From time to time in my career as the Director of a Chamber of Commerce, I come across a true "Chamber Skeptic" - a term I've dubbed for a person that has stubbornly decided that there is no purpose to a Chamber of Commerce, or a person that simply does not know what all a Chamber does or the extent of the value it provides.
It is one of my very favorite parts of the job to be able to explain the value that our Chamber brings to the community, the services we offer, and the reason we exist. After all, I personally chose to join this organization myself for a very specific reason: I believe in its mission, its vision, and its benefit to Sturgis. I also saw this position as an opportunity to become a catalyst for positive growth and engagement in my hometown.
The Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce is a cornerstone of the Sturgis community with a long history. Founded in 1946, our Chamber has seen the community grow and develop through several decades - 2021 will mark our 75th year (whoop whoop!) promoting business and tourism in the Sturgis area!
Our organization is an independent 501(c)6 nonprofit led by a Board of Directors comprised of our own local business owners (that's right - the Chamber is directed by you, the local businesses!) and managed by a staff of three - the Executive Director, the Office & Membership Coordinator, and the Receptionist & Events Coordinator. Together, our team ensures that the Chamber is fulfilling its mission:
“The Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau advocates on behalf of its members and actively supports business, agriculture, and tourism resulting in an enhanced quality of place for the entire community.”
So... what does the Sturgis Chamber do?
Chambers are often mysterious because they fulfill so many roles – many of which are behind-the-scenes. Our Chamber is also the Sturgis Visitors Bureau, so we have double the fun! What the public typically sees are our social media posts, events, and newsletters, but we do SO much more. Here are eight specific reasons to support - and join - our Chamber of Commerce:
1. Advocacy & Partnerships
We are your advocate to the City of Sturgis, the Meade County Commission, Sturgis Economic Development, the regional and state Tourism Association, our district legislators, and other entities that help govern and shape our community. If our membership is in need, we are here to listen, collect your opinions, and help you share your insight! We also expend significant time and energy on committee and board involvement across the region.
Our Director actively serves on and directs staff hours and resources to supporting the following boards and committees in addition to all Chamber committees:
- Sturgis Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors
- Key Project: Expands & Maintains Industrial Park Business Complex
- Key Project: Provides Start-up Funding & Resources
- Key Project: Attracts & Supports Housing, Business, & Workforce Economic Initiatives
- Sturgis Economic Development Corporation Retail Committee
- Key Project: Organizes Retail Incubator Initiatives for the Sturgis Area
- Key Project: Organizes, Funds, & Manages the Sturgis Community Cinema
- Key Project: Collects & Analyzes Consumer Data for Retail Initiatives
- Downtown Sturgis Foundation Board of Directors
- Key Project: Organizes, Funds, & Promotes the $3,000 Annual Holiday Giveaway Initiative
- Key Project: Organizes & Funds Shoulder-Season Digital Marketing Efforts
- Key Project: Organizes & Funds Downtown Beautification Efforts & Holiday Displays
- Downtown Sturgis Foundation Sculpture Committee
- Key Project: Organizes & Funds the Downtown Sturgis Art Walk Rotating Sculpture Display
- Key Project: Organizes an Annual Sculpture Artist Reception & Unveiling Ceremony
- Key Project: Promotes Sculptural Displays in the Downtown BID Area
- Downtown Business Improvement District Board of Directors
- Key Project: Collects &Manages Downtown BID Tax Fund
- Key Project: Determines Downtown BID Initiatives & Business Representation
- Key Project: Seeks Opportunities for Downtown BID Improvement
- Hotel/Motel Business Improvement District Board of Directors
- Key Project: Collects & Manages Hotel/Motel BID Tax Fund
- Key Project: Organizes Event Funding Application Process & Awards Funds
- Key Project: Organizes & Funds Sturgis Tourism Shoulder-Season Marketing Initiatives
- United Way of the Black Hills Sturgis Cabinet
- Key Project: Solicits & Collects Funds towards Annual Fundraising Campaign
- Key Project: Allocates Fundraising Proceeds to Sturgis-Area Civic Organizations
- Key Project: Organizes Community Needs Assistance & Initiatives
- Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association Board of Directors
- Key Project: Directs the Efforts of the BH&B Tourism Association Staff
- Key Project: Connects & Advocates for Regional Tourism Industry
- Key Project: Provides Regional Tourism Promotion Oppportunities for Membership
2. Information Collection & Distribution
We collect news, updates, promo materials, and info about upcoming special offers, events, and job postings from our members. We do this by visiting your shops, calling to check-in, and emailing or mailing surveys and information requests. We then share this information far and wide (all day, every day!) by referrals, visitor packets, conversations with visitors at our Visitor Center, via email, via phone, on our website and social pages, and at local events and meetings! Our goal is to help our members SUCCEED!
