© Dave Mathieson - Cumberland News Now
Gladys Coish, chamber president, speaks during the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commers general meeting.
AMHERST - Organizers had to scramble to find extra chairs after more people than expected showed up to the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce general meeting at the Dominion Public Building on Tuesday.
Chamber members, business people and educators gathered as chamber committee members tabled their plans for the upcoming year.
"Our ‘Get Connected' strategy has been our top priority over the summer, with the focus being on the needs of our membership," said Gladys Coish, chamber president, during the meeting.
Chamber committee members spent the spring and summer speaking to small business stakeholders throughout the community.
"We added several new committees that have been active speaking to our members and getting back to us," added Coish.
One new initiative that came out of those meetings was a mentorship program.
"We are launching it tonight and we're anxious to get it underway," said Ron Furlong.
The mentorship program is based on mentorship programs at the Charlottetown and Halifax Chambers of Commerce.
"The format they have looks like it would work well in this area," said Furlong.
The six-month mentorship program will start with meeting mentees, instead of mentors.
"It starts with a general meeting with all those interested in being mentees," said Furlong. "We'll go over what the program involves, what the responsibilities are and what the expectations are.
"Once we get an idea of what the mentees are looking for and what they need, then we'll approach the mentors."
The mentee will be coupled with an appropriate mentor who will be asked to provide approximately six hours of instruction per month for six months.
"They can do it face-to-face, they can do it by telephone, or whatever works with their schedules and their needs," said Furlong. "The intention is to pass along information and guidance that all of us have paid dearly for. So it's to give them that running start."
Another new initiative presented at the meeting was a partnership with the Nova Scotia Community College that would allow business to access funds needed to further train themselves or their employees.
"It is possible for small businesses to come together to access money for training that you wouldn't be able to do on your own because it's for a larger group," said Anne Newman, training coordinator in the business department at NSCC Cumberland Campus.
NSCC created a survey that they handed out to people who attended Tuesday's meeting.
"The survey will give us an idea as to what your needs are for your businesses," said Newman "Once we gather that information we can pull together an education plan that covers, for example, technology skills training or leadership skills training."
Also at the meeting was Edie Helm, the chambers events committee coordinator.
Events they're currently organizing include a Candidates Debate on Sept. 24 at the Lions Den and an ‘Idea Day' luncheon Oct. 11 at the Christ Church Hall.
Small Business Week events were also tabled.
Small business week will be launched Oct. 21 at 35 Church Street.
The week-long event includes many activities, including a ‘Dragon's Den' like program called the ‘Chamber Pit,' whereby a panel will invite entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to the panel.