A Student’s View of the Chamber
Report by Dominic Fan on the visit to Amersham businesses on 24 June 2014
On June 24, I visited the businesses along the high street in Amersham with Mrs Bharakda, the president of the Chiltern Chamber. There were various businesses, from selling properties to selling bicycles, but most of them were small businesses set up by the local entrepreneurs. We visited about ten of them to introduce and explain about the recently merged Chiltern Chamber of Commerce to them, and they reacted and responded diversely.
The aim of the visit was to educate local businesses in Amersham about the existence of the Chamber and to increase the membership drive. The Chamber wants to grow and thrive in the local business community, and the goals set out are to have 200 members by December 2014. Mrs Bharakda and the Chamber have been very active to achieve the above targets. By visiting the businesses in Amersham, they could then get known about the Chiltern Chamber and how it would be beneficial to them.
The response received from the businesses varied. Most of the small entrepreneurs had not heard of the Chamber, but were willing to listen and take the information on board so as to understand more about the Chiltern Chamber. Besides, they were happy to give us their contact details for further information. However, some entrepreneurs seemed reluctant to be a member or even know about the Chiltern Chamber. Reasons behind this were because the original Amersham Chamber suddenly vanished long while ago so they have lost confidence in joining the Chamber. Also, some business owners thought that it would be a waste of time to attend the meetings held by the Chamber instead of making sales.
Over the decade, the internet has become a much more popular place for people to buy things and this has caused a huge problem for the small businesses, especially for the businesses like clothing, which are often being taken over by the online clothing stores. To prevent from closing down, it would be exceptionally crucial for the entrepreneurs to engage with the Chamber, where it provides a portal for them to increase sales and trades through different ways, for instance, by advertising more or selling their products at more locations. I imagine it would be very hard for them to sustain or even grow their business without the aid of the Chamber.
Of the experience gained from the visit, more actions certainly need to be taken to attract entrepreneurs to join the Chamber, so as to let them understand the benefits of getting help and advice from the Chamber are greater than the costs. In my opinion, visiting the shops on a regular basis would be a great idea. This could let them know the information in depth and could build a close relationship with the committee members. Recalling the visit, some business owners thought we were not trustable and turned a deaf ear to us. So as long as visiting several more times to let them know the Chamber is actually trying to assist them, I believe they would have positive feedback by then. Likewise, activities like holding a meeting with the local businesses would have the similar effects.
Nonetheless, that would be a challenge for the Chamber because it would involve quite high costs for the committee members like Mrs Bharakda to visit the businesses that often. In that sense, holding activities for the entrepreneurs or sending emails regularly to them would be more feasible.
The closing down of businesses are often been seen on the streets, implying it is getting harder for entrepreneurs to survive. Business owners should definitely take actions to avoid elimination instead of waiting sales coming themselves, one of which would be joining the Chamber. I do not see why business should not seek practical support from a not-for-profit organisation like the Chiltern Chamber. If more businesses joined in the Chamber and work together as a community to try to ‘keep trade local’, this would further help the economic development in the region to thrive.