Should you join the chamber of commerce

Startup businesses need all the help they can get. There’s a ton of competition out there – even when talking only your specific niche – so you want to make use of every nudge you can think of.

One of those nudges presents itself in the form of a chamber of commerce membership. Think of it like a club for business owners – who doesn’t want to be part of a club, right? Well, while the chamber has its privileges, it pays to weigh the benefits against the drawbacks carefully.

One of my friends, Eddie, owns San Antonio Top Limo in San Antonio. I recommended that he join the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Why? Because it would get him rubbing elbows with potential clients. I also recommended that he put together more videos of his company and offerings to be able to share those on social media and get in front of the connections that he was making and connecting with. Here is an example of one of the videos he did, so you can see how basic they can be.

What makes the chamber worthy of consideration

As already mentioned, if you can get help with your startup, you shouldn’t hesitate to take it. Your local chamber of commerce will grant you the much-needed exposure for those critical first weeks and months of starting a business.

The chamber will take care of a fair bit of advertising for you, not only potentially cutting back on your ad expenses but also taking a load off your back. Furthermore, the channels through which the chamber will advertise and spread your business are well-established and serve as a very effective way to get more customers (as opposed to trying to enter the business world ‘from the outside’).

Don’t forget to pay attention to your local competitors (when can you forget, really?): a competitor with a chamber of commerce membership will likely have a much easier time establishing their brand than you, should you opt out of said membership. Therefore, if your competitors are chamber members, you probably can’t afford to not be one as well – keep in mind, though, that a chamber of commerce membership might lead to more face-to-face time with your competition than you’d like.

So the chamber helps you establish your startup business, spreads the word and does a lot of the work for you. What’s bad about that? Unfortunately, few things are as rosy as they seem.

The downsides of a chamber membership

You could say that there’s really only one downside, but it’s a major one: membership fees. Everyone’s gotta make money somehow, and the chamber of commerce does this by accepting dues from each and every one of its members regardless of where their business stands.

Before joining your local chamber, do your best to realistically assess your finances and figure out whether you can deal with the additional expenses. Don’t get caught up thinking along the lines of “I’ll pay it back later” – this line of thinking is exactly what drives people into massive debt.

Yes, the chamber can be of great use, especially if you’re short on help with your startup. But the fees can pile up quick, leaving you with another major expense that you’re unsure how to pay.

If you can’t afford a chamber of commerce membership, don’t fret: you need as much knowledge about running a business as possible, and taking care of advertising, while difficult, will show you the ropes and teach you how things work. Spending time doing ‘chamber work’ on your own could reward you with valuable insights and information – not to mention, you’ll save a pretty penny as well.