Alpharetta Chamber director wants members with ‘big hearts’ - North Atlanta Business Post
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Updated Nov 14 @ 1:05PM

Alpharetta Chamber director wants members with ‘big hearts’

New leader wants membership committed to helping


ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Riding a wave of economic expansion, Alpharetta is poised to play host to a growth in business exceeding anything it’s seen in the past.

Work begins this month to develop 41 parcels for shops and restaurants, an office tower and residential buildings in downtown’s City Center.

Phase II of Avalon, set to open in April, will feature an additional 80,000 square feet of retail, a Class A office towers, luxury rental units and a 325 room hotel and conference center.

These are ripe pickings for a local chamber of commerce.

But not so fast, says Chamber Executive Director Kelsey Lynch.

“I’m all about quality over quantity,” Lynch said. “I just want the best people who have big hearts and want to support other local businesses.”

Lynch took the reins last November and immediately set the lofty goal of doubling the chamber’s 348 members this year.

So far, not too bad. The business organization has grown by almost 25 members since Lynch took over and the word is spreading.

Just last week Lynch streamed live a chamber event on Facebook inviting others to join in. That’s the sort of invite today’s members appreciate, she said peeking through the curtain before committing to entering the room.

“I don’t think I realized how attached and passionate I would become,” she said. “This job is changing the course of my life. I have a completely different outlook on what I want to do and what I want to focus on.

It’s extremely satisfying.”

The Alpharetta Chamber of Commerce is governed by a 28-member board of directors — local business leaders dedicated to fostering the business and residential climate in the city.

Lynch was brought on late last year to run the day-to-day affairs of the organization.

The past three months have been eye-opening, she said.

“What I’ve seen is that there is an overwhelming number of business owners who aren’t getting a real experience,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of people who have fallen through the cracks. They don’t have as much visibility as they could have.

“A lot of them aren’t seeing the value of joining a chamber. That’s across the board.”

Lynch knows something about being an outsider. She began her own pastry business out of her home in 2008 and, by chance, linked up with the right people who guided her into distributing her product to countless other businesses and events.

For four years, she supplied Tin Lizzy’s five area locations with 2,000 cupcakes a week, plus catered parties, luncheons and special events.

In all that time baking, packaging, delivering and marketing, she never joined the local chamber.

“That’s the biggest mistake and regret I have,” she said when asked about it last November.

As a small business owner she did not realize what a chamber could do then.

“I just didn’t know.”

Today, she said she “would have killed to have been a part of such an organization.”

It has opened her eyes to what a chamber can be to young entrepreneurs.

”I’m in a unique position, because I was an entrepreneur, and I’ve learned so much along the way about how to run a business successfully,” Lynch said.

“I feel like I’m up for the challenge, actually give these people something they can learn about and how they can really further their business. We’re not just going to print up a newsletter and make up a website.”

One thing she is committed to is personal contact.

“I’ve been doing a lot of one-on-ones,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of positive feedback from that. Every single time a new member joins, I reach out to them.”

It’s from these personal contacts that Lynch learns where a business might need help.

In a recent case, a man had opened a gym in Alpharetta, but he wanted to include a full scope of services including daycare, nutrition counselling and a juice bar.

Lynch put her in touch with a businessman she knows who operates a juice bar and the two formed an agreement whereby juice products from the store are sold at the gym.

Lynch said those are the kinds of services a chamber should offer all members – something beyond attending gatherings and handing out business cards.

“That would’ve never have happened if I hadn’t sat down and figured out exactly what this gentleman needed to get him moving faster than he would have on his own,” she said. “I want to help when it comes to resources.”

She said chambers can boast about how big of a network they have, but it’s often like throwing people into a pool and expecting them to find one another.

“Why not facilitate that process, because in my mind is a database of members,” she said. “And, I know who is who. Because I talk to everyone all day and hear their challenges, I keep that in the back of my mind.

“So when I’m out and about and I hear a conversation where someone expresses a need, I can immediately pull it.

“I’ll say ‘I know exactly what you’re talking about. I have just the person you need to talk to,’” she said.

But pursuing all the one-on-one is time consuming, and Lynch says it keeps her away from the office a lot. She depends on event coordinator Kristen Franks, her only staffer, to handle much of the event scheduling and online updates.

“That’s one of the things I want to change,” she said. “As we continue to grow – and I can show that growth to our board – that’s when we’ll be able to start hiring more people.”

No matter how many are added, though, Lynch said she will remain at the forefront with members, finding out how the chamber can better serve them.

“You can go to any organization and deal with a membership representative,” she said. “Right out of the gate, I want them to realize they can rely on me.”

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