B-CC Chamber of Commerce Helps Local Businesses, Nonprofits with Seminars
The chamber partners with a credit union to provide small business owners and nonprofits with presentations on topics ranging from social media to technology and branding.
The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce not only caters to businesses—it also helps nonprofits.
The chamber hosted an event on how to apply for grants on Nov. 27, as a part of its Small Business University seminar series.
Colette Releford, president of Strive Business Solutions and Gaithersburg Chamber of Commerce member, spoke to a crowd of about 15 people on how to seek out and apply for grants.
Some of the most surprising advice Releford gave to the crowd was to look for organizations with a similar goal. Nonprofits should think of similar organizations less as competition, and more as collaborators that share a common cause.
“They see that helping you helps you further their cause,” Releford said.
The Small Business University, a program offered by the Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union, began hosting some of its seminars at The Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce earlier this year.
The seminar series began in 2009 and has covered a wide range of topics such as social media, legal issues, technology and branding that could be of use to small restaurants or longstanding local businesses looking for advice. Director of Business Development at the Mid-Atlantic Credit Union Ron Dimaranan said that the marketing and social media seminars have drawn the largest crowds—around 45 to 50 people.
“With social media still a hot topic, everyone wants to know the ins and outs and how they can leverage that,” Dimaranan said.
Sandy Schoepes Tennies started Great Circle Global Education Consulting this past March, and is working on how to better focus her company’s message—to help students, faculty and staff conduct global education research—on her website.
“The finer aspects have been a bigger learning curve than I had thought,” Tennies said.
Since about 50 percent of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase members are companies that have nine or fewer employees, the Small Business University seminars are a good fit for members. However, the seminars are not exclusively for members—only a $5 donation is needed to attend.
Dimaranan organizes seminars at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Germantown and Potomac Chambers based on feedback from each chamber and tries to arrange speakers from the chamber membership pool.
Anita Segreti is a board member of Transformations of Montgomery County, a non-profit that seeks to “make a house a home” for homeless families who have recently acquired housing by painting and redecorating the homes to suit the family’s taste. Segreti is new to the grant application process and found Releford’s presentation to be “very helpful” for the Home Depot grant she plans to apply for on behalf of Transformations.
As an independent insurance agent, Segreti has attended past seminars, and has found them to be very useful for her practice. “I’ve learned something from every one I attended,” Segreti said.
This was the second time Releford presented at a Small Business University seminar, and she noticed some familiar faces in the crowd, such as Carol Plummer, managing director of eWomen Network in Montgomery County.
Plummer attended the seminar to learn more about grants, and learned not only how to apply for them herself, but also what to look for in upcoming applications for the eWomen Network Foundation grants, which provide funds for nonprofits that address health, wellness or safety of underprivileged women or children.
“Now I have a better idea of what I should be looking for” in the grant requests we receive, Plummer said.
The economic downturn beginning in 2008 has actually spurred an entrepreneurial spirit in the area, according to Dimaranan. In March 2011, 5.5 percent of self-employed Marylanders identified themselves as unemployed during the previous year, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. This is an increase by more than 50 percent from March 2006, when the rate was 3.6 percent.
The Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union will host a kickoff event for next year’s Small Business University seminars on Dec. 6 at the Potomac Chamber of Commerce on 12505 Park Potomac Ave. (sixth floor).