Reflecting On 2020
By: Josh Cross, Interim CEO & President of the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce
2020 has brought its fair share of surprising challenges and hardships that the community and the Chamber have had to navigate. Despite the circumstances, I am glad to share that local businesses have used 2020 challenges as a catalyst to create innovative ideas and explored building new channels and foundations for growth. Retailers are selling products over social media platforms, restaurants are offering to-go cocktails, and wineries are hosting virtual tastings. Here at the Atascadero Chamber, we wasted no time retooling our offerings to ensure that we continued serving and supporting our business community to our best ability during this time. Our events got a makeover; they were now all socially distanced or virtual. We launched new programs that facilitated learning and online growth for business owners. To top it all off, the Chamber Board and team supported and initiated new opportunities for our business community to ensure their success for 2021 and beyond.
In light of COVID-19 restrictions, and with the focus of keeping our Atasca-amazing community safe, we changed how we did events. 2020 was a year of firsts for the majority of our events. We hosted our first Atascaopoly event, a month-long event filled with prizes and local shopping. Our goal was to encourage shoppers to visit and support local businesses while doing it safely on their own and throughout the month. In the end, we had over 25 stores that participated and over 300 visits to participating businesses, which was absolutely phenomenal!
We also had our first drive-through BBQ, a fun twist on Tuesdays in the Park. We partnered with organizations from all around the community to pull this off. We had music on Facebook LIVE during the event from the DuoTones, burgers by the Atascadero Kiwanis, food delivery by the Central Coast Roller Derby, floats and brews by Wild Fields Brewhouse, and a vegetarian meal option from the Central Coast Distillery. It really was a community event from the ground up, and I want to thank everyone that worked behind the scenes or that came out to have a good burger and support the event.
Last but not least, we launched a whole new lineup of virtual events and series to help keep our community connected and informed. First, we launched A-Talks, hosting speakers from the Atascadero City and San Luis Obispo County to provide critical updates. A-Talks also offered local businesses and non-profits the chance to share their passion and story with the community.
Then we kicked off two mini-series that run every week on our social media pages. First, we started Mondays with Josh & Vicki to give you the latest updates from our community at the beginning of every week. Then we met virtually with a local organization every Friday, providing them the chance to share more about their business in our series, Chamber Chats. (You can tune in to watch these series on our Facebook or Instagram page.)
The Chamber team also rolled out various educational programs and courses to equip our business owners with information and an online toolkit for success. We started Coffee Talks, where local experts shared their tips and tricks for success, from launching a website to working with influencers. Then we worked with our Diversity Council to launch DiversityWorks, helping share education information to foster inclusivity and understanding. Lastly, we started Workshop Wednesdays, a weekly webinar series covering everything business owners need to know to thrive online. Workshops ranged from understanding the importance of SEO for your website to learning how to use online data to make informed and insightful business decisions.
Finally, the Chamber team and I dug into creating and supporting new opportunities for our business. Part of that was advocating and facilitating discussion and conversation on Measure D-20. We knew that we needed more support from our fire and police departments for our business and residential community to continue to grow safely. The passing of the Measure allows for better staffing of our fire and police departments and provides them with the means for critical improvements resulting in increased safety and services from our first responders for all residents and businesses of Atascadero. I am pleased to say that this successfully passed.
However, your Chamber didn’t stop there – yes, the Measure would help support a safe environment for new and current businesses. Still, we wanted to provide more opportunities for entrepreneurs and new businesses in our community. That’s why the Chamber is working on building more private offices in BridgeWorks Co-Working space. These private offices will be open for entrepreneurs, businesswomen, and men to use come early 2021. The BridgeWorks space offers incoming business professionals complimentary use of a fully equipped conference room and kitchen. With some of the best high-speed internet around and in the heart of Atascadero’s downtown, it’s perfect for facilitating business innovation and growth.
While I can’t say for sure what 2021 has in store, I can confidently state that the Chamber is ready to continue to serve and work together with our incredible business community. If there is anything we can do to help support your business, please reach out to our team at (805) 466-2044 or at Josh@AtascaderoChamber.org; the team and I are here to help.
Interim President & CEO of the Atascadero Chamber | Josh Cross