Chamber an advocate for small business

Being informed and connected can make all the difference in boosting business to new levels of success.

Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce president Julie Scurr (left) stands with executive director Sonja Nagel beside a display highlighting the myriad wines of the Cowichan Valley at the Cowichan Regional Visitor Centre.

Being informed and connected can make all the difference in boosting business to new levels of success.

That’s where the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce comes in, with informational and networking events, service discounts and marketing opportunities and its role as an advocate for local businesses.

“We’re a real voice for small business,” said executive director Sonja Nagel. “Sixty-five per cent of our members are in what we call the small business category, which are between one and 10 employees.”

Nagel also said she guarantees a business who joins the chamber will grow itself if it gets involved.

“Our mandate is to build a strong community through strength in business,” explained chamber president Julie Scurr, adding that the chamber “started as a way to have representation of collective interests.”

The B.C. Chamber includes 125 local chambers, 22 on Vancouver Island.

The Duncan organization has 450 members and works in conjunction with five other regional chambers including Chemainus, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan and South Cowichan. It also operates the Cowichan Regional Visitor Centre at 2896 Drinkwater Rd. in Duncan.

“We strengthen local business through networking events, through mentorship, professional development activities, other unique programming, whether we’re hosting events or business awards, supporting young entrepreneurs, hospitality training for the tourism sector; we’re focused on empowering each and every one of our member businesses to succeed,” Scurr said.

Chamber members include small businesses, entrepreneurs, non-profits, educational institutions and larger corporations like banks and industry.

Members get a personalized profile on the website including a short video for only $25 extra, the chance to hear high-profile speakers, space for pamphlets and display at the visitor centre and discounted insurance rates and other services.

“We have partnerships with service providers that can offer discounted services to our members which is huge,” Scurr said. “Also when you’re a membership organization you have the opportunity to market to other members. So we have business-to-business discounts going on.”

Scurr also emphasized the important advocacy role of the chamber, noting that the pursuit of provincial policy important to small business often begins at the chamber level.

“One of the things that the B.C. Chamber and we ourselves have been involved in is the advocacy for credit unions to keep a low tax rate because that’s a key source for local financing in B.C. There are a lot of businesses that depend on credit union financing because they don’t fit the mandate for the central banks,” Scurr recalled.

The Duncan chamber helped get inter-municipal business licences passed so one licence can work in multiple communities on the island, an idea now being developed through the B.C. Chamber for the whole province.

“We’re showing that it can work…Especially in this day and age where you have businesses that are multi-jurisdictional,” Scurr said. “If it’s a barrier to business we want to be there and we want to help.”

They’re also helping out a local business with a taxation issue.

“In our case we’re working on a taxation issue for a winery. So we’ve had a member come to us, they’ve had an issue, they’ve tried to deal with it themselves, they haven’t been able to. They went to the municipality, they weren’t able to help them, they’ve come to us…He doesn’t have time to take on the B.C. government, he’s busy doing his business, growing his grapes and bottling his wine and marketing his business, ‘cause he exports to China,” Scurr said.

“We’ve kind of reached out to see if there are any other businesses in the province through the chamber network to see if they’ve had an issue and all of a sudden we have seven chambers that are coming together to write policy that will be going to the AGM in May, and if it’s approved by the membership it will be the direction given to B.C. Chamber to talk to government.”

The chamber’s annual Black Tie Awards recognizing the best of business and volunteerism is set for April 9 at Brentwood College School and will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year.

Duncan chamber rates, valid until Aug. 31, start at $215 per year. To find out more visit in person at 2896 Drinkwater Rd. in Duncan, call them at 250-748-1111 or visit their website at www.duncancc.bc.ca.

Cowichan Valley Citizen

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