Anthony Around Town
SMALL BUSINESS FRIDAYS
Elko Area Chamber of Comerce CEO
If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city! It’s going to be much fun, so, without further ado, let’s get started!
When trying to decide whom to pick for our first small business feature, there were many options to consider. However, we figured why not start with the person whose job it is to help a lot of the businesses we’re going to be talking to, flourish and succeed. Yes, we’re talking about Billie Crapo, the CEO of our local Chamber of Commerce. Before we hear a little bit about her perspective on local business, let’s hear a bit of her story! “I’m actually a native of Northern Idaho. I was born and raised in Kellogg, Idaho. I was married previously, and my husband worked at the mines, but the mines shut down there, so we ended up in Arizona. The mines started shutting down there, as well. So, we moved to Elko in 1995. When we moved here from Arizona, my son was very excited to have snow finally! I had the honor and privilege of being a stay-at-home mom for a while. I served in my church and worked with their youth groups. In 2006, I ended up getting a divorce and, therefore, needed a job that would pay me money! I went and applied at the Chamber and was hired right then. I started out doing membership and then moved on to work membership, events, and sales. We decided to split those roles into two positions, and I just did events and sales until I was moved into the CEO position in 2016. It’s been the perfect job for me because I get to help people and I get a paycheck for it! I love going to work; it makes me happy! Oh, and I have to say, we have an amazing staff down at the chamber!”
Yes, all the women down at the chamber are wonderful people! Billie also mentioned to me that, after remarrying, she and her husband now are parents to five boys! So, I’m sure Billie appreciates her time at the office with the girls, very much! Now, as someone who has worked at the Chamber, assisting Elko area businesses for a dozen years, what have been your observations when it comes to local commerce? “I love this community; I don’t see myself living anywhere else besides this community. But the fact of the matter is, there’s a lot of transitional workers here and a lot of people who don’t see this as their “home”, so they don’t have that same community connection as some other people. Shopping local, supporting local businesses, it just isn’t as important to them as it is to me or the Chamber because that’s what we’re all about! Some people just haven’t had that same connection, and I think that’s what may be hurting some of our smaller businesses. Yes, you can go on Amazon and buy an item for a few dollars less than buying the same thing here in town; however, buying that item locally guarantees that those dollars stay in your community. When your little kids are in baseball or gymnastics, they may need to go out to talk to a business about a donation or fundraiser…Amazon isn’t going to be the one to give those dollars away; you can try, but it’s not going to happen. It’s the people in this community, specifically, the small businesses who will be the first ones to give. I’m an avid (shop local) person, not because it’s my job, but because this is my town! In return, that’s how we get out roads fixed, that’s how we get our tax money, that’s how our children go to school.”
You’ve interacted with a lot of different businesses and owners over the years, Billie. If someone reading this may have plans on starting a small business one day, what words of wisdom would you be able to pass onto them from your experiences? What is the recipe for a successful business in the Elko area? “I think the main thing is first seeing what the community is looking for; what needs does it have? Then, put together a great business plan. The next thing would be acquiring a great staff; you’re not always there, and your staff reflects on you. So, educate them on what good customer service looks like. I also think your businesses’ location and advertising are important. I sometimes worry when a business is struggling and one of the first things they cut is advertising. Those businesses tend to disappear. I also encourage businesses to mentor with each other. Businesses don’t need competition; they need friends.”
Those are solid points, Billie! What would you say is the Chamber’s role in helping support local businesses as they look to encourage customers to patron their establishments? “We have a lot of little-hidden TREASURES in our community that may not be quite appreciated, and that’s what our job at the Chamber is, to get those businesses out there! We want to help them keep their doors open! We are a non-profit organization funded by our members, our sales and advertising, and our events, but we do many things to educate our business owners and leaders every month. We bring the Department of Labor in so people can make sure they’re following all the labor laws. We go through thousands of bills during legislative years to pick out the ones that are going to affect our members. If a business needs to know something, we want to help them get the answers. Yes, we serve our Chamber members, but we really serve our community. We want our community to be great by being an advocate for our businesses.”
I know a lot of businesses and members of our community appreciate you and everyone down at the Chamber for all you do, Billie! Thank you so much for believing in and supporting what’s here, locally!