As Louisiana winter turned into spring, the time to choose a career after graduation was steadily creeping. I tossed around ideas of beginning the MBA program in the fall or moving to North Carolina with my family to have a fresh start. In reality, I was just praying something would magically present itself.
I was two months shy of my college graduation from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette when I received a Facebook Message that would inevitably change the course of my life, as I knew it.
That message was from Megan Malmay Duhon, who I had known throughout childhood, high school, and my college career. She mentioned I was on their radar for a job opening at the Crowley Chamber of Commerce because they were making some substantial changes in the months ahead. Amongst the many questions that were scrambling through my head, one that I really needed to answer was, “What even does the Chamber do?”
I thought I knew the gist of it. After all, I had attended a dozen Grand Openings, the Annual Banquet, and the Gumbo Cook-Off. Little did I know, that was only the icing on the cake. There is so much more to this organization than what most see.
Upon accepting the job, I found that hardly anyone my age knew the true purpose of a Chamber. In fact, I still get questions and false assumptions about what I do. In true millennial fashion, I even took this question to my Instagram story to ask my followers what they thought a Chamber’s purpose was. Warning: some of these answers will make you chuckle.
Now that I officially have one year (and three months) of Chamber work under my belt, I am determined to educate the public about the mission of the Acadia Parish Chamber of Commerce and its impact on the community:
A Chamber of Commerce is not a marketing firm. A Chamber is a connector amongst business professionals.
Although many business professionals will join the Acadia Parish Chamber with the idea that we are a marketing firm, this is incorrect. We can, however, refer you to local marketing and public relations firms.
At the Chamber, we create an atmosphere for you to easily and successfully market yourself. Building relationships in business is critical to identifying and capitalizing upon new opportunities. We host and facilitate a variety of events and gatherings each year that provide members with unique networking and business-building opportunities.
Bring business cards and brochures to events, sponsor events to gain exposure to your brand, or ask Megan, Amy or myself to aid you in making a valuable connection. All of these things can help us to help you. We are passionate about helping local businesses thrive through relationship building.
Our Chamber is not a for-profit business, nor an arm of the City or Parish, nor the Tourism Commission. We are a membership-based non-profit– 501 C (6) organization.
The Acadia Parish Chamber of Commerce exists to be a catalyst for business growth. We are a convener for leaders and influencers and champions for stronger communities. We are an economic development engine, the voice of business, and we work every day to make our community a better place.
Acadia Chamber revenues go directly back into the membership so that we can provide small and large networking events, an online business directory and website, and host professional development opportunities. Our staff is in tune with the specific issues that affect the business owners and citizens of Acadia Parish, and we advocate for our businesses at local and state governmental levels.
In conjunction with Jeff Davis Chamber of Commerce, a bi-parish leadership program was created in 1994—Leadership EXCEL. This began in recognition of the need to develop leaders for the future who have a clear understanding of the region and are committed to its advancement. The program content includes skill seminars, on such topics as team building, decision making, media relations and organizational communication, and community awareness programs, on such issues as the environment, state and local government, the education system, the judicial system, and the criminal justice system.
The Chamber is managed by an employed President/CEO and staff. However, the direction of the Chamber is in the hands of its Board of Directors. The Acadia Parish Chamber is guided by a fifteen-member Board of Directors, of whom represent all areas of the parish by geography and industry. These Board of Directors work tirelessly to ensure the Chamber effectively serves as many voices in the parish as possible.
A Chamber is not a Small Business Development Center or Better Business Bureau. However, we have the tools you need.
Although we cannot set up your small business taxes or give you a business license, we can provide valuable information through two of our networking events: Business over Breakfast and Acadia Quarterly Luncheon. The topics presented at these events range from social media and marketing strategies to creating a strategic plan for your business. Our website also includes helpful links and contacts to area allies, business licenses and permits, and available incentives.
Also, we have partnered with the Small Business Development Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL SBDC), who assists small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs throughout the Acadiana Region. The advisors help entrepreneurs realize the dream of business ownership and help existing businesses remain competitive in a complex, ever-changing global marketplace. Year-round, we host an SBDC advisor on the fourth Tuesday of every month. Aspiring and current business owners are encouraged to schedule an appointment for a free and confidential one-on-one business advising. These appointments will be conveniently held in our office. Also an important note: this is provided at no cost to a small business owner and does not require Chamber membership.
And finally- A Chamber is not a “cool kids club”. The Acadia Parish Chamber is a family.
Through the Acadia Parish Chamber, I have found an extremely caring group of business professionals that pour themselves into this community. They work relentlessly to be an asset to Acadia Parish. I have witnessed people thrive both professionally and personally as a result of their Chamber membership.
I am grateful that this organization stumbled into my life over a year ago, and has continuously provided me personal growth opportunities and, of course, personal and business friendships that I can always count on.
If you have any questions, or if you are interested in looking further into the Acadia Parish Chamber, please check out our website, or call me today!
I look forward to hearing from you!