Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild Podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life, in-the-wild stories about business and marketing.
Julia; All right, everybody! Welcome to the podcast. I’m excited to introduce you to Chelsea. Actually, I’m not even gonna tell you what she does, because she’ll tell us what she does. But I’m really excited about this conversation, partially because I’ve never actually met a woman who is in her position. So we’re gonna have a lot of conversations about that. Before I get ahead of myself, Chelsea, tell us who you are, where you are, and what the work you do is.
Chelsea: Well, hello! Thank you so much for having me on. This is awesome! I am Chelsea Rose. I am the president and CEO of the Colleyville Chamber of Commerce. That is in Colleyville, Texas, which is in the Dallas Fort Worth area, real close to the airport. We have a plane in our logo, so that’s how you know where we are in Texas.
Julia: I love it! Really original! That’s awesome. Like I said, I’ve never met a woman in your position at a chamber of commerce, to be quite honest. I also haven’t been in that many chambers of commerce, so there is that, but I’ve been in at least three of them in three different states, and it’s always been a man in that role. How did you get to where you are?
Chelsea: It is a wild story! And yes, that is definitely starting to change. You are seeing a lot more women’s CEOs, which I’m very proud to be in that group. But you’re right! Traditionally, this was, as a lot of things, was more typically a man’s role, especially being a country club for businesses there for a little bit. A meeting of businesses, that was kind of your thought process, is if you’re going to have a business gathering, most likely it’s going to be one of the fellows that’s leading it. So it’s really fun to be a part of that chamber renaissance of sorts.
I had an interesting introduction into it. I’ve always been a part of Chambers of Commerce. I’m very lucky to have always been part of Chambers of Commerce in my career. When I started as the social catering manager and wedding specialist at the Embassy Suites in Norman, Oklahoma, that was one of my first things they told me to do, was to go to a chamber lunch. And my favorite thing about that story is I was like, “What does that mean?”
Julia: Well, here I was like, there’s no way Chelsea has dreamed of being in the chamber since she was five. Nobody knows that that’s a thing, right?
Chelsea: No, they don’t! And if more people knew, it would be more of a dream job. Because it is such, and I’ll get into that in a little bit, but it really is a neat role and perfect for my personality, honestly, especially if you are outgoing and a connector. It is really the perfect space. And what’s really cool about it too is different communities have different personalities, chamber presidents. Like when we’re all in a room together, we’re definitely quirky people, and we all have similar quirks, but you can definitely tell the different communities, we have different personalities, that kind of thing.
But how I ended up in it was, it’s a nonprofit, 501(c)(6) for Chambers of Commerce, and I would say when I was 22 working at the hotel, I don’t think I knew you could work for a chamber. And especially when you’re 22, you don’t really know how anything works.
Julia: But you think you do! You think you do!
Chelsea: Well, you think you know everything! Everything! As I have gotten older in my career, I just realized I know no things.
Julia: I know. That’s what happens!
Chelsea: So basically, what happened is I was in the hotel world, I have a hospitality degree from Oklahoma State. My dream job was a wedding planner. I wanted to plan political weddings, which was my weird dream.
Julia: That was a real niche right there!
Chelsea: Yes. Got very specific very quickly! But what was kind of neat about opening up that space is that did later lead to wanting to be involved in cities and governments, and that sort of thing. Even though oftentimes, chambers are misplaced, it’s like, “Oh, you’re with the city?” “Well, no, we’re a separate 501(c)(6), but you do work in a lot of those spaces. And what’s cool about that is my journey was working in hotels, and then I went out on my own as a wedding planner, and loved it, and then got to the point where I would really like to not work on a Saturday, at least for a little bit, and so I started trying to see what else was out there.
At that point, working in hotels and working at my own company, marketing was definitely something that I knew I could do, and I could do really well. And so I worked with a family friend where they had a marketing specialist open, and they were like, “Hey, if you wanna do this, just while you’re looking for something else. I really worked on those relationship pieces and realized I was really good at the connecting. And so, I realized that I did wanna go into nonprofit, I have a personality type Myers Briggs, I’m an ENFJ.
Julia: I think I’m very similar. I don’t remember, but I think I might be an ENFP, but I can’t remember. This is why we’re getting along so well, Chelsea!
Chelsea: This is great!
Julia: This is good! So then that’s when you started moving towards nonprofit work?
