Recently I saw a Christmas Ornament for sale that is a Trash Dumpster fire with 2020 on it. It is genius and pretty hilarious when you think about it. The Dumpster Fire toy was the brainchild of a small business owner named Amir Fakharian, to sum up what he believes is a horrific year. It resonates with people as they are selling like hotcakes, and he has had to stop selling their other products to keep up with demand. You have to admire his ingenuity and entrepreneurship. He said he and his wife were making PPP at the beginning of the pandemic. Still, he said in an interview with USA Today that "due to the high amount of competition and (constant) change of the market, we had to try to innovate constantly." Enter the dumpster fire toy and ornament that he sells on Etsy.
While I admire Amir for his humor and innovation in keeping his small business humming during the pandemic, I have a more positive view of 2020. People have asked me what it is like to be the Chair in 2020, like it was a monumental job. You see, I do not see 2020 as any different than any other year. It just happened to be a year full of tough challenges to overcome. It is par for the course in business, and it is a fact of life.
In 2013, Louis and I at Bit-Wizards lost two of our largest and most profitable customers. It happened right after we had expended all our cash to expand and move into our building on Memorial Pkwy. At the time, I was working on my MBA at Notre Dame, which in itself was a full-time job. The next two years were excruciating as Bit-Wizards was a hair from going out of business. Louis and I made priorities and tackled each problem one at a time. To say things were hard was an understatement.
Nevertheless, we persevered. It is only through grit and hard work we survived. Not only did we survive, but we also came out better and stronger as a company. During that time, we diversified our offerings and put a focus on things that would drive recurring revenue. After 20 years in business, I have had several very tough years. 2020 is like any other year; it just has different problems, challenges, pivots, solutions, and successes. I would not have it any other way. That's one reason I am a business owner. Tough Times Never Last, Tough People Do!
One of my favorite Christmas Movies is Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. In the movie, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, forgoes his dreams of traveling and spends his entire life giving of himself to other people. But the story is more than that. It shows how one person can make a difference in so many people's lives. Still, it also shows how a group of people can come together to make an impact on one person's life. We are doing both here at the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce. We are making an impact on our community. We are making an impact on each and every individual member and their business. Our Chamber is both forward-thinking and strategic, as well as tactical in focusing on the day to day of promoting our members and their businesses.
"its a wonderful life" by s_herman is licensed under CC BY 2.0
This year has perhaps had one of the most significant successes of which I have been apart. It is the accomplishment I am most proud of in my four years involved with the BOD of the Chamber: The Passing of the ½ Penny Tax for the Schools and the School Cents Makes Sense Campaign. There is no doubt it is transformational for Okaloosa County Schools and will make a monumental impact on our community.
I told you all at the beginning of my term as your Chair: "Four years ago, I never envisioned being the Chair of the Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce. It was an honor to be asked if I would serve as Chair. It is an honor you have chosen me. Our mission this year is to be a force for good in our community. I believe a rising tide floats all boats. If we make our community great, that will, in turn, have a positive effect on our businesses and future generations."
That is what motivates me; that is my value from the Chamber. What is your value? You have to define that for you.
However, at the core, our Chamber is about serving our members, helping them get value out of membership. What do you get for your $325 membership fee? There is great value, just in being associated with the Chamber. Moreover, you have an organization that is promoting your business 24x7. You are listed in our directory and on our website. In your first month, you are on our digital billboard. You have the opportunity to write an article for coastlines or have your company news promoted there. There is way more than $325 of value in your membership. This year, during the pandemic, the Chamber rose to the occasion to help our members.
In trying times, we are here advocating on your behalf with the city and the county governments. This year we envisioned and promoted the Spend Lokaloosa Campaign to drive people to your local business. We created videos and made them available on applying for the Florida Disaster Loans, PPP Loans, and SBA EIDL Loans. We worked with the City of Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa County to get grant programs in place to help struggling businesses. We even created Fun and ensured some sense of normalcy with our Virtual First Friday Coffees and worked for new ways to promote your business.
This is my last Coastlines Article as Your 2020 Chair. It's been an incredible year serving you as your Chair. 2020 was not a dumpster fire. 2020 helped prove our mettle. Many of you have pivoted and made your business better and leaner. Your Chamber has been there for you, and we have impacted our community for future generations. Stay Frosty and Positive, My Friends! I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Prosperous New Year. Live Long and Prosper! - Vince