Emerging from a year characterized by pandemic shutdowns and economic pivots, the new faces behind the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce are reenergized and focused on reconnecting with the small business community.
"I think we need to be the best we can be," said Chamber CEO and President Devika Stalling, former director of the Lompoc Boys & Girls Club and Lompoc's 2020 Woman of the Year, who replaced outgoing CEO Amber Wilson on June 16. "But, we have our work cut out for us."
Since being hired over the summer, the two-woman team of Stalling and communications director Shelby Mathena — both Lompoc natives — are working to address areas of concern at the Chamber, namely a disconnected membership
"The Chamber has been stagnant for many years," Mathena said. "We're aware of the perception of the Chamber in the community, and I really want to work to change that. Communication is key. Meeting with our members and even people who aren't our members is our goal."
Emboldened by the role that the Chamber plays in the community to champion local businesses and build bridges to greater economic resources, the pair say they are taking a strategic approach as result of being understaffed and lacking a volunteer base that had staffed the front desk in years past.
"The Chamber used to have five staff members," said Stalling, noting that the Chamber is open by appointment only Monday through Friday. "It hasn't been communicated that we have no staff or volunteers, so we're really trying to rebuild those relationships and our volunteer base."
In the meantime, Stalling said the goal is to attract new volunteers to help with a staffing shortage. They also plan to visit with the 365 Chamber members — 10 per day — who represent small businesses both with and without storefronts in hopes of getting reacquainted with their needs.
"If they didn't attend the annual banquet, which was our first event, we haven't had any face time with them. So we just want to pop in and introduce ourselves," she said.
Mathena, a former executive chef and pastry chef who majored in communications and organizational leadership and previously worked in the purchasing department at the Chumash Casino, said her new job also is about repairing broken relationships.
"We want to introduce ourselves to prospective members and members that we lost — 'Hi, I'm Shelby, this is Devika, how can we help you and what do you need from us?'" she said. All this "to really try and mend those bridges that have been burned."
Looking ahead, the team of two has planned a mix of networking events that involve both local businesses and outside agencies. The first Chamber mixer slated for Nov. 18 will be the first since 2019, Stalling said. Also coming in November is a small business support luncheon on Nov. 19, and a community job fair on Nov. 30.
Other Chamber events this month include the annual ScarecrowFest contest which runs through Oct. 31, and the Old Town Trick-or-Treat event in downtown Lompoc on Oct. 30, which invites youth in the community to safely gather Halloween treats from participating businesses.
"It's really about cultivating relationships again," Mathena said.
The registration deadline for participating businesses is September 19 in order to be included on the public treat-or-treat map.
Six local leaders were recognized last week at the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce annual awards banquet for their outstanding contributions…