Chelsea: Yes. And so when I was in nonprofit, I actually got a job as the special event coordinator for a nonprofit in Grapevine, which is neighboring communities to Colleyville, which is Grace Grapevine Relief and Community Exchange. And being the event coordinator for that organization is very similar to being a wedding planner. My executive director was my bride/mother of the bride, and read everything through her, and is still my mentor to this day. But what was really great about working at Grace was, in our development department, we were a part of seven Chambers. This is a very unique part of the country, but specifically the state, where we have all of these communities so close together in the Dallas Fort Worth area, in the middle of these two giant cities, that all have chambers and all have bustling businesses and nonprofits. And so, Shonda, the CEO, pretty early on was like, okay, in the development world, one person needs to be a part of that chamber. We can all go to the chamber events, but that person needs to be dedicated. She got chambers, she knew if we were going to get more support, get more donors, it really put the word out there for our nonprofit, then we needed to be focused on that.
And so mine was Colville, and this was back eight years ago now. That’s weird! And I started in Colville, and so I represented at the Colville Chamber, went through Leadership Colville, which is a behind the scenes look at how the whole community runs, made lifetime friends there. Absolutely loved it! I got to a point where I was like, I love being a special events coordinator, but I wanna get to a director role, I want to do more community engagement, more advocacy, and I wanna move back to Oklahoma. And so at that point, I started my masters in public policy campaigns and elections, thought that would lead me in my political realm a little bit. And so then I got a job at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City as their director of community engagement, exactly what I wanted to do, and continued to work with chambers and continued to go that route. But again, never realizing that’s a job!
So I was doing that for, I believe, three years, still remained very close with my Grace family. My parents lived down here in the airport, as we saw, it’s very close, and I am an avid traveler. That is my favorite hobby. And so I would drive down to Texas, leave my car at my parents’ house, and then go see my people at Grace. And so one time, this was in fall of 2019, I went in, they had just opened a new building, went in to see Shonda, and she was like, “Oh, I was just talking about you the other day.” “To who? I’ve been gone for three years. How does anyone even know who I am?” And she said, “Well, the Colville Chamber is looking for a new president.” And again, being a connector, I was like, “Oh, yeah, just let me know what they need and I’ll find somebody.” And she was like, “No, no. We were thinking about you.” I was like, “Well, you’ve gone and lost your mind.”
Julia: You’re like, does that even pay? Like that’s what my question would be.
Chelsea: Right! Which I will say, that is probably the most asked question I get about my job, is what’s your real job?
Julia: No, it has to be, because I really think that people don’t understand chambers. Myself included.
Chelsea: That’s exactly right. That was November, and then started the process, by the end of February, 2020.
Julia: Perfect timing!
Chelsea: It was wild! And what was really cool too, especially from a women leader perspective, my boss, the senior director of development at Catholic Charities, she was my biggest cheerleader. I called her before I called my mom when I got this job.
Julia: Wow! That’s awesome!
Chelseas: She knew I was interviewing. It was very, very cool! And so moved from Oklahoma City when you couldn’t go inside of restaurants. So that was an interesting time.
Julia: Wow! That was crazy!
Chelsea: It was wild, getting a U-haul was weird.
Julia: What has it been like to be a woman in this role? You already mentioned there’s more of a renaissance happening, there’s more women who are leading Chamber of Commerces. What has it been like? What are some of the challenges, some of the really fun parts?
Chelsea: My favorite, and now it’s just fun, but my favorite thing that happens, being especially a young woman leading a chamber, is someone coming to me, “I need to speak to the president.” I’m like, “Great!” That’s been fun! Because especially, you really have to check your own ego at the door in a lot of cases because there is a lot of education that needs to happen when it comes to young women leaders in general. There is an assumption that I’m the assistant or the event planner. I was actually at an event, I believe it was last week, where they knew me and a colleague were there with the chamber, and they looked at me, and they said, “Oh, so you’re the social media girl?” I was like, “Actually, the president and CEO.” But I do have the passwords to the social media.
And so really, the biggest challenge is just that education. And I’ve talked about this a lot with people just being in this role, is my joy can also throw people off. You assume that a CEO is very drab and doesn’t enjoy laughing. And that’s not the case, but that’s just what you see. So when you see me bounding around, and you can’t see it as much in my office, but I have bubble guns everywhere. And it’s very important to me. My business strategy is joy. If we are not laughing, we’re all going down. It’s just not gonna work. And so I think that’s the biggest challenge, is just educating that just because I am young and I’m a woman and I’m joyful, I’m still a business leader. And a pretty darn good one in a lot of cases! And so I think that’s a big piece. But it’s almost become, in our community, kind of fun. They know I’m not going anywhere, so there’s a lot of jokes. They’re like, “Yep, that’s our president!”
