When we were first told about the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce, we were unsure if it was worth joining or not. Would we find the time to attend events? Would we gain anything by being members? Were there any other advantages?
We have written this piece to tell you our views after being members of the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce for almost 4 years.
When we started our business, we went and spoke with Peter Tomlinson and Jon Carter from Betapak. We had worked with them on the branding for Education Destination as one of our first big Island clients. We valued their advice and opinions, and asked them if they had any tips for a new business starting up on the Island. They gave us advice that has helped us immensely, one of which was to join the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce. They explained that the networking opportunities were invaluable and it would definitely be a worthwhile decision for a start up business.
Joining the Chamber of Commerce was the easy part. Sign up, pay a small fee, and start receiving information about upcoming events. The hard part at first was gaining the confidence to attend their events.
In September 2015, we attended our first Chamber event, a networking breakfast at the Spinnaker in Bembridge. We nervously entered the room to be greeted with warm, welcoming business owners and employees. We were offered the chance to speak for 60 seconds about our business to give others a brief idea of what we do. Though it was nerve-racking, we stood and explained we were an upcoming marketing and design business and received a warm reception.
We enjoyed a delicious breakfast, networking with people all through the morning. We specifically recall meeting Dee Becker for the first time and Tosin from Toesin video production who were both extremely welcoming and 4 years later, we still see them regularly at various events.
As a new business, we left feeling rejuvenated and very positive about these types of events. It wasn’t as scary as we had expected, and we had started to get to know people and build relationships.
We continued going to various networking breakfasts, lunches and events including a go karting breakfast at Wight Karting which was great fun and started building rapport with regular Chamber members who we were getting to know.
In November 2015, some of our clients, including Betapak Ltd and Tapnell Farm were nominated for the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce Business Awards. This got us thinking about the different things we could achieve in the future and the sort of business we would like to become.
Then in 2016, we found ourselves nominated for two awards at the awards, and were thrilled to win the Marketing and Design award and to be highly commended for the Digital Media and Communications category.
The evening was amazing to be a part of, and winning opened up a lot of new opportunities for us. We had a new client come to us purely because we were fellow award winners.
This really solidified our ongoing relationship with the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce. We were absolutely thrilled to be a part of all the excitement among Island businesses.
In 2017, we decided to have a stand at the Chamber of Commerce Business Expo held at Lakeside Park Hotel. We were presented on the day with the Chamber of Commerce Quality in Business Award which was something we had been working towards over the previous months.
We spent the day talking with the other businesses that were exhibiting, and new potential clients looking around the expo. We also saw a talk by the fantastic Dale Howarth and attended a short course by the NHS on using defibrillators. The event was a great success for us and we have already signed up again this year!
The 2017 Business Awards were another phenomenal success for us, winning the Start-up Business of the Year Award. These awards were a great night out and as we knew many of the other businesses there, it was an enjoyable evening with great friends and we also enjoyed getting to know businesses we had never spoken with before as it is a great networking event. We met some ladies from Sugar and Spice Lingerie on this night who were not yet Chamber members. They won the Excellence in Customer Service Award and have recently joined the Chamber as they saw the benefits it could offer!
There are many other reasons to join the Chamber, including professional support on a wide range of topics including employment disputes, tax and VAT inspections, access to a 24 hour legal and HR advice line, health and safety documentation and legal insurance cover.
After recently winning the South Coast Business Award for Small Business of the Year, we are considering joining the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce too! This will open up new opportunities off the Island and the people we have already met seem just as lovely as our own Chamber.
We do believe that you should put some effort into being a member. Attending regular events, and including the Chamber in any events you may hold yourself will help you enjoy the benefits.
If you are a small start-up business, or even a long established business on the Island, and you are looking for new ways to meet other businesses, gain business connections, and even meet new friends, we highly recommend joining the Chamber of Commerce and we hope to meet you soon.