Are you a newish or not so new business owner or professional in Corvallis? Having some friends in the business community to connect with is a huge benefit. Luckily, this city possesses multiple organizations and an unusually high number of networking opportunities that can provide the next local software company, retail store, bicycle shop, or sandwich bistro with the available resources to give them a real boost.
Getting involved with the following organizations can lead one to a whole bunch of handshakes and a bundle of business cards, read that as sales leads.
Corvallis Chamber of Commerce This is one of the first places any business owner can go for assistance and networking in the community. Corvallis Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Dwyer says the chamber’s role isn’t necessarily to go out and start businesses, but to provide programs and educational opportunities to help new and current business owners.
“Our role typically begins when somebody comes into our office looking for info around financing or additional consulting,” Dwyer said. “Sometimes we’ll send them to chambers in that particular field or the small business administration, which has a lot of programs to assist start-up businesses.”
Dwyer says the chamber of commerce provides its members with multiple benefits. For instance, its name and business profile appear in both the online and published directories. Members can sign up to access the chamber boardroom and facilities for meetings and presentations, as well as attend any of the chamber’s educational events, meetings, and lunch forums, which include a discount.
The classic membership costs $250 a year, and is basically reserved for businesses with one to ten employees. Businesses that employ eleven or more people can expect to pay $500 per year for membership. Larger companies usually invest more in the organization.
A Greeter Meeting, led by a host business, is held every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. They also offer a Business After Hours meeting on the third Thursday of most months. There are also lunch forums and events each Wednesday during the month. Past events have included keynote speakers like Oregon State University President Ed Ray and Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning. They also presented the Celebrate Corvallis awards in January, honoring local businesses, non-profits, and volunteers with over 400 people in attendance.
The chamber is hosting a free event called the Corvallis Healthy Living and Sports Expo on Saturday, April 12 at the Boys & Girls Club, 1112 NW Circle Boulevard.
Corvallis Independent Business Alliance Another organization that can help a new or existing business is the Corvallis Independent Business Alliance (CIBA). Former president of CIBA and owner of the pet store Animal Crackers Kate Lindburg says it’s easy for anyone to join CIBA. The alliance has been helping locally owned, independent businesses find success in Corvallis since 2002.
This organization is dedicated to keepin’ it local… Criteria for membership includes that the owner must be a local resident, and the business must have a local mailing address. The owner must own more than 50% of the business (co-ops included), and must have full decision-making authority for the company.
“Most CIBA member businesses were started by an individual with a great idea,” Lindburg said. “Collectively they represent a wealth of knowledge learned the hard way and they are all happy to share what they’ve learned with those just starting out.”
The board of directors is interested in supporting new members at a reduced rate during their first year of operation. For a business with 1 to 14 full-time equivalent employees the membership costs $100 per year; 15 to 49 employees is $200, 50 to 99 employees costs $500, and 100 employees or more is $1,000 a year.
The alliance holds six informal networking events a year during January, March, May, July, September, and November. Lindburg says the networking events are a fun way to find a mentor, find business-to-business services, or simply get the inside scoop on how business gets done in Corvallis.
Corvallis Young Pros This organization is a bit different from the others in Corvallis. Its emphasis is on individually based networking rather than an entire business and its employees. They also encourage folks from other communities to join. According to its website, the organization’s original goal since 2009 has been to provide an opportunity for young professionals to meet and network through regular get-togethers at local establishments, thereby increasing the relevance of young professionals in the community.
Young Pros President Justin Vail says all a person needs to do to join the group is show up at an event. The organization also offers one thing its counterparts don’t. Membership cost? “Nothing,” Vail said. “We are an organization run by volunteer board members partnering with local businesses to showcase what Corvallis, and other surrounding areas, has to offer.”
The word “young” is also a loosely used requirement to be included in the group. Members can be anywhere from 24 to 40 years old, though professionals of any age are encouraged to join. Truth, their gatherings are gray-hair friendly and there’s often a few of the age 50 plus in attendance.
This group of over 300 people holds a casual meeting at a local hot spot from 5 to 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Some events include a guest speaker, special sponsors, and prizes for its members. Corvallis Young Pros’ next event is an Epic Spa Day scheduled for Tuesday, July 22.
Downtown Corvallis Association Any business owner in the downtown area will most certainly want to connect with the Downtown Corvallis Association (DCA). Corvallis’ downtown is unique and vibrant thanks largely in part to the many successful and diverse businesses that have joined the DCA.
DCA Executive Director Joan Wessell says downtown is the community’s living room, and it’s important to keep it strong. The organization has many resources and programs to help downtown startups and long-term businesses grow and thrive.
Membership in the DCA is voluntary and open to any business, person, or organization. For small businesses with 1 to 5 employees a membership costs $175; 6 to 10 employees is $250, 11 to 15 employees is $300, and over 15 employees costs $350. For non-profit organizations membership is $75, and non-district related businesses cost $100. For Friends of Downtown, who believe in the efforts of the DCA, membership is only $50.
There’s one thing the DCA makes available that can really boost a business that’s just starting.
“If somebody wants to fix up their space so they can open a business, we offer interest-free loans that can help with that,” Wessell said. “Anyone that’s a member can access those funds.”
The DCA holds monthly membership meetings, in addition to a monthly ad hour where business owners can gather and get better acquainted with their downtown neighbors. They also put on events like Rhapsody in the Vineyard twice a year and the Red, White, and Blues Festival that bring thousands of Corvallisites and visitors downtown.
The next DCA-sponsored events are the March Downtown After Hours on Thursday, March 13 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Rhapsody in the Vineyard will take place on Saturday, March 22 from 3:30 to 7 p.m.
Willamette Innovators Network This organization, like Corvallis Young Pros, has a very diverse membership list, and networking is a huge component of what they do. Willamette Innovators Network (WIN) board member Jason Prothero, senior architect of the web development and strategy firm ProWorks, says everyone from local business people and entrepreneurs to engineers, Oregon State students, and even investors join the group.
“The reason they come is to learn about key issues and trends that affect their business and help them make decisions about the direction their organization should take in the future,” Prothero said. “Also, there are many other like-minded people there, so networking is a big part of the events.”
A WIN membership is free, though events cost $10 to attend ($5 for students).
The Innovators host a monthly PubTalk on the second Tuesday of each month. In the fall, they hold a larger event called the Willamette Innovators Night where local startups and established companies showcase their work, connect with the community and each other, and oftentimes meet future employees.
The next Innovators Network event is about the new trend in wearable computing (think Google Glass), and will include three panelists from the local company Perpetua Power. It will be Tuesday, March 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Corvallis Sports Park, 175 SW Twin Oaks Circle. General admission is $10, or $5 for students.