Small Business Season Spotlight:
The Cabot 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: 68
Members: 536. 75 new members in 2023. 2024 goal is 600 total members.
Service area: Cabot, Arkansas (nearby towns of Austin and Ward)
Staff size: two (and a half/PT) person staff
Named as one of the Top 20 Chambers in the State

Riding the Wave of Small Business Season into a Challenging January

Like many areas of the country, Cabot was impacted by bad weather in January 2024. The snow and treacherous conditions meant many members had to close, some for a few days. If they’re not open, they’re not making any money. Thankfully, the strong 2023 Small Business Season paved the way by educating the community on the importance of shopping local and supporting small business.

Gina Jones President & CEO shared, “Our members are really working hard right now. We're giving away gift cards (to get people out and spending money). We’re running a campaign called ‘There’s no place like Cabot’” to get more people out and spending locally.

Engaging Events

Gina Jones and Membership Director Rachel Abbott explained that events are a big part of what they do to engage the community and get members together. Social media plays a large role in their outreach as well.

Gina said, “We do a local lunch once a month at a member restaurant. Each month we draw for the next month to see who the location will be. We host a monthly Morning Brew, which is a coffee get-together. There’s a different group of people there than the ones who attend in the evening. Without a morning event, you might not see them. We host a Bowling for Business where we invite our members to come and play. We rent out the entire bowling alley in Cabot—32 lanes. Guests come in a team of five. The 1st round they play with their group. The second one is the networking round, and we mix and match players. It’s so much fun and we sold out within 24 hours. We also have a great time at our golf tournament.

One of our biggest events is the Christmas Open House. We host it on Sunday before Thanksgiving. Our member businesses sign up to participate. Any type of business can be a part of it, but they must be open on Sunday. We take care of all the adverts and tickets. Just for showing up at these businesses you get a ticket (for the raffle). For each additional $20 spent at a participating business, shoppers get another ticket. All participating businesses donate an item to our raffle. Last year, we were able to give away a prize basket valued at over $1,750 dollars. We also do Facebook Lives throughout the day to build on the excitement of the event.

You don’t even have to sell anything that day. We have a financial institution here that serves cookies. Most of the restaurants will have some type of table and some refreshments like cookies and hot chocolate. There's a couple of them that are basically there to introduce themselves (not sell products). Some of our restaurants and venues invited non-brick-and-mortar businesses to have tables in their location so they could participate too. That was a great way for us to spread the love and engage nonmembers and let them see what they're missing out on.

The event brings awareness and attention to where businesses are located. Each participant gets a ticket just for going into a participating business. That additional entry encourages them to get (another) entry into the grand prize drawing.

When we do our advertising for that event, we always list businesses’ addresses. We get comments every year like, ‘I didn't even know they were there.’ That's the whole point of this. It's to bring awareness to these businesses.

We also buy gift cards from every one of the participating businesses (if possible). And we catch people shopping at other places along the route. We surprise them with a gift card to another business to encourage more purchases and strolling around. Everybody gets really excited about it. We had several businesses tell us that this is their busiest and biggest sale day of the entire year. It’s a free event for the community.

We also do an ice cream social. Businesses set up and bring their branded canopies/tents. Several of them get creative with decorating. We have a theme and make homemade ice cream. Judges come in and decide winners in different categories. We invite our fire and police to come out and they have a meet-and-greet. This event is open to our members and their families.

Our school district is one of the largest in the state. We host a New Teacher Luncheon and Business Expo each year. It introduces our new people to local businesses too. Our businesses sponsor tables. Two people from that business can come and sit at the table and meet the new teachers.

Events Earn Their Spot

We have 14 annual events, and we usually throw in one or two new ones. We see which ones are working for and change it around if one works better than another. There’s a great staff here with me and we’re always looking for new ideas.”

Small Business Season

“We have an e-mail blast that goes out to our members year-round. Ahead of Small Business Season, we sent one out asking them to share with us their holiday specials. We tried to go through every one and share their posts on our Facebook page. It’s a perk of being a member. We touched so many people. We were able to share things that were specific to each business. That's something we really focused on. I got several text messages throughout the month from members asking if I could share their posts. We really tried to push them.

We also went into different places, we’d take pictures, post the pictures, and tag the business. We’d remind our audience about different things the businesses had going on, post their pictures, and give them a little shout out.

Work with the Press

Our local Good Morning show came out and did its segment here during Small Business Season. We were able to focus attention on local. They featured different people throughout Cabot. I didn't push the chamber side. I chose a few chamber member boutiques. We were able to model outfits and I read about it including where someone could get it. They also did a live segment, and we were all wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. We had hot chocolate. It was a fun morning promoting small businesses and new businesses that were coming to town.

Results of Small Business Season

We have gotten a lot of positive feedback. I can't tell you how many people have reached out to us saying what a wonderful campaign it was. It's helped our members. We had so many shares.

Looking Ahead to 2024

We will definitely host our Christmas Open House. We will use Facebook again for shout outs to different businesses. We like to let everybody know you can buy something for everybody in town. We’re not a huge population—about 27,000—but we have a lot to offer. We want to make sure everybody knows that.

Advice for Chambers That Want to Grow Small Business Season

Focus on your businesses and their specific needs. When we do our Facebook Lives and highlight a business, we focus on what they need to talk about or advertise. We showcase what they want to highlight, not just doing a shout out. That’s why we do shopping events and the different things to appreciate and advertise. The Christmas Open House is a nice preview for the holiday season. We have a lot of people who start and finish their holiday shopping during that one day—locally.

We're happy to help other chambers. We’re always studying different ideas from different chambers. I invite them to look at our Facebook page. Give us a follow and check out what we're doing here in town. Maybe they'll pick up some ideas on what we do that they may not do or give us a call. Anybody's welcome to call or e-mail us. We'd be happy to help however we can.

I like to think we've got some great ideas and we're looking forward to possibly implementing some new things too. I love the exchange between chambers.”


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