Grant funds to improve business tech tools
The Russian River Chamber of Commerce has won a USDA grant that will help river area small-business owners and employees become more tech savvy, the chamber announced last week.
“We’re going to be rolling out a program which is all about building the capacity and the capability of the small businesses throughout this region,” said Elise VanDyne, the River Chamber’s former executive director.
“The USDA was really interested in helping us uplift the technical capabilities specifically of our small businesses,” said VanDyne, who is now the new district field representative for Fifth District County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, but is also helping the chamber find and train a successor.
“We’re going to be buying five really great high-powered laptops” installed with business tech software such as Creative Suite, QuickBooks and Office and other tech capabilities necessary “to be successful as a small business,” said VanDyne. “We’re going to have one-on-one mentorships; we’re going to have training so people can come in and become really great at QuickBooks and really great and effective at Creative Suite and be able to up their marketing game.”
The rural business development grant funds, totaling more than $70,000 in USDA money and matching grants from Kaiser Permanente and Sonoma County Community Investment support, will also provide river chamber members with “shared marketing services for all of you, who as we know, are working so hard to keep your businesses going,” VanDyne told attendees at a chamber mixer last week at the reopened Rio Nido Roadhouse that was hard hit by February’s disastrous Russian River flood.
“We’re also building marketing tools you can use. We’re going to have some social media, a photo library and a video library so you’ll have really high-class, high-resolution professional materials that you can use in marketing your business,” said VanDyne.
The computers and programs will be available to members through the chamber’s Guerneville office on First Street, said VanDyne.
The grant funding means the chamber can “uplift what we have and the capacity of all the different small businesses so that we can all be better together at marketing and bringing people in and running our businesses more effectively,” VanDyne told chamber members at the mixer.
“These are all things that our small businesses have been asking for,” said VanDyne.
The river chamber now has 236 members, said VanDyne, who was hired as the chamber’s executive director last year and is now helping out to find the next executive director. The search is under way and applicants have started to respond, said VanDyne, who plans to work with the new chamber director to facilitate a smooth transition.
“We’ve gotten some good resumes,” said VanDyne on Monday, “but we’re not doing interviews yet.”
In the interim VanDyne “will be dedicating significant time each week towards helping hire and train a successor,” said a chamber announcement of VanDyne’s departure.
VanDyne will also continue “to support chamber programs and projects through this transition.”