La Mesa Chamber’s Spring Fling, networking done right

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This past week the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce held one of my favorite events, its annual Spring Fling Business Expo. Each year, the event gets larger and the La Mesa Community Center is filled to the max with La Mesa’s business of all types. It is one of the most productive networking events that any chamber holds and it is loved by its members so much that CEO & President Mary England began holding this event twice a year.

This past week the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce held one of my favorite events, its annual Spring Fling Business Expo. Each year, the event gets larger and the La Mesa Community Center is filled to the max with La Mesa’s business of all types. It is one of the most productive networking events that any chamber holds and it is loved by its members so much that CEO & President Mary England began holding this event twice a year. Next to come will be its Summer Bash giving the Chamber members another opportunity to hold this style of networking again.

England, who considers the members clients said that this event, along with the summer bash is something that the members asked for more of after her first inaugural Spring Fling event. The Center is filled with local restaurants, like a mini Taste of La Mesa, while businesses secure tables (and there is now a waiting list for each event) to show what they do in the community. The setup is great, creating ideal conditions for B2B relationships, finding the right people for products and services that you need and also a lot of fun and participation by everyone.

Each business brings a gift to give away and as you tour the lines of tables of businesses you get to drop your business card in for a chance to win something. Many times it is products or services that the business offers and in other cases the prizes are non-related, but coveted. This part of the event is the most fun as each business gets to get up and draw for its individual prize. This is an excellent way for the people to get to know the person(s) behind the business and gives business owners the opportunity to promote their services. It is by far one of the highlights of the evening for the Chamber members. You can see the joy on their faces as they are personally handing out their gifts, mostly because they are personally involved and one chosen person is not handling it. This brilliant idea is the brainchild of England in her quest to bring a sense of community to the Chamber members. And that she is doing very well with these specialized events custom tailored for members and their wishes.

Add the great food, an excellent choice of silent auction items and a 50/50 raffle ($450 this event) and with around 45 vender tables to visit it makes for an entertaining, educational and productive mixer. In talking with England, she said that after her first Spring Fling she sent out an invitation to all the attendees to voice their opinions about the event and it came back with a resounding, “We want more events just like this.” She said her communication with her members is what drives her to create such events, branching outside the norm to bring them the best possible venues that help towards their continued success in the community.

This is something that is so important, especially in the world of small businesses. They are the backbone of our communities, yet small business owners still have a high risk factor of failure within the first three years due to many obstacles that they might face. Events like this, creating a collaborative business atmosphere that carries out far beyond the walls of the Center once the event is over.

We need more small business exposure within our communities and our local Chambers do a great job at creating events that help its members. But this event is outside of the box and something that other Chambers should look to when thinking about what they want to bring to the table to help its small businesses to get to know each other, and grow and thrive within the community by becoming part of it.

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