By Tom Dwyer
These days, running a business is not easy. The volatile stock market is creating heartburn for many and shoppers are holding on to their money. One thing that business people in Hudson County are doing to get a leg up, is networking with other business people at events promoted by the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce. It’s a smart way to find out what’s working and not working for other businesses and a great way to pitch one’s own company. The Hudson County Chamber of Commerce, located at 660 Newark Avenue in Jersey City, has been a center of networking for businesses since 1888 when it started as the Jersey City Chamber of Commerce. With close to four hundred members, the organization provides support for Hudson County businesses.
Joanne Vandorn, the president of HCCC has been with the organization since 1992 and the president of the organization for the past five years. Before joining the chamber, she was the assistant executive director for the Jersey City Economic Development Association. “We’re here to help companies in Hudson County who are interested in growing. We are an advocacy group that helps with certain legislative concerns that companies might have, and, are a countywide resource when it comes to running a business,” Vandorn said.
The organization is open to companies located in Hudson County, no matter what the size. One of the immediate benefits of being a member is having access to other members through the website where discounts are available from one company to another. Also HCCC has monthly business card exchanges at different venues around the county. “This is a great way for individuals to really get to know one another and have face to face conversations on the business concerns that matter most to them,” Vandorn remarked. “And of course, there is nothing like networking to build a company.”
Some companies sponsor HCCC events to get the word out on a project they are promoting. HCCC helps promote the event by contacting all members of the chamber letting them know about the upcoming event.
Lillian Hernandez, the Hudson County director of Dress for Success, the national non-profit organization that helps disadvantage young women become financially independent by providing professional attire and career development has been a member of HCCC for three years. “Our organization has found the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce very helpful. I think it’s important, especially if you are a non-profit like us, to be a member of the chamber. It’s more than just about networking; it’s about meeting other agencies and corporate sponsors. And the chamber has been a great place for us to get the word out on who we are and what we do. We have received a great deal of help from other members of the chamber over the past few years,” Ms. Hernandez said.
One of the companies Dress for Success met by being a member of HCCC was Liberty Savings Federal Credit Union. “Liberty Savings came to our organization and gave financial literacy seminars to out clients. This was extremely beneficial for our clients and the staff. And, whenever we do special events, Liberty Savings has always been there for us with information and funds,” Hernandez explained.
A Jersey City business that has seen real results by being a member of HCCC is Brennan’s Florist, located on Newark Avenue in Jersey City. Terence Brennan, who was born in Jersey City, has been a member for ten years. “The resources we have gotten out of being a member have really helped our business, especially through the business card exchange. I’ve received calls from out of state from people looking for a florist and they had called the chamber and we were referred. One never knows who they will meet going to these meetings. We just switched our business account over to Provident Bank who we met at one of the events,” Brennan said. Brennan believes that the HCCC is a good thing to belong to and a great organization for Hudson County. “The services they offer are really good for growing a business. I have gotten a number of corporate accounts and wedding functions through the HCCC from attending the events,” Brennan remarked.
Andy Correa, a young entrepreneur from Union City, is not a member of HCCC, but he has attended a few of the business card exchanges and liked what he saw. “I attended a card exchange meeting last year and found the people really nice and met a number of other small companies looking for help,” Correa said. His start-up company, DrewCrewDesigns, a minority owned company located in Union City, does graphic design for businesses. “The event I went to with a friend was impressive because we got to network with a lot of different types of businesses, and got a boatload of business cards, which was great.” Correa also mentioned how he got to speak with large financial companies who were present at the event. “I got to speak to a number of large banks like Merrill Lynch. They invited us to other events that they were hosting where we could learn about growing our business.” Correa is leaning toward joining HCCC. He is even contacting a person he met at the event he attended—the Coordinator of the Spanish Heritage Parade in Union City.
With dozens of events each year, HCCC is a great place to promote your business no matter what the size of the company, Vandorn believes. “If you come to events, you need to mingle and talk. If you just come with a group of friends and stand in a corner and just talk with them, or come by yourself and don’t mingle, then you are probably not going to make a new business connection. The purpose of the HCCC is to introduce companies to companies. And, we see results all the time…but, it takes work,” Vandorn said.
The next Hudson County Chamber of Commerce Business Card Exchange will be held on February 27th. For more information on the HCCC go to www.hudsonchamber.org