Posted by: Mike Clough

A New Business Model for 2011

small business networkingWith only a few days left before the end of the year, I have been wondering what information I could share with small business that would have the greatest positive impact on their business in 2011. Then it struck me.

A few months back, I was approached by a national membership organization that wanted me to establish their first chapter in the Twin Cities. In the process of doing my due diligence, the more I learned about MainStreetChamber™ (MSC), the more excited I became. There are three main reasons why I got so excited.

First, MSC specializes in helping micro (home-based) and small business owners promote their business. Because they are a national organization, members can belong to one chapter and participate in the activities of any other chapter. This is quite different from traditional Chambers that restrict membership to a specific chapter. And, this is not the only difference between a traditional Chamber and MSC.

Second, the MSC business model differs from the traditional Chamber model in one very important way. Traditional Chambers generate revenue from membership dues and event fees. Given the financial challenges faced by most small businesses, in many cases, owners simply cannot justify this expense. In contrast, MSC does not rely on revenue generated from membership dues or event fees. In fact, members are not required to spend a single penny!

Members of MSC enjoy free lifetime membership, free attendance at networking events and free opportunities to promote their business. Revenue for MSC chapters is generated from local and/or national sponsors and partners who offer various goods and services to members, who may or may not purchase them.

Considering the fact that current and prospective customers tend to view a business more favorably if they are a member of a Chamber, small businesses are thrilled when they discover that a lifetime membership in MSC is free! Members receive a great looking membership certificate they can hang on their wall and a member logo they can add to their website (see logo on the right of this blog), which gives their business more credibility with the public. Did I mention it was all free?

MSC also hosts monthly free events for small business owners in areas where they have chapters. Small business owners love these events because they are very well attended (usually 100+) as you can see from the video below. The only downside is that although they are the fastest growing Chamber in America, MSC is a little over six months old and has only 30-35 chapters nationwide. The good news is that new chapters are being established every month and sooner or later there will be one in your area. In the meantime, if you can’t find a chapter in your area, there are many virtual benefits you can enjoy. In addition, if the MSC business model appeals to you or someone you know, why not have them contact me and I will introduce them to people who can help them establish a chapter in their area?

Third, MSC is continually searching for innovative ways to help small businesses promote and grow their business. For example, as of the first of the year, they are introducing a new program called the VIP Membership program. There are two distinct parts to this program. One part of the program offers VIP Membership card holders discounts at thousands of local and national, online and offline businesses. The other part of the program provides MSC members with an opportunity to promote their products/services free of charge, which gives them both national and local exposure, in exchange for offering card holders a meaningful discount. What a great way to promote your business free while increasing sales and revenue!

mainstreetchamber vip membership card

Briefly, here is how the VIP Membership program works. Although the VIP Membership card has a suggested retail price of $399, MSC members and fundraisers can purchase them at wholesale for a mere fraction of that price (no more than the cost of an Entertainment book). The price is a one-time (lifetime), nominal fee, which gives the local MSC chapter the opportunity to make a profit on it. The big difference between the VIP Membership card and an Entertainment book is that consumers don’t have to purchase one every year and they are not limited to coupons which can be used only once. While the VIP Membership card isn’t free to the consumer, it is every inexpensive. This makes it a perfect fundraising vehicle similar to the Entertainment coupon book.

The biggest advantage to MainStreetChamber™ members who choose to become MSC VIP Discount Providers is that eventually hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of consumers will have a chance to do business with them because of the VIP Membership card. Did I mention that members can promote their business here for free?

Of course, there are many other benefits MSC offers to small businesses but I’ve run out of space. My intent was simply to make you aware of this organization and how you might take advantage of its many benefits during 2011, all at no cost.

To get your free membership, check out this chapter website. To learn more about MainStreetChamber™ visit their national website.

By the way, if you’ve been wondering whether or not I decided to take that offer to establish the first Twin Cities chapter after doing my due diligence, I did not. I got so excited that I bought the rights for the entire State of Minnesota. At this point, I have helped launch two chapters in Minnesota owned by others (the plan is to launch eight more by the end of 2011) and, in the last forty-eight hours, have negotiated the rights for Wisconsin and Illinois as well. If any of my readers are interested in establishing a MSC chapter in Minnesota, Wisconsin or Illinois, please contact me and I will explain the opportunity to you. If you are interested in establishing a chapter elsewhere, let me know and I will introduce you to the right people. For everyone else, I recommend that you become members as soon as you can! Chick here to do so now.

Editor’s Note [2/2/11]: Due to the many emails I have received about this post, I thought I would add a video of another event as it features comments from many members. Enjoy!

My wish to every small business worldwide for 2011 is prosperity and success. Happy New Year!!

If you would like to contact me, you can do so by visiting my LinkedIn page or emailing me at mike.clough@bestbizpractices.org.

