The Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce has a new strategy, new website and new logo.
And it all can be summed up with one word: more. There will be more information on its newly designed website, more resources, more events, more benefits.
The women’s chamber, founded 23 years ago by Jan Weiland, released its plans at a Next Generation party on Thursday.
“We’ve gone though so many changes, and we wanted our new strategic direction to reflect that,” said Lola Woloch, executive director. “The chamber has grown in the past two years. We’re now at 213 percent growth above what we were last year.”
Some of that growth is attributed to the city’s own development, she said, but much of it is because the women’s chamber has always focused on small businesses.
“And as the economy grows, it’s a promising time not only for the city, but for the women’s chamber as well,” she said. “We want to help businesses grow and prosper.”
The strategic plan includes a new, mobile-responsive website, bringing the women’s chamber’s events and programs to any device. They’ll also be focusing more on promoting events by its members, as well as its own events.
“We have such a wide membership base, that primarily we want small businesses to know that they have the support of the chamber,” Woloch said. “It’s hard to be a small business in Colorado Springs. We want to help them be successful through our educational program, through our member benefits.”
One concrete example: The women’s chamber is offering more benefits to members, including a discounted insurance rate that is equivalent to the buying power large businesses have when purchasing health insurance.
Called the Affinity Program, small- and medium-sized businesses can receive up to 25 percent off health insurance for workers through Kaiser Permanente and Blue Cross Blue Shield Anthem.
“Health insurance is a major expense for small businesses; it’s just astronomical,” Woloch said. “It can be a struggle to figure out what to offer. We want to support small businesses, make it easier to provide this benefit to their employers.”
The group is also providing savings on workers’ compensation programs, as well as discounts on supplies and copy needs.
“It’s all about finding a better solution,” she explained. “We think it’s our responsibility to help curtail some of those business expenses.”
Chamber members will also see expanded public policy programs — events that explain suggested laws and statutes that could affect small- and medium-sized, women-owned businesses. They’ll continue to take stances on legislative efforts that could help or harm women-owned businesses.
“We started doing that this year,” Woloch said. “We had a stance on the hospital provider fee, for example. And we’ll be expanding that in the future. We want to bring in more speakers on more topics that affect women-owned businesses — and we want to bring in people from outside the local area as well. It’s all about providing more value.”
Not only will the chamber’s programs be more substantive, she says, there will be more of them.
“The frequency is a new thing,” she said. “We’ll still be offering networking and luncheons, but we want to provide businesses with the information they need as well.”
The women’s chamber started in 1993 to fill a need to provide information and resources for women who were in business.
“Back then, there was not any single program or networking event that was geared to women in business,” she said. “There was a gap in programming because it just wasn’t designed with women in mind.”
And Weiland was at the forefront of developing the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
“It wasn’t easy,” Woloch said. “I believe she met with some resistance, but she gained support over time.”
And now the local women’s chamber has other allies in the city — including the larger Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance. The two organizations partner on events like the Athena Award for businesswomen and the RBA’s Evening in Tuscany.
“We’re about empowering our members,” Woloch said. “And we do have men involved. After all, 87 percent of the consumer-buying decisions are made by women. It makes sense, based on that, to have a strategy to include women in the wider business world.”
Mainly, though, the new strategy is to recruit members who will be active in the organization.
“We need to provide the value people expect from the chamber,” she said. “We’re going to focus on areas like public policy, member benefits, educational events — it’s what our members want.”