It’s a question we’ve asked ourselves hundreds of times … in strategic planning sessions, around the board table and in discussions around the office and with our members.
Over the past year, we took a “deeper dive,” reaching out to our members and asking what’s next for them, the business community and our community overall, says Chamber President and CEO Dave Angus.
“We learned a lot of things … we got a lot of great intel on new trends, what the business community needs, especially small business, and what we can do to help bolster our community.”
In many ways, the health of our small businesses will help define our overall economic health, Angus says.
“We recognize the importance of these small businesses … that they contribute 50 per cent of our national GDP and close to 80 per cent of all new jobs.”
But small businesses are struggling. They lack the capacity to grow and to manage their growth.
We especially heard how they’re being held back because they don’t have the financial resources and capital to sustain their businesses that they can’t find the people and keep up with the technology to be competitive, that they have difficulty in finding new customers in new markets and they can’t understand the regulations they must work under.
“What we heard from our members is that The Chamber needs to change … to provide access to the resources small businesses need.
“There’s been a lot of progress over my 17 years at The Chamber, but it’s clear there’s much more to be done.”
The Chamber’s next strategic plan is to work with small business to address the barriers they face. A critical component will be the launch of a Small Business Council chaired by Joelle Foster (Futurepreneur) and Ibrahim “Obby” Khan (Shawarma Khan/Green Carrot).
The Small Business Council will be made up of the people behind Winnipeg’s small, medium and emerging businesses. All businesses with under 50 full-time employees that join The Chamber will be welcomed into the Small Business Council.
“One important aspect is that there’s no other organization in Winnipeg that knows more about the issues of small business than The Chamber. We want to be a community asset.”
The Council will host quarterly forums with a focus on educating people, tackling issues facing small businesses, providing expert advice, and providing information from our partners.
“This gathering of small business will provide a platform to connect and network,” said Angus. The Council will also host a conference during Small Business Week in October.
The official launch of the Small Business Council is April 27 from 8:00 – 10:00 a.m. at Canad Inns Polo Park. Each quarterly Small Business Council Forum will include an opportunity for businesses to have trade show booths at quarterly Small Business Forums. Visit winnipeg-chamber.com for more details or to RSVP.