The county has a business-friendly chamber

By Vicki Brown

Mark Wysong is the new director of the Chamber of Commerce. Since his induction into the position, more than 30 companies have joined the Chamber in the past 30 days, with more set to join. He plans to double that number by mid-summer.

He knew he had little time to make the Chamber impactful. He first wanted members to know why the Chamber was so important, how it could help them, and exactly where their money was being spent once they became members.

“Working for the Chamber is a free effort; we don’t want salaries because we are ambassadors, and giving of our time is an investment in the community. “The Chamber is my investment. I want to lead by example, so we’re all investors,” Wysong said. “Everything we do here has been donated and is designed to be a resource for businesses and the business community,” Wysong said. “Everyone comes together because they see the greatest good in what we do. The Chamber is not only an investment of money, it is also an investment of time.

According to Wysong, the Chamber not only has board members, but also ambassadors. “Our ambassadors are process owners who specialize in different business areas for the chamber. We have legal, business, membership, public affairs, government liaison and outreach ambassadors. We have 16 ambassadors who come to help the chamber as volunteers who are also investors. A potential member of the Chamber will come and have everything explained by an ambassador who invests his time. They do this because the Chamber is an investment, so they invest their time for the greater good of the community.

Wysong says he is grateful to people like Stewart McAdoo of EIS who donated the computers for a We Work Center. McAdoo believes in investing in the Chamber, and he’s not alone.

Hundreds of hours have been spent on the refurbishment and renovation of the building, including the installation of production rooms and soundproof rooms by volunteers and ambassadors. According to Wysong, it would have cost over $30,000 to renovate the building, but the ambassadors invested their time to get the job done.

He is particularly proud of the Chamber’s We-Work Center. “The We-Work Center is designed for small business owners who do not have offices, meeting rooms or conference rooms. Some larger companies also don’t have conference room space. So we have space here that they can check out on a first-come, first-served basis if they’re members of the House,” Wysong said. “Business owners can use state-of-the-art meeting rooms, copier, computer and printer. They can come in and work here and use the private meeting room for trainings and zoom meetings.

When a business partner signs up for the Chamber, 100% comes back and is used to improve the business and the surrounding community.

It is especially important for new business owners or those looking to start a business.

“A lady came in saying she wanted to start a business but didn’t know how. Our ambassadors accompanied her throughout the process and helped her prepare to start her business. It’s the heart and soul of what we do here at the Chamber,” Wysong said, explaining the different levels of membership in the Chamber. “Previously, if you wanted to use the Chamber’s facilities, you had to rent them. But now these facilities are free with your membership.

The Chamber offers membership levels that provide everything a business needs. The very generous upper tiers help sponsor the lower tiers which are made up of new businesses that are starting up and need a helping hand. These big companies are the benefactors of small companies. They are reinvesting in Colleton County and the business community. This is an investment in the economy and the county, which benefits everyone.

The Bronze level, which is the base level, starts at $350. It offers the following:

-Access to the “We-Work” space depending on availability.

-A feature article in the Colletonian Business Journal, 1/8 page upon joining.

-Media production to produce commercials and TV segments to air on PRTC’s channel and other select networks and channels (Roku/Hulu/Bounce).

-Legal services available – consultation and basic legal questions *additional charges may apply.

– Large opening/ribbon cut.

– Social media posts and blasts to promote your business as events happen.

-Live Facebook promotional event in your business.

– Information in the business directory included.

-Website integrated with Chamber website – also includes web content development and updates (website creation may incur an additional fee, $125, half the typical cost).

– Business referrals by phone, media, email and in person

-Ability to add events to the calendar.

As more money is invested and different tiers are purchased, more ad time is added. Levels start with Bronze ($350); Silver ($750); Gold ($1,500); Platinum ($3,000); and Diamond ($5,000). The higher the level, the more money is reinvested in the business community.

Principal members of the House are Margie Bright Matthews; Colleton County Museum and Farmer’s Market; PRTC; Make Walterboro Better, LLC; the city of bees; Colleton County School District; Colleton County Medical Center; EIS Advisory Group; Essence; and the Geodigital Broadcast Network.

“We can provide marketing and advertising to businesses at a fraction of what it would normally cost,” Wysong said.

The Chamber advertises from Georgetown to Hilton Head and broadcasts through various media and social media inside and outside the county. With Chamber membership, space is purchased for advertising. The rear production space in the building allows the Chamber to create commercials, talk shows or informational videos. “We want to produce the Business Journal for television, as well as in the newspaper, and create our own advertisements that will run on five different platforms in different counties the first week of every month. In the company newspaper, there is no advertising, just a focus on creating positive business articles or stories about the people behind the company,” Wysong added.

The video production aspects of the Chamber are led by veteran videographer Russ Rutan. Part of the room where he works is painted green, while another part is painted blue. “We use Chromakey. Blue and green work well with video editing and production and different backgrounds can be added. I can put you anywhere in the world with these green and blue walls,” Rutan said. “I can use the camera and put everything on TV. We can produce video and use our soundproof room. For new businesses wishing to advertise or upcoming events in the county, this room will prove an invaluable tool in disseminating information to the public.

What’s fascinating is that Wysong and its ambassadors did all of this in 90 days. He said: ‘This is prosperity for everyone, and the House must prosper to have an impact on the county and the Lowcountry. So many companies are eager to get involved, but we still have a lot to do.

Future plans include having coffee in the chamber on Fridays so members can sit down and talk. There are also plans to develop a business calendar that will incorporate all information on businesses and events sponsored by the Chamber. Planned events will impact existing businesses and create new ones that focus on city and county improvements.

Wysong is pleased with the progress made so far, but knows the Chamber needs more investors. “The Chamber is designed to be the ultimate business resource center for businesses in the county, and we welcome anyone who wishes to join as an investor in the progressive Walterboro-Colleton Chamber of Commerce.”

The Chamber is located at 209 East Washington Street in downtown Walterboro. For more information, call 843-549-9595, connect on Facebook, www.walterboro.org or [email protected]

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