Collaboration is key to getting ahead, said Jason Ryll, executive director of the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce.
“I think we have some fantastic opportunities to develop some partnerships,” Ryll said. “There are exciting days ahead for the chamber,” he told the Tribune.
Ryll has been involved with the chamber for about 20 years and became executive director in April 2022.
A new board was elected in October 2022 resulting in Paul French, president, Jason Foote, first vice-president, Sandi Jesse, second vice-president, Philippa Mahon, treasurer and directors Beth Veenkamp, Kathy McLean, John Hack, Laurie Walters, Charlene Harrison and Debbie Seland.
Ryll has been catching up on paper work, especially updating bylaws and board policies to modern standards, working with the chamber’s governance committee.
Together the board has been planning some new events for the chamber.
One is to collaborate with Downtown Williams Lake BIA to recognize successful women in Williams Lake and area for International Women’s Day, featuring a different woman every couple of days during the month of March through social media.
The campaign will culminate March 31 with a Women’s night with wine, appies and keynote speakers at the Longhouse.
“Part of my passion that I bring to the job is bringing organizations together,” Ryll said. “That is part of the reason I ran for mayor – to bring the community together. In my position here I reached out to the BIA and asked if we could work on something together and we came up with this idea.”
He hopes it will be the first of many events done in cooperation with other organizations in the city.
In October, with the date yet to be determined, the chamber will host its business excellence awards.
Another hope Ryll noted is for the chamber to create a Christmas party in December for several small businesses to have a place to gather together.
“It’s something that was done many years ago. This year the venue is still up in the air, but we want to try and always remember that we are trying to represent and work for our members.”
Presently the chamber has about 240 member businesses all the way west to Bella Coola and from other chambers around the province. The number is down from previous years.
“We normally sat around the 300 member mark for many years and then COVID happened, supply issues happened and small businesses have had their number of challenges over the last few years,” Ryll said.
French said now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted, businesses are trying to get back to where they were or better themselves.
“With the chamber we are hoping to cut the thread of the wave and hopefully everyone else can follow in behind. Hopefully, that’s all we can do. Some people did really well during COVID and other people closed. I think anyone that was in trouble prior to COVID did not make it,” French said.
Small businesses make up 98 per cent of businesses in B.C. and are the backbone of every community, Ryll said.
Locally the chamber’s mandate is to represent the ABCs of business.
The chamber advocates for its members to all levels of government, provides a benefits plan for small businesses that is affordable for them and connects businesses to the community through social events, the business excellence awards and involvement in the community.
“We are kind of like a conduit to connect your business to the community,” Ryll said.
This week the city proclaimed Feb. 13 – 17, 2023 as Chamber of Commerce Week.
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