Insider insight: How the Lewisville-Clemmons Chamber of Commerce is approaching goals from a membership perspective

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 18, 2024

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By Chandler Inions

CLEMMONS — Behind every great business is a great chamber of commerce. That is what the Lewisville-Clemmons Chamber of Commerce strives to be for its members every day.

The current chamber staff, Executive Director Denise Heidel and Events and Communications Coordinator Angelia Cornatzer, bring a unique perspective to the organization’s goal because they have been on the other side as members, and Heidel’s relationship with the chamber goes back even further.

Heidel wrote for Forsyth Magazines, and she often wrote about the chamber and special events.

“I knew about the chamber from that perspective,” Heidel said. “When I stepped away from the magazines in 2017, I worked for another company and started my own business in 2019 and the first thing I did was join the chamber. I already had a relationship and I knew the benefits of the chamber.”

Initially, her role with the chamber was as a program coordinator, during which time, she helped establish the Leadership Lewisville-Clemmons program.

“I spearheaded that program, and then when my predecessor resigned, the board of directors asked me if I would step in in July 2021,” Heidel said. “It was one of those really cool things for me because I had a really good relationship with the chamber. I knew the value of the chamber, and I loved the chamber. It was one of those things I thought from time to time would be a really cool job, but I never thought I would have the opportunity.”

Heidel is not the only one with the background that affords her a glimpse from both sides.

“Angelia brings a unique perspective to the chamber,” Heidel said. “She has only been with us for a month, but she is a previous chamber member herself.”

Cornatzer added, “I joined the chamber a few years ago as a member,” Cornatzer said. “I think the impact of the chamber is priceless in just providing that network of people who are doing the same thing you are and going through the same things you are. It’s cool to see the bonds of the members and just supporting them in creating those bonds with the community.”

During the last three years, the decisions Heidel has made for the chamber and the things she has put in place for it have been based on that experience as a member.

“What would I want, and what would I want it to do for me?” she said. “Now, with Angelia coming in and a similar situation — a former member who is now in a role within the chamber helping to drive the momentum and helping to really take new ideas and put her arms around them.”

Heidel commended her predecessors on the work they did in helping curate the chamber’s benefits and programs, but added, “this is just a unique angle that we have the benefit of having.”

So, what do some of those changes look like?

“My impression has been in the past that members were responsible for maintaining their member benefits and making sure that they ask for them,” Heidel said. “We set up a member request form, which is like a one-stop-shop place where members don’t have to remember did I send this or did I send that. It’s just like a hub that is part of our signature line, and it’s in every email we send out.”

Another marquee element to the Heidel’s vision is the Lewisville-Clemmons Chamber of Commerce Membership Guide and Partnership Menu.

“Everything you need to know about the chamber is in here,” Heidel said of the guide, which they will do again in 2025 and future years.

Cornatzer added, “We want everybody who is a member to feel empowered and informed. Here it is.”

Heidel and Cornatzer truly care about the chamber and its members.

“I pray for our chamber community all the time,” Heidel said. “It is a very big part of my life. I care about these people, and I want them to be successful. I am not here thinking, what can all of our members do for the chamber? I want this to be a servant leadership organization where we are giving back to our members, and they recognize the value that we are trying to give them.”

With the function of serving the members as their utmost priority, the chamber staff wants to keep things relational.

“One of my favorite things to do is sit down with someone and have a cup of coffee,” Heidel said. “I am not asking someone to take this book and figure it out. Let’s have a conversation; tell me about your business and what your goals are. The more I know about our members, the more I can point them in the right direction.”

The chamber is not limited to businesses within the town limits of Lewisville or the village limits of Clemmons.

“A lot of misconception is that you have to have a business in Lewisville or Clemmons to be a part of the chamber,” Cornatzer said. “We have businesses that are not even in the state. If you are trying to reach people in Lewisville, Clemmons or the surrounding area, we can help you do that.”

Their continued commitment to that vision is paying off in dividends. The chamber experienced a 15 percent net growth in membership during 2023.

“We have been having record-breaking registration for our chamber meetings,” Heidel said. “Our February chamber meeting was our highest-attended meeting ever in the history of the chamber.”

According to Heidel, last year, the chamber saw the average meeting attendance grow by 35 percent over 2022. So far this year, it is up another 22 percent.

“Chamber meetings are one of the most popular benefits that we offer,” Cornatzer said. “We have been very diligent in making sure we are lining up dynamic speakers that will benefit our chamber business community as well. We don’t want to wait until the 11th hour; we will be planning 2025 starting in May.

In June and July, they will start scheduling speakers and compiling our new book to be distributed in September.

“We are trying to find people who have inspirational stories,” Cornatzer said.

Heidel added, “Last November, we were thrilled to have Gary Chapman speak. We have people all over the community who might not even be members asking if they could come to the meeting. It was up until February, our biggest chamber meeting. We have had two record breaking months within the last six months.”

One thing Heidel tries to hone in is a word of the year. It’s something she has used to steer the chamber since coming on board.

“As a word of the year student, it’s not just, oh, this is a cute word, or this is our New Year’s resolution,” Heidel said. “We really try to integrate it. Since I have been in this seat, the year I joined, the word was reboot. Then, my first full year, it was engaged. Last year was purpose, and this year is impact.

We are consciously deliberate with that word throughout the whole year. That tends to drive a little bit on how we select speakers as well.”

While Cornatzer might be new to the chamber, Heidel said it’s like she has been there for years, catching on quickly to their missions and goals.

Cornatzer started in her current role, overseeing communications and events, in March.

“I love both of those things, because I feel like In order to know about things, they need to, one, be communicated and then the events are where the relationships happen for our members. Its were referrals and leads happen as well.

“I am excited to provide more opportunities for members to connect and thrive and for them to grow as leaders in their businesses and relationships.”

Cornatzer worked for MP&F Strategic Communications in Nashville before moving to Clemmons.

“I worked a lot in ministries and nonprofits as well,” Cornatzer said. “I am just really passionate about people and the community as a whole.”

So far, that sense of community has continued to rise to the top.

“The biggest thing is just emphasizing what a relational chamber we have,” Heidel said. “I have never been a member of another chamber. I just know this one. What I hear a lot and see a lot is how special the culture is in this chamber.

“My favorite word is co-opetition. I see it a lot in this chamber. It is really special to see everything from our leaders groups to our chamber meetings. There is just a friendliness.”

Looking toward the potential in the newfound partnership with Cornatzer, Heidel pointed to their differences that make this a perfect match.

“This is where Angelia and I make a great team,” Cornatzer said. “I am naturally introverted. Angelia is just a social butterfly. Between the two of us, that is something that we were able to collaborate very very beautifully.

People just really love each other in this community, and they want each other to do well and I feel blessed that I get to link arms with Angelia everyday and we get to do our small part in our little corner of the world to try and make Lewisville and Clemmons a better place.”