Did you know that 43% of Americans plan(ned) to start a business in 2022? One third of them would be first time entrepreneurs. Once they start their businesses they are potential new members.
But what if your chamber didn’t have to wait for them to get profitable or even get started before you became valuable to them? What if you could practically create new members, on demand, out of thin air?
With a business startup program, you could find, nurture, and entice those new businesses into becoming new chamber members from day 0 or day -100. Here’s how.
What Does a Potential New Business Need?
First time entrepreneurs rarely know what it takes to start a business. From the business plan creation, to the daily work behind implementation, from the certifications to the local business licensing and zoning, there can be a lot of behind the scenes work that is required outside of coming up with that brilliant business idea.
For the newbies out there who are enamored by their passion, they may not how many requirements, opportunities, and resources exist. That’s where the chamber can be of incredible value to them, helping them get started and literally creating your own prospects.
Before you start on a plan to create new members, decide whether you want to create basic resources as a service to the community, a paid business-building or business accelerator program, a full-blown business incubator or provide these resources as a membership benefit, perhaps through a low-cost entry tier or a short-term “start-up” membership that graduates to a full membership package.
There are chambers providing a wide range of these services, from the Omaha Chamber connecting startups to their local ecosystem to a full-blown incubator at the Thurston County Chamber (Washington state).
Before you start choosing how to deliver your program, let’s review the details of what your potential market needs to know.
Budding Business Owners Need to Know…
There are many things potential business owners need to know. Before we get into the resources that the chamber can provide, let’s touch on a few areas that are critical to a new business’ success. Take note, this could be the outline for a training curriculum.
Business startups need:
- A business plan—what is it? How do you create one?
- Licenses—which ones are needed in your area?
- Marketing plan—how do you know if your new business idea is a good one (using market research)? How do you reach your target audience in the most cost-effective way?
- Creating a website and understanding cybersecurity.
- Business structure—LLC, corporation, sole proprietorship, etc.?
- Location—how do you select one, finance one, and what zoning or ordinances are involved?
- Tax laws—What are the tax laws? What is an EIN? And what needs to be filed to start a business?
Program Components to Create New Members
With their basic needs in mind, you can create valuable resources for the budding business owner. Start with this list of ways to help them get started and build on as you find a need.
- A resources page on your website identified clearly in the tab structure. Use a title that is attractive to search engines such as “Starting a business in <your town>” or “How to start a business in <your town.>
- A welcome video of what makes your area THE place to start a business including valuable programs, resources, tax benefits, and testimonials from those who have started a business.
- A downloadable new business packet so you can stay in contact with (and market to) people who are researching how to start a new business in your area.
- Blog posts focused on tools and info necessary to starting a new business.
- Webinar on new business topics. Again, collect names so you can market to them and share important tips on starting a business in the future.
- Business incubator and funding resources. One of the major impediments in starting a business is the funding. Provide information on ways to obtain grants, loans, and other sources of funding. A business incubator, like you can find at the Thurston County Chamber can be a great way to show create economic growth and create new members.
- Speakers. There’s a lot that new business owners need to know. You could create an entire seminar series with volunteer or inexpensive speakers on new business needs including hiring, funding, zoning and codes, as well as work/life balance for new entrepreneurs.
- Franchise fair. Hosting a franchise fair could be a great way to help people who want to start their own business but don’t want to do it from scratch. If a fair feels like too much, work with successful franchise owners to create an info night or panel so interested people can find out what goes into opening a franchise.
- Specialized networking event. The riches are in the niches and hosting a specialized networking event entitled “So You Want to Start a Business” can be a very strategic way to get future members on board today. In addition to inviting people who want to own a business, you can host franchise, City, economic development, and funding specialists as well as service providers who are necessary when starting out like attorneys, taxation experts, marketing people, and more.
- FAQs section. Not only is this helpful for future business owners but it can also assist your rankings with search engines. Answering questions about how to start a new business can provide you with many opportunities to use the kind of keywords and keyword phrases that will help improve your organic reach and assist those interested in starting a new business to find you.
- Partnerships. If you’re short on time as a chamber pro, there’s no reason to invent all these resources from scratch. If they already exist, link to them. Place the links in one easy to find area. You can also partner with groups like SCORE, your local SBA chapter, and economic development counsels to provide webinars and best practices information to your community. There may be many appealing opportunities to co-sponsor events.
- Show support. Resources are critical to new business owners. Another thing that can be of tremendous value when trying to get entrepreneurs to join the chamber is showing them the level of support you provide for new businesses. If they see you talking about other new businesses, doing ribbon cuttings, and supporting them in a multitude of ways, they will desire the same from you and are more likely to join.
- Business readers. You can create a business owners’ book club or suggested reading list. Offer a monthly question and answer session based on the reading. Consider doing the same by sharing a list of business podcasts that you talk about periodically. Or start your own …
- Chamber business podcast. Create a podcast for new business owners. Feature a different topic or best practice every week. Interview/host people in the area and share their expertise and experience.
- Affordable tiers. Yes, membership is all about value. New business owners who feel they will get more value than what membership costs them are likely to join. However, sometimes in the beginning it’s hard to find a couple hundred dollars to join, even when the desire is there. While it’s true that it takes money to make money, if they don’t have it, it’s hard to get it. In addition to a lower-priced tier for new business owners, consider a month-to-month payment option. Some businesses may have very little startup money. However, if the endeavor takes off, this may change. Month-to-month billing allows them the flexibility to adjust accordingly. It also helps the chamber get them onboard as soon as possible.
You don’t have to do all these things. Start with a few and test how well they work. Consider which ones would be the most effective for your business-owning audience and build from there.
Keep in mind that many future business owners will research the possibilities and requirements of a new business before they verbalize the desire to open a business. They’ll research the market, poll friends, get feedback, and figure out funding.
They might search for internet resources while at a dead-end job, more victims of the “Quiet Quit” that’s growing in popularity.
This is where your SEO and online visibility will pay off. If your chamber provides the necessary resources that can easily be found online, and provides this information free of charge, you could quickly become a one-stop shop for resources and an important part of their new business owner tool kit.
Instead of waiting for someone to thinking about starting a business, actually get it started and then get profitable, why not create your own new members like magic, seemingly out of thin air by helping them create themselves?