The Chamber and The Business Community St Albans

Posted: 2nd January 2020, 1:36pm

The Chamber and The Business Community St Albans are both committed to bringing businesses together and recognise the value and support that each can bring to the other. Alastair Woodgate, President of St Albans District Chamber of Commerce, and Sue Wybrow, of The Business Community, got together just before Christmas to chat about their respective roles and organisations. Here we share with you the questions they posed to each other and the answers they gave.

Alastair: Sue, what is The Business Community?
Sue: TBC is a community of businesses of all shapes and sizes and in all different places in their business journeys. From start-ups, to multi million pound businesses - for us, it's all about the people behind those businesses. We provide a platform for businesses to connect, collaborate, exchange business, support and help each other across St Albans and the surrounding areas. Plus we have growing business communities in Enfield, Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Welwyn & Hatfield and also a Worldwide community.

Alastair: What motivated you to set up TBC?
Sue: Having started my own business back in 2009, Popdance, I wanted to work with other business owners, to share tips, ideas, brainstorm, and to have that help and support. So I simply started a Facebook group for all things business in St Albans and it sort of went a bit crazy from there! People were sharing incredibly valuable tips and knowledge, which was getting lost in the facebook stream - so we created a website to feature all of this juicy information that people could access forever, plus be able to showcase what they offer and how they help their customers - the TBC website is a great resource for businesses and the public. We have an online calendar as well detailing business and "for pleasure" events that our members run in the area - which we share across our popular social media channels as well. So it's a fantastic way of getting your events, your business, your tips etc. out to a ready-made, wide and active audience.

Sue: So, Mr President 😉 - we understand you have been President for 18 months (not since 1907!) - what does the role of President entail?
Alastair: My role is to represent the membership and to act as a spokesperson for members in discussions with other groups and organisations, at District, County and occasionally national level. In recent weeks I’ve had meetings with national politicians on the election trail, to alert them in particular to the need for Business Rate reform, I’ve spoken at a Council Business Summit about the challenges and opportunities for local businesses and I’ve met a number of charities and local organisations. At formal occasions I wear a very impressive chain of office, carrying the names of all the former Presidents, which has led to me being mistaken for the Mayor more than once!

Sue: Can you tell us a bit more about the Chamber and what you guys offer to businesses in the local area?
Alastair: St Albans and District Chamber of Commerce was formed in November 1907 to 'further the interest of businesses in the area ensuring positive growth and development'. We are still committed to these objectives, providing a forum for networking in St Albans and aiming to be a 'voice' for our members. The opinion of the Chamber is one valued by many other organisations. We aim to help ‘join the dots’ – identifying where one business can support and/or benefit from another, organising introductions, and bringing businesses together. We want to inspire one another and expand opportunities for all – upholding the reputation of the Chamber as a good place to do business and of businesses doing good. Through all of this it’s also about having fun in business!

Alastair: Is there a typical TBC member?
Sue: Nope - we are all unique in our own ways! The great thing about TBC is that everyone is welcome. There are no "lock-outs" or anything like that. For us it's about the people - people buy from people! So whilst we may have a number of photographers in the community, they are all different - and it's great to see them working together rather than against each other. Often work is passed to others in the same field, and people get to know the kind of work that businesses specialise in - making it even easier to pass them the right kind of work.

Alastair: You’ve got a conference coming up in February – tell me more.
Sue: We do and we are really excited about it. It's called The Business GameChanger and it's going to be exactly that! A real GameChanger for many businesses. Quite often we can get caught in the trap of doing the same thing and wondering why we aren't reaching our goals as quickly as we'd like to, or not getting the work/life balance that we strive for. The Business GameChanger will give people tips and tactics that they can implement the very next day that WILL be a GameChanger for them. We've got international speakers, Steve Clarke and Simon Leslie - both incredible entrepreneurs who have grown their businesses to absolutely incredible levels - who will be leading the conference and motivating, inspiring and helping us to get to where we want to in our businesses - plus we have amazing exhibitors who are there to help and support us in all aspects of running a business. And we have a deeeelicious lunch in the gorgeous restaurant, and a speed networking opportunity in the afternoon - where you can connect with hundreds of businesses in the area. Book your tickets now as we only have capacity for 300 and tickets are going fast - it's on Friday 7th February 2020 at Rothamsted Conference Centre in Harpenden - book here -

Sue: And you put on lots of events during the year don't you - what kind of events are they? We hear the St Georges Day lunch is always a sell out within minutes.
Alastair: We do! Our regular events range from Business Breakfast Meetings with a guest speaker, to speed networking sessions, less structured lunchtime get-togethers and New Members’ evenings. The St George’s Day Lunch is one of the highlights of the year and, as you say, sells out in minutes! It’s a great occasion and also raises significant funds for local charities. We also hold a black-tie Winter Ball that again supports charities locally. And in June every year we hold a one-week long Business Festival combining workshops, seminars and a variety of CPD and CSR events – all designed to bring the business community closer together, to share ideas and challenges and to build a network of great local referrals. All the great work being done in our District is celebrated annually through our Community Business Awards. At our first three networking events in 2020 we’ll have presentations from St Albans BID (Business Improvement District), The Chief Executive of St Albans District Council (to review the Council’s achievements over the last year and their aspirations for the next year) and from Luton Airport about the potential physical and economic effects of its proposed expansion on the District. And we have a monthly newsletter to keep everyone abreast of news and events.

Sue: Is the Chamber for members only?
Alastair: Not at all – all our events are also open to non-members, though once a non-member has attended three events, they are invited to become a full member. The non-member rate to attend events is, understandably, higher than for members.

Sue: What kind of businesses join the Chamber - does it tend to be larger businesses or do you get sole traders as well?
Alastair: Membership is right across the board. Chamber members range from sole traders through to the city’s biggest employers. This gives smaller and newer businesses the chance to interact with larger organisations. And our members represent all trades and professions.

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