Julia: That’s awesome! I live in Utah, and women business owners in general are few and far between here because of the culture. When I moved here, I went to a chamber meeting, and I was the only woman, and also the only person under 40. Actually, probably even under 30. And so, it did feel like a boys club. I very quickly was like, this isn’t for me. I have been in that situation previously where it’s like you walk in, and people don’t take you seriously either because of gender or because of age, even when I’ve been in a room, but with other women.
I started my business when I was 25, and so they’re like, “You should still be in college.” Like, no, you don’t know how the world works. So I think that that’s really interesting. So full disclosure, I have this jaded view of Chambers of Commerces because of these experiences. I would imagine that when you’re talking to people, you’re hearing a lot of different reactions. What kind of reactions do you hear from people when you’re just speaking with them about your experience?
Chelsea: My favorite one is specifically going back to what is a chamber of commerce. When I told my friends, in my generation, that I was going to be president and CEO of a chamber of commerce, there’s blank faces and every time, chamber of what? There was always a Harry Potter reference! Always! And so that’s my favorite, is just, I don’t know what it is. And then also similar to you, people have bad experiences going into these, what is supposed to be a community of businesses that is supposed to help you get business and help you grow as a business leader. I kind of liken it to going into a church, especially going into a church for the first time, whether you’re a believer or not, of what’s going on there. It should be welcoming first, and that is not the case. And so that is often the reaction too, is, “Oh, I walked into a luncheon and everyone stared at me like I wasn’t supposed to be there, so I left.” And I’m like, “Number one, I hear you.”
Julia: Yeah. I’ve been there!
Chelsea: Been there. And so that’s a big piece. Again, that education piece, but also just kind of an overcoming of objections of sorts when it comes to a chamber of commerce. And it’s also interesting when you look at how Chambers have evolved over the years too, is a lot of chambers have a women’s division, or a specifically women’s group, which came out of someone coming and saying there’s no one else that looks like me. I’m gonna bring my friend, and we’re going to create this group together. And in all chambers, that’s very successful.
What’s also funny is there are a lot of chambers that have tried, okay, well, maybe we’ll do like a Man’s Monday. And the men are like, “We don’t need that. We’re already here.” But it’s interesting, because we have a Wednesday’s women. And so we’ve had that before where it’s like, “Oh, well maybe there needs to be a man’s group.” And I’m like, “You are welcome to try.” But that’s also part of that evolution, and I mean, you see a lot of things go that way. If someone didn’t feel like they had a buddy in a certain space, they’re going to create that space. They’re gonna elevate that voice, which is really what we need to be as a chamber of commerce in general, is to elevate the voice of business, which is everybody. A business leader can be – I almost said anyone over the age of 18, but I have some youth leaders, and they’re there already.
Julia: That’s awesome!
Chelsea: And so as long as you breathe and want to sell things.
Julia: And have an idea.
Chelsea: And have an idea. That’s exactly right! So that’s a lot of the overcoming in some of the experiences that I hear. Another big one is that it’s boring, which I understand. I have dozed off at a chamber event before I was the president.
Julia: Now you can’t, sorry!
Chelsea: And again, now I’m not allowed to do that. What’s interesting for us in creating our personality of the Chamber is we want to have fun, and we and we very much believe in if you are having fun, you are making those connections. If you don’t want to be somewhere, it is so much harder to do what you need to do there.
Julia: Right. Or you feel like you have to, because it’s like your homework assignment or something like that.
Chelsea: That is exactly right. So we want to start with that welcoming, start with having a good time, and then those connections will more naturally bubble together!
Julia: That’s awesome! One of the chambers that I was a part of offered a business principal’s class, and it was so intimidating because I was sitting with these million-dollar businesses and at that point, we were not a million-dollar business. And they were all like, “And this is how you read a profit and loss sheet.” And I was like, “I have no idea what’s happening.” It was so overwhelming and boring.
Chelsea: And boring. Yes!
