Let’s face it, we live in uncertain times. With many large, iconic companies calling it quits and leaving the area, its left many consumers confused and disappointed with their actions and created a general lack of trust. But if we take a closer look around, we realize all we need is right here in our own community. Being a part of a community builds trust and character which we cannot sell or buy — it is earned. And it is earned by being involved; making our community a better place to live, play and shop.

I have long considered the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce the “heartbeat” of our community, and with good reason. They guide, educate and promote local business while staying involved in the community with events such as the Red, White and Boom Fireworks, which carefully nurtures relationships between business and community. If you are a local small business owner and already a member of the chamber, do yourself a favor and take the time to explore all the benefits your membership has to offer. The chamber is there to help get your business exposure, along with making you aware of local political issues, available workshops to better your business practices, and help you get connected with other business owners through networking events and expos. I have been a member of a chamber for more than 25 years, and will say personally that it has been THE most rewarding way of bringing me together with so many great people, which in turn has allowed me to grow my business, even in tough times. On a business level it has been the most consistent tool I use to build relationships and community trust. In my almost 30 years as a business owner/mentor, many peers and new entrepreneurs have asked me what I do to be successful and stay successful. The first thing I ask them is, “Are you a local chamber member?” If not, I recommend they join as soon as possible, as this is the gateway to get connected to your local community. However, a chamber membership on its own will not make you successful, as you will only get out of it what you put into it. Being active is the key. Being a successful business owner is all about building relationships, as people do business with people they know and trust.

You might be wondering, “How will the chamber help promote my business?” There are numerous ways they can help you get involved, so you can tailor the way you become connected. Such as daily lead groups in which you can give your company commercial to other members who will then refer your business to others, evening mixers to mingle casually with other business owners, or perhaps breakfast mixers for those who like an early start. You can also join one of the numerous committees that help make our community shine, such as the annual Chamber Masters Charity Golf Classic at the Arizona Grand in April. I am on many of these committees and can attest that they are full of great, talented people who have the passion to make Ahwatukee a better place, by sharing their wonderful ideas and successes. I can’t think of a more motivating way to get excited about our community, and my own business, than to be involved with all the opportunities that lie ahead.

And finally, if you live, work and play in our great community, please don’t forget to shop local first. You, the consumer are actually the blood that flows through this community’s veins. Without you, our businesses would not succeed. Over the Valentine’s Day holiday please consider using our local businesses to buy those flowers, chocolates, or perhaps that relaxing massage. And if you’re taking that special person out to dinner and a movie, please support our wonderful array of local restaurants, movie theaters, etc. I do realize that going to the Internet to buy these products can be more convenient, but the opportunity to say “Hello” to your neighbor and keep your dollars here at home is PRICELESS.

Jim Hunt, of Henderson-Hunt Insurance Agency, is on the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

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