Hilton Head-Bluffton chamber kicks off small-business week with barbecue

gmartin@islandpacket.comMay 14, 2012 

The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce kicked off its Small Business Week with a barbecue, at which it will help businesses learn to maximize the benefits of membership.

BY GRANT MARTIN

The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce kicked off its first full week dedicated to supporting small businesses with a barbecue Monday at its mid-island headquarters.

Wearing an apron to promote an online tool kit available to members, chamber president Bill Miles said the week marks a concerted and sustained effort to aid small businesses.

"We've had some individual events in the past, but we're packaging and promoting it differently this week," Miles said, adding that he hopes to have similar events in the future.

"We're expecting over 200 (attendees) today, and we're very pleased and optimistic about the way the week will go," Miles said.

Today, the chamber will host two workshops -- one teaching business owners how to get loans and make the most of them, and another on hiring and firing practices, with particular attention to South Carolina's E-Verify immigration requirements. Both seminars are free for chamber members; nonmembers pay $25 to attend.

The chamber will host its Small Business of the Year Award Luncheon on Wednesday, followed by a workshop Thursday on social media, which is already sold out.

The week's events are to remind and inform members of the resources available to them, according to Cathy Havens, the chamber's special-events and projects manager.

"There are really only two benefits a lot of our members are aware of: networking and being listed in our online directory," she said. "But we offer a lot more."

Tom Ridgway, vice chairman of the chamber's small- and minority-business council, said he's seen several small businesses fail because of inadequate preparation.

"I've seen people with a good concept, but they didn't know how to market and advertise themselves, and they weren't attuned as they needed to be with how to get through the slow season," he said. "That's what this week is for."

Doug Matney, a senior vice president of NBSC Bank in Bluffton, said he was looking forward to attending today's seminar on lending.

"For small businesses, their major needs are often capital and financing, how to purchase equipment and expand their staff," he said. "They're the backbone of the community."

Another barbecue attendee, Tim Lucas, was interested in today's lecture on hiring and firing employees.

"A lot of small businesses don't have (public relations) departments," said Lucas, who manages Hilton Head Health. "And any free advice is good for small businesses."

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