Key tasks include:
Developing & Maintaining Relevant Tourism, Member, & Community Information on a Comprehensive Website
Collecting Member Information via Member Visits and Scheduled Check-Ins and Reach-Out
Collecting Member Insight via Surveys and Mailings for Redistribution and/or Chamber Action
Distributing Member & Community Information via Weekly Visitor Packet Mailings and Relocation Packet Mailings
Distributing Member & Community Information via Informational Packets for Events & Tour Groups
Distributing Member & Community Information via the Maintenance & Expansion of the Sturgis Welcome Center
Distributing Community and Member News, Updates, & Promotions via a Comprehensive Weekly e-Newsletter
Distributing Member & Community Information via Social Media Shares, Posts, Messages, and Custom Content
Referring Member Products & Services to Welcome Center Visitors and to Phone/Email Inquirers
Offering Opportunities for Paid Advertisement via the Official Sturgis Magazine, E-Blasts, & Mailings
3. Community Events & “Quality of Place”
Many Chambers of Commerce choose to organize a variety of community events. We do this because events enhance the “quality of place” in our community – they make it a better place to live with more things to do! They also offer businesses a chance to network together and meet the community’s residents. Our Chamber is pleased to offer numerous retail, networking, and agriculture events, plus business showcases, educational activities, and festivals!
Here is a snapshot of the key events and initiatives our staff organizes, manages, and promotes to increase "Quality of Place" in Sturgis:
- $20,000 Event Funding Program for Non-Chamber Local Events
- 11 Lunch & Learns Annually (1 per month)
- 11 Business Mixers Annually (1 per month)
- ~ 10-12 Ribbon Cutting Ceremonies Annually (as needed)
- Legislative Crackerbarrels (2 per year)
- Community Election Forums (~ 2 per year)
- Business Showcase & Health Fair
- Annual Chamber Awards Banquet
- Spring City-Wide Yard Sale
- Sturgis Volksmarch
- Sturgis Art Festival
- Northern Hills Ag Fest
- Community Picnic
- Fall City-Wide Yard Sale
- Ag Appreciation Banquet
- Leadership Sturgis Series
- Chamber’s Crypt Haunted House
- Small Business Saturday
- Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
- Parade of Lights
- Scrooge Night
A Chamber of Commerce is many things, but most famously it is a network for local businesses. Our goal is to support our Member network as much as possible by making connections – whether between businesses, between a business and a new customer or between a business and the community as a whole. We are not an advertising or marketing agency, but we do support your individual marketing efforts through our services and business network. We are not an event planner, but we do organize events that directly support our Mission Statement specifically to give businesses the opportunity to support and give back to the community.
A few of our key networking initiatives include:
- Organizing & Promoting Monthly Business Mixer Networking Events
- Organizing & Promoting Informal Social Networking Gatherings
- Providing Sponsorship Opportunities for Signature Chamber Events
- Providing Booth Involvement Opportunities at Signature Chamber Events
- Providing Volunteer Opportunities at Signature Chamber Events
- Accepting Applications to the Annual Leadership Sturgis Program
- Accepting Applications for Agriculture Committee Involvement
- Accepting Applications to the Chamber Ambassadors Program
- Providing Business Mentor/Mentee Match-ups (by request)
Belonging to a Chamber of Commerce is one of the oldest, most traditional ways to lend credibility to your business. It shows the community that you are here not just to make sales, but to give back and help other businesses navigate business management alongside you. In an age of pop-up entrepreneurship, belonging to a Chamber definitively shows a business’s stability and permanence.
