WAXAHACHIE — Hosting more than an entertaining exposition, the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce fused an interlinking township of business fellowship and community cognizance in one lively atmosphere during the Ellis County Expo and Spring Market.
“Our business expo and our spring market is our largest of what we like to consider a business development event, where our local businesses can grow their business just by getting in front of the public in one area,” stated Sandy King, CFO and Director of Member Engagement of the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce.
Representing the interests of the business community, the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit that contributes to creating positive economic activity, assisting in job establishment and preservation, and providing leadership to the public for a better tomorrow.
“At the Chamber of Commerce, we’re a membership organization, and we’re a non-profit, so our whole body of work is about taking those membership investments from these various companies and flipping it into business development programs, and economic development programs. We bring people into Waxahachie whether it's to live, work, or play — it’s invaluable,” King affirmed the importance of the chamber’s work.
According to a research study by The Shapiro Group, Inc. and Market Street Services, when consumers know that a small business is a member of their local chamber of commerce, they are 44 percent more likely to think favorably of it. Those same consumers are 63 percent more likely to purchase goods or services from that company in the future.
“Being a part of the Chamber is investing alongside a whole group of other businesses to build that business environment in your town. Just the smallest investment of $300 for an entire year makes you part of the growing economy in this town. It’s a small investment to give back a lot to a community that’s growing so quickly,” King explained.
Providing a list of benefits — such as bringing credibility to one’s business, gaining a voice in government, and collaborating and promoting with others — the Chamber is the key to maturing business success.
“These kinds of events that we do have people and vendors from other cities that are coming in to take advantage of the fact that Waxahachie is a hub for shopping and business development - so it’s a great partnership,” King expressed in regards to the reach of the Chamber’s influence.
From cross-county vendors to comical fashion shows and mouthwatering cuisines, the reimagined Ellis County Expo and Spring Market set the bar to a whole new level last Saturday, March 4 at the Waxahachie Civic Center.
“We have about 100 vendors and a fantastic turnout. There’s a little bit of everything, from food to insurance, funeral homes, and Fiesta’s parrot mascot,” laughed Pete Havel, President and CEO of the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce. “We know from Facebook that we had about 2,000 that were planning to attend, and from what we’ve seen already, we’ve blown right by that. It’s something to benefit the whole community and our members."
Traditionally branded as a “women’s expo,” the Chamber dropped the gender constraint and opened the floor to the public, giving the fellas a booth and a fighting chance.
“John Bell with his group of Madness Entertainment, a DJ service here in town, really worked the stage that they did, and changed the whole flavor of the event. It was a fun, light atmosphere, and they did an amazing job. It was lively all day from start to finish. They even did dance lessons with like 80-year-old women learning the 'Nae-Nae' and all that,” chuckled King at the fun festivities.
In addition to the name change, the weather also played an important factor, producing an enjoyable, dry-free zone from the dreary rain clouds and bustling winds.
“It was better than expected. I think the weather always plays a little role, and it’s rainy and cold outside, and people want to find an indoor event, so that helped,” King explained.
As different booths offered an array of services within Ellis County, many native-based online stores who are working toward opening a brick and mortar storefront were also present.
“A lot of people that were online businesses, who were wanting to open up their own shop, just needed that extra shot in the arm from us,” King smiled.
Abiding by the digital paradigm shift, many retailers are reshuffling the deck to fit capricious online trends with reasonable prices.
A recent New York Times article reported that all indications showed internet sales rose about 23 percent in 2015 and are likely to increase at that pace again in 2016. In catching 51 cents of every additional dollar Americans spend online, Amazon is capturing an ever-growing share of retail sales in the United States. Amazon now accounts for 26 percent of total internet sales, which is up from the 22 percent last year.
Acclimating to technological improvements, storefronts aren’t entirely out of the picture. Clients and customers are still human, needing an emotional connection, products at short notice, and a sense of community that only a business’ customer service can provide in person.
“We’ve gotten so many hopeful testimonies from those people, and they think they’re ready to now open and sustain a business here in Waxahachie,” King explained. “One of them is Peacock and Gypsies, one of our booths, and they’ve been an online boutique for several years. And now they’re re-encouraged to open up their own shop, and looking forward to doing that for this year."
As stated in an article by Independent Business, policies across the country have given the advantage to large corporations during recent decades. However, a growing body of research has proved something that many people already know: small-scale, locally owned businesses create communities that are more prosperous, entrepreneurial, connected, and generally better off across a wide range of metrics.
Additionally, a 2012 study by Civic Economics analyzed the impact of buying local, and found that local businesses are known to have a “multiplier effect” on their communities — the idea that every dollar spent at a local, independently owned business can stay in the community and help generate a far greater economic value.
But it’s not just about the economy. Vibrant local business communities lead to more charitable giving in a community and more walkable neighborhoods with unique character that creates a positive effect on the community’s identity one individual at a time.
“It’s a contribution that our members pull all of this together with their volunteers. We had volunteers from several companies working the front and welcoming the guests through the doors,” King recalled. “We had Bruce Glaves from HEB, John McLaughlin from YMCA, several volunteers from Citizens National Bank all working the front door – and those are our business leaders that are there just saying, ‘Come on in, we’d love to have you!’ It gives a great impression of not only those companies but also our city as a whole for those people coming in from out of town."
Offering more than networking events, the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce encouraged businesses to grow in their marketing field, converse with one another, and advertise to prospective clients.
“The Chamber is a great way to get people established into the community and for those that have already started, to give them that extra oomph to get the public familiar with who they are and what they sell –those types of things. It’s always a great time for our existing businesses to show their leadership as well,” King said, adding to the value of quality business and character.
“We had Gateway Mortgage Group, they stepped up as title sponsor, bought shopping bags for everybody, and it was just an opportunity for them to show that not only are they established but they give back to the community and they’re real leaders in the community. It’s awesome to witness their success, and for them to turn it back around and give back to the community through the Chamber’s events,” she recounted.
Spreading their reach of influence, the Waxahachie Chamber is hopeful to connect with other chambers in an effort to better serve small town business owners.
“Some of the smaller towns around don’t have as much resource to be able to build a large chamber that produces so many events," King said. "There are some smaller chambers around, and we’ve reached out to maybe partner next year and have a true Ellis County joint chamber event for all the businesses and local chambers. We want to be the one that kicks off that relationship of unity throughout our county."
To connect with the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce, visit waxahachiechamber.com or call (972)-937-2390.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer