Like so many others affected by COVID-19, the Visalia Chamber of Commerce has used the last nine months to rethink how we communicate to our members and advocate for local businesses. One positive outcome of the pandemic is the Visalia chamber team’s creativity and the positive spirit of our Visalia community.

In October, as county guidelines began to allow some outdoor activities, we saw a unique opportunity to partner with one of our premier members, the Visalia Rawhide. The Rawhide, typically featuring a full ballpark of fans and professional baseball players, had none due to the pandemic and subsequent shutdown. The inaugural “Back to Business Batting Challenge” was created by a partnership that would not only benefit the chamber but also positively impact other chamber members.

The challenge’s goal was to create a team-building opportunity for chamber members and raise funds in place of canceled chamber fundraising events. Five teams participated in the challenge. Participating businesses were able to reward their employees for their hard work and an opportunity to bond as a team. At the same time, the Rawhide was able to make revenue through food and beverage sales. Save the date; the 2021 batting challenge is set for Oct. 15, 2021.

To assist local families and youth with additional learning opportunities, the Visalia chamber launched Jr. CEO in the fall. In partnership with ServiceMaster by Benevento, the program provided virtual workshops around the concept of students opening hot chocolate stands. On Nov. 7, Jr. CEO – Hot Chocolate Day took place, and students opened for business. Throughout Visalia, young entrepreneurs took what they learned: cost models, marketing, customer service and more, and joined Visalia’s local business community.

Thank you to our leading partner ServiceMaster by Benevento and sponsors for believing in this program, and participating business leaders who shared their insights and expertise in being business owners with students. Thank you to the 40 families who signed up for the program. Jr. CEO started with the idea of teaching students how to launch their own business and how it is a means to improve Visalia. Chamber staff has been blown away by the positive reviews and looks forward to the spring program.