Julia: I’m curious, how can Chambers of Commerce help people? Obviously yours is different than everybody else’s, but in general, if somebody were to say, okay, let me look at my Chamber of Commerce, what should they be looking for?
Chelsea: The biggest piece is connection. And especially in a small or a large community, that connection with their city specifically is a very big piece. Because with most chambers, they work with their city in some way, shape or form. So at luncheons, you can meet city officials and that sort of thing, especially as a business owner in a specific community, knowing who your city is, is so important, especially when it comes to, if you have a brick and mortar and figuring out community development and planning and zoning, and all of these magical things that no one actually knows about. So that’s the big piece, is knowing the other business leaders in your community. Because specifically, like we saw with the pandemic and in the last few years, that connection was important because number one, things were changing so quickly and information was flyingor, and especially on the business front, are we open? Are we not? Do we need mess? Do we need this? Do we need that? That became a piece for the chambers of commerce to come together and make sure they’re getting out correct information, make sure they’re sending out what they need to.
This is actually a fun example. One of my board members, she got an email from one of the donors, and they were like, “Hey, do you know – I think it was something about PPP or something. And she was like, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard about that seven times from the chambers that I’m in.” He goes, “Oh, I haven’t heard about it at all.” She goes, “You need to be a part of a chamber, because we’re connected on the state level, the federal level, and then the city level.” So that alone, being a part of a chamber of commerce, that information is just crucial to being a business leader. And then a lot of the goodness added on top of that too is the connection of just creating community with other business leaders, because doing business is hard work.
Julia: And it can feel so lonely sometimes. I even love collaborating with people in my own field. I host a social media managers – just my friends basically. I get to hang out with my friends once a month, and we talk about pricing and what to do when your client does this, and things like that. We are all looking for very similar clients, but some of us have solved different problems better. And so I think that that is one of the beautiful things about a chamber, is that it does bring people together.
Chelsea: Yes. That community, like you said, it’s crucial, because especially as an entrepreneur, and if you have a small business where you are the employee in a lot of cases, and especially if you have just contractors or something to that effect, you don’t really have anyone to talk to. You don’t! Not that understands what you’re going through.
Julia: We have a team of 10 or 11, and I even find where I’m like, I have things that I wanna talk about, but I wanna talk about them with people who are my peers rather than the people that I am leading, whether it’s appropriateness or finance. Like you don’t wanna tell somebody you’re freaking out because you can’t make payroll. And so, you have to be careful about who you talk to about some things. And so, I think that that’s even important, is to find people in the same peer level.
Chelsea: That’s exactly right. And it cracks people up, who I talk to the most in this business is the seven presidents that are around me. Because number one, they were lifesavers when I first started this job. Because we started a Zoom, and I was like, “Hi, what do we do here while all the businesses are shut down?” And so, that’s another thing with Chambers of Commerce, and that’s what you’re saying to look for in a chamber, is that that chamber is connected with other chambers because that’s something that chambers have the ability to do really well, is being connected with what other chambers are doing. I think we have two national organizations, and all the continuing education, and all of the things. And so, there is a system set up to make chambers practice what they preach, essentially, to be able to create communities within their chambers as well.
Julia: Well, I have another question. You mentioned a youth leaders’ program. Tell me about that.
Chelsea: Yes! Oh, I love it so much! We have our Leadership Colville, which I talked about that I was a part of. And so, you would go to the airport, hospitals, the county, the city, just kind of see what makes the community tick. And actually, funnily enough, when I was in Leadership Colville, our community project, was to create a youth leadership program that is different. It’s not a full day, once a month, but it’s a couple hours, and it’s introducing them to pieces in the community, police, fire, city. I think a month ago, we had our first one and our mayor and city manager came. When you were 16, did you know your mayor and city manager?
Julia: Absolutely not! I still don’t! I’m in my 30s, and I still don’t know the mayor and city manager.
Chelsea: And that even goes back to that connection piece of, those people seem far off in some cases, but when you’re in a chamber it just kind of brings them closer. And we are really connected with our school district as well, and so we brought it back. I think it was off for two or three years, and then I had a senior last year call me and say, “My brother was a part of it in 2017, I’d love to be a part of it now.” And so we used it as a project for him. He created the marketing, he did all the things. And I think we had 22 kids in it last year.
Julia: That’s awesome! So cool!
Chelsea: It was incredible! And it was fun, because we did team building and we did resumes and interviews, but they still also got to meet people in the community as well that ended up doing reference letters for them.
