Small Business Season Spotlight:
Cynthiana-Harrison County Chamber of Commerce

In this spotlight series we are highlighting the successful efforts of chambers around the country that expanded their focus on serving small business throughout Small Business Season and beyond. In each installment the Chamber Pro shares a little bit about their chamber, their practices and programs, and offers some advice to replicate their success.

Chamber Facts

Years of Operation: 75
Members: around 220 members
Service area: Rural county chamber in Kentucky
Staff size: one (plus a high school senior intern)

We recently sat down with Tomi Jean Clifford, the Executive Director of the Cynthiana-Harrison County Chamber of Commerce to talk about their success in 2023 with Small Business Season.

Here's what she had to say:

Small Business Season - Go All In

"We decided this year to go all in. Every time Frank released the new like social media posts and content we shared them. We tried to really engage our small businesses through social media particularly.

But then we also took some of the content and printed it out on flyers and passed it around to businesses. Our social media campaign was a lot stronger this year (than in years past). That's what helped us and helped our businesses get really excited about it.

This past year, we also tied it into our Christmas elf promotion. My daughter dresses up as an elf and we go around to different small businesses highlighting some of the products they have. Everybody looks forward to it."

(And if you check out the cute picture in this article, you know why.)

Small Business Challenges

"At first,  it was just getting the businesses to get engaged. From the very beginning, we were all in it. The response back (to that) was great. We had a lot of them sharing the hashtag and they put the flyers up in their business. They shared stuff to the chamber page and things like that.

But initially it was just trying to get the buy in from them to realize:

Hey, we're all in.
We need you guys to be all in so that we can help you do better this season.

Serving Everyone

The campaign was open to everybody in the chamber community. We passed out flyers to everybody, which is not something we normally do. We usually try to stick to our Chamber members.

But the way the economy has been lately, we wanted to show support to all our businesses through the holidays.

It helped us in the long run. We ended up gaining a couple of members from that.​

A Tip from Small Business Season and Beyond

“Something that's worked well for us....

The feedback that we got from our small businesses is that they don't always have the money to donate toward promotions or items toward promotions or offer discounts.

So, we started making a big deal about anything. It began in Small Business Season and we've carried it through.

AI (Artificial Intelligence)

We're using AI all the time now. We use it to come up with promos, promotions, and specific things our small businesses can do. For instance, we used AI for the recent eclipse. We asked AI for examples of how a small business could get involved with the eclipse trend. It came up with an eclipse drink or suggested highlighting a specific item in the store for percent off or something like that.

We the passed those ideas along to our businesses so they could capitalize on eclipse-mania. Then we highlighted everybody doing promotions that involved the eclipse.

We're gonna continue to do that throughout the year. We had a business that participated with us for the eclipse. All they did was come up with some new drinks, and they said it was their busiest day yet so far. People were really excited about it.

​I love AI. I use it all the time...for bouncing ideas off of and brainstorming like I tell it I want to do a promotion involving this. How can I get my small businesses interested? Then it will spit back to me, Here's some ways...

I recently did it with the Derby, because we're in Kentucky. So I said 'how can I get my small businesses excited about this?' And it generated a couple ideas that I hadn't thought of and I shared them with my members.

AI speeds up the process and offers a unique perspective that I don't always see. It's especially (helpful) in a one-person chamber. It's just like having an (extra) employee.

Keeping the Momentum Going

We're getting our businesses engaged and showing them that we're all in, especially going into the holiday season where money is going to be more strapped.

​We're going to try to really pull the focus in on how can we tie that more into our Christmas elf. Maybe an elf scavenger hunt. We're getting businesses on board, offering similar things that tie into the promotion but doesn't necessarily cost them money. We'll help drive people to their doors.

Creating Experiences for Shoppers

For so many people shopping online is easier and more convenient. Sometimes it is cheaper. We have to give them an experience. We encourage our businesses to think what's gonna make them come to their business? They can do an interactive scavenger hunt, for instance. And that's gonna make them come inside. Or offer a special drink they can only get that week. It's just offering unique experiences that they can't get off the internet.

Looking Ahead in 2024

We're educating our small businesses on things that will be helpful now and in the upcoming season. We did a free session on AI for our small businesses around the end of October.

In it, we showed them how to:

  • market their business with AI
  • tag the chamber
  • use hashtags
  • ​use Photoshop

It was designed to dip their toes in, showing them some things that are going to be super helpful to their business if they were in retail or a restaurant during the holiday season.

We gave them pointers on why pictures and video are so important. We gave them some statistics about the people/demographic in our area that shops local and how to engage with their customers.

We introduced them to Lightroom and ChatGPT. I walked them through the basics of that and shared information on what we see happening with our businesses. We encouraged them to dive a little bit deeper and reaching out because sometimes businesses get stuck and they're not really sure what to do.

We kicked it off and then at the end of it we said if you would like more of this, there's a fee for services. We used it as a non-dues revenue opportunity by offering a  personal one-on-one session on how to use it afterward.

It was free for them to come and learn the basics and if they wanted more in depth we offered our services as well.

We did it for free because we really wanted them to be as prepared as they could be going into the holiday season. It was really well received. We'll probably do something like that again, because the content was good. We had a lot of great feedback from people who attended.

Looking for more? Check out our past Small Business Heroes:


Cabot Chamber of Commerce


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