
“There has been a lot of conversation about image and our image is one of professionalism,” she said. At the same time, Seffner is a welcoming place, she said, and its businesses want everyone to feel that. “We absolutely do not want to lose that.”
Board member Sue Smith, executive director of Delaney Creek Lodge, an assisted living facility in Brandon, said it is that warmth and friendliness that helps the Seffner chamber stand out.
“At any chamber, it takes a team to get things done,” Smith said, “but that’s especially true for a small chamber. That blood, sweat and tears is finally paying off. We are seeing the reward of our hard work. And with Meredith Tucker as our new president, she brings a young excitement to the chamber. We are growing, generationally.”