Julia: What I love about that is, I grew up overseas, my parents were missionaries, and so I grew up in a very conservative world. I thought that I could be a teacher, or a doctor, or a lawyer, and that was it, or in ministry, and was a youth pastor for a while. But what I love about that is that you’re exposing these high schoolers to all sorts of things. I didn’t know I could set up my own business, and I didn’t know all of those things. Those teens are gonna get a broader view and a better idea of what sort of things might meet their life purpose. So that’s cool!
Chelsea: Thank you for saying that too. Because what’s funny and what we were talking about earlier, I was not five years old dreaming of being a chamber president, but I had one of our youth leaders say that she wanted to be a chamber executive.
Julia: That’s awesome! Like somebody knows my job is real. At least one teenager in the Dallas, Fort Worth area knows your job is a real job. Before we close, I do have one more question. You’ve worked with a lot of businesses, you were a business owner, have worked in a lot of organizations, now you get to see the inner workings of businesses as a chamber. What are some characteristics that you have found that have made people successful? And I don’t just mean financially successful, but when you look at the people in your community and you’re like, these people are awesome business owners, what are you seeing?
Julia: Tell me why.
Chelsea: Generosity in so many facets! And that’s the first thing that comes to mind, that’s generosity with the nonprofits in the community, but then also generosity with their knowledge. The giving back piece is very big in our successful business leaders for sure, because the ones that I’ve seen that are more closed off and don’t necessarily want to share best practices or people that think absolutely everyone is competition, and they’re like, “Oh, we’re not gonna share our secret sauce”, those are actually the ones that number one, that personality, especially in a chamber where it’s all about connection and collaboration, that it does push people away a little bit. They’re like, “Oh, okay. Well, I’m not gonna ask you.”
We have several business leaders, but there’s two that come to mind that have been on my board that that’s who people call, whether it is in their industry or out of their industry, when they have questions about HR, when they have questions about sales, when they have questions about sponsorships, those sort of things. They do that because they know they’re gonna answer them, number one, and they know that we’re better together. What is that? The rise and tides and the boats?
Julia: Rising tides lift all boats?
Chelsea: Thank you! That’s the one!
Julia: I love that!
Chelsea: We help each other. And generosity number one, and then listening. That is amazing. Conflict resolution in general in this entire world can be, maybe not completely solved, but at least somewhat tempered by listening, because people just want someone to listen sometimes, and that’s what I’ve seen with a lot of leaders; they listen to their people, they listen to their clients and do what they can with that information. Sometimes they can’t, same with elected officials and that sort of thing, sometimes they can’t do anything with that information, but they have at least listened to the concerns. And so I’d say generosity and being a good listener is definitely two of them.
Julia: I love those! Those are some of the really important philosophies that we even have in our own business, because in my opinion, there is no such thing as being generous to a fault. I will hedge that, and say unless if you’re in an unsafe emotional relationship. In business, I don’t think you can be too generous because people love free stuff, first of all, but they also love knowing, hey, this person is an expert. And if you keep all your cards hidden, people don’t know that you know your stuff. So fully in support of that.
Well, Chelsea, I feel like I’m gonna go upstairs and tell Roger, my husband, we need to move to Dallas, Fort Worth so that I can be a part of this chamber.
Chelsea: I’m okay with it! Come on, Roger! Let’s go!
Julia: I really appreciate this conversation. If people wanna connect with you, how best can they connect with you?
Chelsea: I actually can give my email as well if you have any questions about chambers. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julia: We’ll have it in the show notes too. So everybody, click on that link. Sweet!
Chelsea: And then Instagram, we are @cvchambertx. https://www.instagram.com/cvchambertx/?hl=en
Julia: Sweet! Awesome! Well, I will make sure I tell you first when we decide to move. Except I don’t think I can handle Dallas in the summer, so I’m not gonna lie.
Chelsea: That is fair. We might just see how we can connect you. Just check on some other chambers in your area. See how we can maybe make some things better there.
Julia: Anyway, find a chamber in your area. Now, that’s our plug! Chelsea, thank you! This was so much fun. I learned a ton, and I am really grateful for your time.
Chelsea: Thank you so much, Julia. This has been awesome. I appreciate you.
Julia: Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have. If you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and wanna give us a rating or a review, I promise, we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.
Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys.
Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week, and I hope you will be too.