OUR BUSINESS COMMUNITY MAKES VASHON SPECIAL
President of the Board of Directors
Vashon Maury Island Chamber of Commerce
I was amazed at all the things Vashon's Chamber does to support the island community.
When my husband and I were deciding where to live 15 years ago, we looked at neighborhoods in Seattle and Tacoma, but we didn't just want a neighborhood, we wanted to be part of something bigger, a place that was truly special. We wanted to feel connected and be able to contribute to a vibrant community. Vashon charmed us, we fell in love with the Island. It wasn't just the natural beauty.
It was the fact that the businesses took the time to line their store-fronts with garland during the holiday season, holds a tree lighting ceremony, and worked together to create a festive feel during the Holiday Open House. It was the way the streets were closed so that adults and kids alike could run through the streets on Halloween. It was the way Ober Park was covered with eggs for the annual Spring Fling.
It was the uniqueness of Strawberry Festival with local bands, street dances, artists, the local businesses and our own small-town parade! These events created opportunities to meet our neighbors and be a part of something memorable. This formed the foundation of our becoming a part of this community. When we were new arrivals, it seemed these things magically happened every year.
Fast forward to 2016, when I decided to join the Vashon Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. I learned that the "magic" was due to the work of the members and staff of the Vashon Chamber of Commerce.
Nashi Orchards joined the Chamber because we knew it was important to participate and support the local business community. What I didn't know was all that the Chamber does to help create the magic of Vashon! They handle and coordinate a good portion of the events that bring our island to life. When I got a peek behind the curtain, I learned that the list of these events is staggering, especially considering there are no full time Chamber employees and all activities rely on volunteers and Chamber Members support.
The Chamber works with the business community, and the community at large, to make things happen. They strive to reflect the desires of members to improve every event, and they do this every season of every year. They are an accountable organization that takes on a lot for the Island, such as:
- Coordinating the Halloween celebration, Spring Fling, WinterFest weekend and CiderFest
- Serving local beverages at the Sheepdog Trials Spirit Garden
- Helping promote and support events such as Passport to Pain, the Garden Tours, Artist Studio Tours, Japan Festival and more.
- Publishing the Social Services Network Guide
- Providing Non-Profits with access to fundraising opportunities at Festival and beyond
- Directing locals to services and resources they need
Championing Local Businesses
The Chamber promotes local businesses, supports non-profits and are a resource for resident's past, present and future. The chamber serves as a resource to new and established businesses, providing advice and helping solve issues. The Chamber keeps business owners informed and offers excellent networking resources as well, through community meetings, events, and mixers that connect business owners to potential customers, partners, referral sources and advisors. Many beloved Vashon businesses have relied on the Chamber to support them and are active members of the Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber initiatives foster awareness for local businesses by creating opportunities, both online and in-person, to showcase what they do. For example:
- Shop Vashon Passport (our Shop Local campaign)
- The Vashon Home Fair (supporting businesses that work in, on and around your home)
- The Vashon Health Fair (supporting the wide range of health and wellness workers on the Island)
- The Sip Vashon Group (supporting local beverage makers)
- WeddingsonVashon.com (promoting local wedding and event businesses)
- Hosting lodging tours
- First Tuesday Networking Coffees
- Ribbon Cutting Ceremonies
The Chamber helps promote Vashon Island to the outside world and keeps locals well informed by:
- Maintaining the Vashon Chamber Facebook page
- Promoting Vashon on other social media channels
- Serving as a source for media outlets looking for stories, location, and fact checking
- Reaching out to media sources about various Vashon businesses and features
- Maintaining a comprehensive website with local business directory, free community calendar and job listings
Being the Voice for the Business Community
The Chamber is the voice of island businesses to King County and the State of Washington, representing local business interests and providing timely information on a wide range of topics, from permitting and zoning to ferry issues.
Welcoming Island Visitors.
The Chamber makes visitors to Vashon Island feel welcome while keeping them informed and entertained. Businesses that rely on visitors benefit greatly from the high touch way the Chamber welcomes visitors. The Chamber runs the Vashon Visitors Center and offers resources for island visitors including:
- Creating and distributing the Vashon Heart of the Sound Visitor Map
- Fielding questions and operating the Island's Visitor Center
- Maintaining website with categories especially for visitors
- Providing referrals to Island activities and lodging options
This is an extensive scope of services for an organization run by two-part time employees and volunteers. I have seen articles written about how Vashon is like stepping back in time with its connected community. We, as Chamber members, help make that happen.
It's important that we work together through supporting our local Chamber of Commerce. It is not just what the Chamber does for local businesses but how we as local businesses work with the Chamber! The Chamber invests in our community to create the type of island where we want to work, live and play. I have found my participation in the Chamber rewarding, and I encourage you to invest in our community. Support local businesses, volunteer for community events and if you are a business or island organization, become member. Contact myself or our Executive Director Jim Marsh to learn how you can be involved.