Hazel Park, Madison HeightsJune 19, 2013
New director gets started at Chamber of Commerce
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
MADISON HEIGHTS/HAZEL PARK — There are around 300 businesses in the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce. Together, they enjoy educational opportunities and networking functions that can lead to new clients and collaborations. And the more businesses that join, the more connections that can be made.
Keri Valmassei knows this. As the chamber’s new executive director, she notes there are around 2,000 businesses across Madison Heights and Hazel Park — and she’s determined to see as many of them join the chamber as possible.
“The potential for growth is amazing,” Valmassei said.
Valmassei, a Royal Oak resident, formally began work as the new executive director on June 3. The previous director, Alan Horn, left to pursue new opportunities.
The new director brings with her the perspective of someone who grew up the daughter of entrepreneurs, and who herself went on to start her own business.
At age 11, Valmassei’s parents founded a garage door business in Monroe that they ran until about two years ago, when her father passed away.
“I learned how many hats they had to wear (as business owners),” Valmassei said.
After graduating from Monroe High, she attended Michigan State University. Following college, Valmassei and a partner started an independent record label called Yikes that they ran for about five years. Her most recent entrepreneurial venture was her consulting firm, Rock Solid Leads and Marketing Messages. She was also previously the regional marketing manager for WOW! Internet Cable Phone in Madison Heights.
Now she’s heading up the local chamber, familiarizing herself with the diverse array of businesses that comprise its membership — everything from established international organizations to mom-and-pop shops, home-based businesses and fledgling upstarts. Restaurants, beauty salons, computer repair, manufacturing — the businesses in the chamber run the gamut.
That variety is why membership to the chamber is worth the average $100 a year that members pay to be a part of the network, Valmassei said.
“You get all of these opportunities to network and belong to the many smaller groups the chamber has,” Valmassei said.
One such group is called Business Referral and Networking Development, or BRAND. Here, members share their business situation in a supportive environment, bouncing ideas off one another and forging relationships that can prove beneficial.
As Paul Schoenbeck, the chamber president, explains, “The chamber acts as your sales force, but then the other members do the same. They look out for each other, and leads are passed where potential business comes your way.”
Then there are the educational opportunities, which have included a seminar with the U.S. Post Office on how to best use direct mail, a presentation on using social media to advance one’s business, and more. These seminars are especially helpful to small companies that might not have the means to hire a private consultant.
The chamber is also a way to give back to the community, awarding scholarships to students and grants to businesses to help develop their facades, landscaping and signage.
“This benefits the area with the way it looks,” Schoenbeck said. “We look to be a full-faceted chamber with a priority on the businesses, but we do not neglect or exclude the community in general.”
Valmassei said she’s eager to meet with each business, listening to their needs and helping to identify potential matchups with other member businesses.
“Right now, I’m getting some feedback,” Valmassei said. “The umbrella goal is to increase membership and make that membership more valuable, with a more robust chamber that offers more.
“I’m excited,” she added. “It’s a challenge, but I’m glad to be in a position where I can help our local economy.”
Schoenbeck said he has every confidence Valmassei will accomplish just that.
“I’m excited about Keri and what she brings to the chamber,” Schoenbeck said. “Her personality is contagious; she has a real woo factor. She’s a really likeable person with a very positive outlook on life. And the knowledge she brings, from a business point of view, is outstanding.
“She has a lot of experience, and that entrepreneurial spirit that was bred in her by her upbringing and family background,” he said. “She’s going to bring innovation and ideas to the chamber that will be awesome.”