Chamber Initiatives Targeting Small Business

By Amos Maki

The Greater Memphis Chamber’s Small Business Council is launching three initiatives aimed at helping small-business owners find answers to some of their most vexing questions and identify tools and resources for growth.

The group already has rolled out one of the new small-business tools and the other two will be introduced in the coming months. The initiatives were based on feedback from owners of local companies.


“We asked our small businesses what they needed most from us,” said Amanda Edmundson, member services project manager for the chamber.

Edmundson said the goal of the programs is to eliminate some of the internal problems that can often sink small businesses. More than 50 percent of small businesses fail because of internal deficiencies instead of externally generated issues, according to research from the National Federation of Independent Businesses. To combat this, the chamber recently launched Advice on Tap, which seeks to answer the many questions small-business owners have by giving them access to free 30-minute consultations with established business leaders who are chamber members.

Open to chamber members and non-members, Advice on Tap gives small-business owners the opportunity to receive one consultation per area of expertise, including accounting, human resources, accounting and expansion strategy.

Mentor Memphis, which will be launched in the spring, connects small-business owners with a seasoned mentor who can help them troubleshoot answers or grasp new business opportunities.

“This is a hands-on effort with our businesses, one-on-one contact with them to provide services,” Edmundson said.

Small-business owners highlight areas they most need help with and are connected with mentors who can help solve their business-related issues. Mentors are available on a six-month consulting basis for a minimum of two hours per moth.

While some personal mentoring may occur, the program is focused on business mentoring, connecting small-business owners with other professionals who have faced similar problems or opportunities.

“Mentor Memphis is unique in that it is not so much one-on-one personal development, it’s more of a business mentoring program,” Edmundson said.

Mentor Memphis is free to chamber members and available to non-members for a $250 fee. Mentor Memphis and Advice on Tap use a software system developed by the Memphis-based startup Mentor Me, which provides a cloud-based Web application to connect mentees with the right mentors.

Mentor Me uses information supplied by both parties to make more successful mentoring matches.

Chamber Direct provides small-business owners with a direct link to a regional network of potential business partners. Chamber members will have access to information about insurance requirements, procurement needs, contract bidding, points of contact and other information for dozens of regional companies and government agencies. If a local small business is interested in doing business with another local company, they’ll be able to find information on that company’s requirements through the Chamber Direct website. Small businesses are the backbone of the local and national economies. More than 80 percent of the chamber’s roughly 2,300 members have 100 employees or less. Helping those small businesses survive and thrive, Edmund said, grows the economic pie for everyone.

“The chamber is the leading economic development agency in Memphis, and with these programs we are offering, we want our small businesses to know we are here to help them grow in any way we can,” Edmundson said. “This is very important for economic development.”