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Responses

Mike, I am so excited for the opportunities that will available for the small businesses in Minnesota and believe 2011 will be a terrific year for MainStreetChamber. I couldn’t be happier to be part of the organization and look forward to helping grow our Twin City chapter

Lisa, it is exciting to see how useful small business owners find MainStreetChamber, isn’t it? You are a very important part of the Twin Cities team and Susan and the members are very fortunate to have you on her team. Thanks for your support and assistance.

This sounds terrific! Thank you very much for sharing the info.

Is there a group in CA – Specifically in the San Francisco Bay Area?

Thanks again
Ruby

Ruby, there are several in the San Diego and Sacramento areas, but none in the San Francisco Bay Area yet. Rest assured they will be before the end of 2011. Maybe you or someone you know will be the one to start it. :-)

Mike, I can’t wait till MainStreetChamber comes to Virgina Beach, Virgina area. I will definitely be a member and would love to be active in helping this organization grow.

Gloria, there is no good reason why Virgina Beach doesn’t have a MainStreetChamber chapter. All it takes is an entrepreneur leader and a couple thousand dollars in set-up and supplies to start. Ongoing overhead is extremely low (phone & fax) and it is a great business opportunity. Members love it because it pulls a lot of great people together for networking purposes at no charge. And the fact that member can advertise and promote their business free of charge through the VIP program, cause them to flock to you. Where else can they find that value? Sponsors that offer services that small business owners truly need will pay you for access to this group and the members are thankful that you brought them together. Many of the chapter owners have their own business that is targeted to small business owners and have seen their other business quadruple by offering their services to their members through their Chamber chapter.

So although I have been involved for only about four months (the organization is only about six months old), I haven’t found a downside for anyone. It seems to be a win-win for all. That is why I became involved in the first place and why I just expanded my buy-in to two additional states. If you would like to learn more, let me know and I will get you in touch with the right people. And even though there may not yet be a chapter in Virgina Beach, you should still become a member (for free of course). Although there are far more benefit with a chapter in your area, there are still many benefits in being a virtual member.

Mike, Yes, please send me information as I am interested in establishing a MainStreetChamber chapter, and yes I have already signed up as member. Thank You

Gloria, information is on the way. Let me know if you have questions. Since I am not in charge of Virginia, the next step would be to get you in touch with someone that is. I am happy to do so when you give me the word.

Happy New Year!

Congratulations on all this, Mike. It sounds like you’re having fun with it, and that’s great. In this area, one of the reasons the majority of businesses join the Chamber (it’s a sad commentary, I know) is for health insurance (with the group buying power and less expensive, although hardly affordable – many are ending or reducing coverage for employees – rates). Is this something the Main Street Chamber initiative is addressing or considering for the future? Groups like NFIB haven’t been able to offer anything useful in NYS (the laws are cumbersome), but wonder if this is something your group is looking into for each state? It would be wonderful is someone could come up with a national answer that allows access in the states. Thanks.

Thank you Nanette. Yes MainStreetChamber is trying to find a good solution. It seems that health insurance is controlled by each state which makes it difficult. It seems that if they ever change the laws so it is more like other insurance (auto, home, property & casualty) where it can be purchased across state lines it will be far easier to build large pools and increase competition that supposedly can drive down the costs. I have no idea if that will ever happen as I am sure the insurance companies with powerful lobbies, like it the way it is. Nonetheless, MainStreetChamber is looking for a good solution, just nothing I can brag about yet. In the meantime we are trying to help small biz owners increase their revenue so the financial burden is easier to bare.

Thanks for reading my post and taking the time to comment Nanette. Happy New Year!

Due to the many emails I have received about this post, I added a second video to the post and here are links to three LinkedIn group:

Minnesota: http://linkd.in/dYLPYl
Wisconsin: http://linkd.in/eGw9tN
Illinois: http://linkd.in/hEqrtA

For those desiring information from other states, drop me a note and I will get you whatever you need.

I hope this info is helpful.

Discovered Main Street Chamber while searching the internet. Your whole concept is fascinating. I have been to hundreds of networking events and your video looked nothing like them!

I am in Cleveland, Ohio and wanted to know how I can get a Main Street Chamber here?

Thank you and best success!

Nancy, I can’t see any good reason why Cleveland shouldn’t have a MainStreetChamber chapter. We now have four in the Twin Cities and six statewide. Our member growth is out pacing our chapter growth!!

Although I have no responsibility for Ohio, if you send me an email (mike.clough@mainstreetchamber.org) with your complete name, I will send you some information about it and if you are interested in moving forward from there, I would be happy to introduce you to someone that can help you in Ohio. Same goes for the rest of you regardless of what state you are in.

For any of you that may be in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois (where I do have responsibility), I would really love to chat with you! :-)

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