IW Chamber: Working together to support each other as a community and as a network in 2024

By IW Chamber Chief Executive Steven Holbrook

2023 was a challenging year for a lot of businesses. Costs across the board are high and continue to climb ever higher, disposable income has shrunk and general confidence amongst consumers has been low.

Helping businesses navigate choppy waters is at the heart of what the IW Chamber does. As a team we sit and discuss ways we can assist businesses, all businesses, regardless of their size or performance.

As such, as we enter 2024, the Chamber team will be looking to focus ever harder on you, our members, to make sure the products and services we offer are adding value to you. We will be encouraging what the Island does best and that is working together to support each other as a community and as a network.

One of the greatest challenges we face as a Chamber team is keeping you all informed about what we actually offer, and making sure you are making full use of the benefits.

To this end, with the challenges facing the NHS and those wanting to use it and the need to keep fully engaged with the wellness of our staff, we will be highlighting the fabulous value offered by the Chamber ‘Westfield Health’ package and encouraging you to look into the product and seeing how it can benefit you and your teams. It is a product that my family and I use regularly, at a very competitive price. Please engage with my team to learn more, I really think you will be very surprised at just how good it is.

We will have a real focus on training in 2024. We will invite you to tell us what you want, and we will work on delivering it. Development of staff and skills is so important, and we want to really add value to you in this area wherever possible.

A lot of members actively use the HR and Legal helplines and document banks, but many do not. We want to encourage those who haven’t called before, to try them out and see what value they can bring you. Again, I think you will be very pleasantly surprised. With so much of what the Chamber does, the more you engage the greater the benefits.

2023 saw us move EXPO to a new home at Ryde School. Here we have the space to continue to expand and grow the event to meet demand. We are excited to continue this partnership and growth in 2024 with our fabulous hosts and our sponsor WightFibre. Already the main challenge from last year has been addressed and parking will be available on-site in 2024. If you haven’t been involved before, why not give it a try this next time, either as a visitor or an exhibitor? It is popular for a reason.

As you read this in January 2024, there is still time to apply for our flagship event, our prestigious Business Awards. I would encourage you to get involved, apply, try… It really is quite the event and the positive impact for your business can be significant, even just by completing the process of taking part. The competition is fierce, but you are great, so why not tell your story and see where it leads.

Networking can be intimidating, but it can also be incredibly rewarding and bring forth friendships and support in so many unexpected ways. If you haven’t been to an event before, let 2024 be the year you try. Our Cowes Week BBQ event doesn’t sell 100 tickets on launch day because people have a terrible time! Our Breakfasts don’t sell out because other people hate them. They work, and they’re fun too. Be brave, try it, you might shock yourself.

The IW Chamber is about community. Even if you don’t need to network for your business to grow, it doesn’t mean you won’t get a host of other benefits, even if it is just support and someone to bounce ideas off and give a word of support.

I will sign off with a word about the Isle of Wight Lottery. With over £1.2m of interest free loans given out to Island businesses so far, supporting hundreds of jobs, it really is a great way to give back to the community we live in and support growth and opportunity. The Lottery needs businesses to support it if it is to continue the great work it does, so I would urge you to do so if you can. It really does make a difference.

I hope 2024 exceeds your expectations and that you are able to exceed the expectations of your customers.

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