We first wrote about chamber ribbon-tying events over two years ago. It was a great idea then that some chambers were using to signify a unification of the community with the opening of a business or entity.
Now with COVID-19 and the re-opening of businesses, the emotional significance and impact of this event is greatly needed. Is it time for your chamber to do some ribbon-tying events?
What is a Ribbon-Tying Event?
This idea can be used as a new form of ribbon-cutting or a standalone event for certain kinds of unifying organizations.
Traditionally, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was to designate a building as “open for business.” The ribbon was cut to (ceremonially) allow customers to access the building or–in its origins–a mode of transportation. Ribbon cuttings have been part of communities since the first one in the late 1800s to commemorate the opening of a railroad line in northern Louisiana’s Union Parish.
However, if you look at ribbons being used in opening ceremonies, then you must factor in boat launches. Originally, they simply smashed, or christened, the boat with a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine. Later on, they became a little more reserved and likely wanted a tidier ceremony and introduced the swinging of the bottle attached to a ribbon. If we consider those ribbon cuttings then they’ve been around longer than 1898.
In a ribbon-tying event, as the name implies, you tie, not cut. The business/organization is celebrated for being seen as bringing the community together. And who doesn’t need that right now?
But how exactly can you use one?
Here are a few ideas:
How to Conduct a Ribbon-Tying Chamber Event
Ribbon-tyings are, just as they sound, using ribbon to illustrate connections. Some chambers will issue different color ribbons to different groups that were brought together for the opening, while others use oversized, connective pieces to illustrate the coming together.
Some chambers have been hosting these unification celebrations for nearly a decade now.
Examples of Chambers That Have Used Ribbon-Tying Events
In 2011, the Charlotte (Michigan) Chamber of Commerce used this idea when the community opened AL!VE, “an experience-based destination health park.” The project was described by Bryan Myrkle, then president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, “AL!VE is going to serve our citizens well and bring new people into the area.”
But they aren’t the only ones to adopt ribbon-tying events.
The Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce has a program designed around ribbon-tyings. They perform them at no cost to the member (or non-member). In their PDF informational sheet, they explain “A ribbon-tying symbolizes the business being united or ‘tied together’ with the resources of the Chamber of Commerce, the Village Government and the community. A ribbon-tying is an event hosted by a business for the purpose of connecting with your customers, your vendors, local business people you know, your friends, your family and members of the public who you invite.”
The New Paltz Chamber in New York hosted one for the grand opening of the Riverside Bank. They did so to “demonstrate the connection of this bank to our community.”
Ribbon-Tyings for COVID-19
With the current pandemic, it may not be possible to host an in-person ribbon-tying but here are some ideas of ways you can use ribbon-tying events to bring your community together.
Celebrating Diversity and Inclusivity
Are you currently working to help bring more diverse voices and opinions to the table at your chamber? If so, you could create a ribbon-tying event to be hosted between you and a local minority chamber of commerce. The symbolism depicting the two of your organizations working together for just outcomes can be very powerful.
Open for Business Roll Call
Have you seen videos on the internet that show individuals tossing a ball to one another from different locations?
Here’s an example:
You can do the same thing among your business with a “Who’s open for business roll call.” Give each member a piece of ribbon ahead of time, have them tie it to a long piece that trails off camera. Then have them extend it to the next business to invite them to tie their ribbon piece, creating a united community that’s open for business.
It’s a fun video that will receive a lot of likes and shares. Make sure you call your businesses out with names/branding at the bottom of each clip.
The Springfield, VA Chamber did something similar. The chamber is planning on incorporating a ribbon-tying and a ribbon-cutting.
They gave their participating businesses two pieces of ribbon. They told businesses to tie them together and take pictures or a video of them doing so. The chamber plans to tie the pieces together and then cut them at a public ceremony inviting everyone to see they are united and open for business.
Combine Business Openings
Business openings in these uncertain times are events to be celebrated. You can use a ribbon-tying new business to the community as well.
The Fife, Milton, Edgewood Chamber of Commerce did that. They held an in-person event outdoors with social distancing and live-streamed it on Facebook. Their event featured the celebration of 5 new businesses “tying” into the community.
You can also use a ribbon-tying ceremony to relaunch or reopen all of your businesses or certain elements of your economic eco-system as they are allowed to reopen.
The Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce have hosted dozens of ribbon-tying ceremonies celebrating the reopening of businesses and organizations in July. Their goal in “tying” versus “cutting” was to show that all of their community businesses are “in it together” and that the area would be “nothing without them.”
The Anson County Chamber of Commerce hosted a similar event to illustrate how their community “comes together in times of crisis.” They had signs printed up that they were tying their community together in addition to the ribbon-tying. They also worked with their participating local businesses to create videos, like this one, which tell the business’ story and help viewers connect to these small business owners.
The Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-tying event tying the community back together to help publicize who was open for business. They posted pictures of each business and their ribbons on the chamber website.
Most states have a phased reopening that has hit some businesses harder than others. The Thurston County Chamber of Commerce organized a ribbon-tying event to celebrate each business as they reopen. Their efforts are ongoing and they wanted to celebrate each one.
They also got people outside of the chamber and the businesses celebrating. As Krystal Barkus was quoted in the chamber’s press release, “We’ll have mayors, council members, and county commissioners attending as many as they can as it relates to their jurisdiction. We have partnered with the cities of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, and Thurston County to inform them on a weekly basis of what businesses are participating for the week.”
If you decide to host ribbon-tying events at your chamber, you will need to figure out whether they replace your ribbon-cutting ceremonies or serve as another type of event altogether. You also have the option of doing them virtually live-streaming, via pictures, or in-person.
If you have experience conducting a ribbon-tying event and you want to share what you’ve learned, tell us here.
Parts of this article originally appeared on this site in May of 2018. It has been updated to address the current business environment.