Membership with the Chamber of Commerce allows your business to be recognized in the following ways to build credibility:
- Listing & Landing Page in the Official Sturgis Business Directory on the Chamber Website
- Listing in the Official Sturgis Magazine Business Directory
- Listing & Location on the Offcial Sturgis Area Printed Map (depending on physical business location)
- Business Information Displayed in the Sturgis Welcome Center for Visitors & Residents
- Business Recognition & Award Opportunities at the Annual Chamber Awards Banquet
- Press Releases for Business Mixers, Ribbon Cuttings, & Notable Accomplishments to Chamber Media Contacts
- Exposure to Sturgis Business Community, Residents, & Visitors via Social Media
- Exposure to Sturgis Business Community, Residents, & Visitors via e-Newsletter
- Exposure to Sturgis Business Community, Residents, & Visitors via Website/Blog Mentions
- Exposure to Sturgis Business Community, Residents, & Visitors via Advertising in the Sturgis Magazine
- Exposure to Sturgis Business Community through E-Blasts & Mailings
In addition to the above functions, Chambers seeks to educate. Successfully starting a business is only the beginning – from that point on it is the business owner’s and employees’ responsibility to continue learning and growing to adapt your operations and strategy to an ever-changing world. In some cases, this means learning about and growing within your own business. In others, it means learning about and supporting someone else's business for the good of the entire business community. The Chamber is here to provide educational opportunities for those who never stop learning, from those that have something to teach!
Our Chamber-organized educational opportunities include:
- Teach others about your industry, business, or specific skills at a Lunch & Learn event.
- Learn about a different industry, business, or skill at the Chamber's monthly Lunch & Learn event.
- Learn from & connect with business owners, employees, and consumers at Chamber events.
- Learn from & connect with business owners, employees, and consumers by serving on Chamber committees.
- Learn from & connect with business owners by serving on the Chamber Board of Directors.
- Learn about local and tourism, agriculture, and business initiatives via one-on-one meetings with Chamber staff.
- Learn business skills directly from another local business owner by requesting a business mentor via the Chamber.
- Learn about personal and professional growth and involvement through the Leadership Sturgis Program.
- Learn specific workforce, administrative, marketing, and other skills at one-time Chamber educational events.
- Learn about local politics and government by attending Chamber-organized election forums & meetings.
Chambers are unique in that they act as a liaison between the businesses and the residents of the community. One of the primary ways this is facilitated is through involvement opportunities – Member businesses can volunteer to be part of a Chamber committee, sponsor events, and serve on the Chamber’s Board of Directors.
Here are the ways you can become more involved in the Sturgis community through our Chamber of Commerce:
- Volunteer at Signature Chamber Events
- Attend Monthly Mixers, Ribbon Cuttings, Lunch & Learns, & Signature Events
- Join a Chamber Committee
- Apply to Join the Leadership Sturgis Program or the Chamber Ambassadors Program
- Sponsor a Signature Chamber Event
- Schedule a One-on-One Meeting with Chamber Staff for Updates & Opportunities
- Request to Host a Business Mixer or Ribbon Cutting Event
- Request to Teach a Lunch & Learn Event
- Host a Business Booth at a Signature Chamber Event
- Submit Information for Distribution in the e-Newsletter, Welcome Center, Social Media, and Website
- Purchase an E-Blast to Advertise a Promotion, Product, or Service
- Purchase Mailing Labels to Advertise a Promotion, Product, or Service
- Purchase Business Advertising in the Official Sturgis Magazine
Finally, a Chamber of Commerce is a way through which businesses can protect their interests by banding together. Think of the last obstacle your business faced – wouldn’t it be helpful to find a group of other business owners that have already successfully navigated that obstacle, or that are willing to team up to defeat it? Whether it is a logistic issue, a legislative one, or some other threat to a business’s interests, a Chamber can help bring people together to grow stronger and benefit the business community as a whole.
Your support of the Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau is more than simply a listing on our website – it’s a commitment to Sturgis’s business industry, way of life, and tourism economy! Thank you for your dedication for the last 75 years.
Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau