Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Navigating the intricacies of entrepreneurship and professional growth in the business world can be a daunting journey filled with challenges, uncertainties, and a constant need for adaptability. 

 

In this ever-evolving business environment, the mentor-mentee relationship can be a powerful and crucial catalyst for success and personal development, which is why our Chamber Circles program has been created. 

 

The program – one for women and another for entrepreneurs - offers business leaders a platform to not only expand their network but explore potential partnerships with peers as they advance their own growth both professionally and personally. 

 

The Chamber has enlisted a group of talented business mentors for each ‘Circle’ which consists of between four and five people who will discuss pre-selected topics once a month.

 

“Chamber Circles is a great way for business leaders to not only tap into our mentors’ knowledge and professional connections but can lead to networking opportunities with their peers as well as give participants the chance to cultivate their own skills and strengths,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “The monthly sessions will provide these business leaders with some added tools they need to enhance their businesses.”

 

He says the Chamber Circles for Women stream was created after the Chamber was approached by some female members requesting an opportunity to learn and collaborate with other women business leaders like themselves. The second stream, Chamber Circles for Entrepreneurs, is available to all business leaders.

 

“Having both streams provide a large cross-section of the business community the chance to thrive and succeed,” says Greg.

 

The program touches on a variety of topics, including bringing creativity into your work role, finding new ways to manage yourself and others, how to give and receive effective feedback, as well as a look at resiliency and the importance to continuously evolve. 

 

“These are topics we feel are very relevant to operating a business in today’s economic climate and will give these leaders an even better foundation,” says Greg.

 

Click here to learn more about joining Chamber Circles

 

A few reasons why joining Chamber Circles can assist your business:

Guidance Through Experience

By sharing their experiences, mentors provide invaluable insights that can help mentees avoid pitfalls and make informed decisions. 

 

Accelerated Learning Curve

Instead of relying solely on trial and error, mentees can leverage the wisdom of their mentors to gain a deeper understanding of industry intricacies, best practices, and strategies for success. 

 

Building a Network

Building a robust network is an invaluable asset, often leading to collaborations, partnerships, and a broader spectrum of career opportunities.

 

Confidence and Emotional Support

Having a mentor provides a reliable source of emotional support and encouragement. This emotional support fosters confidence, helping mentees navigate uncertainties with a positive mindset.

 

Encouraging Innovation

Mentors not only guide mentees within existing frameworks but also encourage innovative thinking. This dynamic approach to problem-solving is essential in an era where innovation is often the key differentiator between success and stagnation.

 

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The Canadian tourism sector has experienced a brisk recovery since the initial pandemic lockdowns, according to economic experts. But that recovery pace has been easing due to higher interest rates, a slowing job market, and broader cyclical slowdown in the U.S. and abroad. In Ontario, many tourism operators continue to face a great deal of debt caused by the pandemic, prompting many to worry about what the future holds. 

 

Locally, tourism in 2024 is expected to continue to do well, despite the ‘economic crunch’ that may prompt travelers to adjust their plans in the coming year. 

 

We reached out to Explore Waterloo CEO Michele Saran to get her take on what the local tourism sector can expect in the New Year:

 

 

How is local tourism shaping up for 2024, considering the economic realities many people are dealing with?

 

Tourism in Waterloo Region is expected to continue doing well into 2024.  We are beating 2019 pre-pandemic; hotel occupancy numbers and campaigns are driving keen interest in our offerings.  Yes, the economic crunch is impacting everyone and may result in visitors spending a bit less but not completely abandoning all vacation plans.  People consider travel a priority and have been shown to spend less in other discretionary areas to afford some kind of getaway with family and friends. Waterloo Region’s main market is the GTA, and we really lean into the concept of being the perfect road trip destination.  This type of travel can be as budget conscious as one wishes.  There are so many affordable options for fun.

 

 

Are local tourism operators feeling optimistic about what is in store for 2024?

 

The operators I speak with are all quite optimistic about a strong 2024, despite concerns around inflation and its impact on visitor spending.  In addition to leisure travel, we are also seeing incredible interest in the region for meetings, conventions, and sporting events.  The tourism industry is nothing if not resilient. Having come out on the other side of a worldwide pandemic that shut everything down completely, we now have the gift of perspective.  

 

 

What are some of the hurdles do local tourism operators face in the coming year?

 

One of the biggest challenges facing tourism operators everywhere (not just in Waterloo Region) is rebuilding the workforce.  Hospitality workers left the industry during the pandemic, and many did not return.  Industry advocacy organizations are working to address this issue from many angles, from working with government to ease immigration barriers to marketing the industry to students as a career choice. Finding affordable housing is a big hurdle for those in the service sector.  Many of the destinations that are the most popular with visitors are also very expensive places to live.  People want to live in the same area where they work, and this presents another labour-related challenge for the tourism industry as well as many others.

 

Despite optimism for next year’s visitation potential, a very significant issue is the amount of debt tourism businesses incurred during the pandemic just to stay afloat and survive.  According to the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, 55% of operators say they lack confidence they will be able to repay their debts in two years and 45% risk closure in three years without government intervention.  Thirty-three percent of tourism businesses indicate that they hold more than 250K in outstanding debt. This is a serious issue and one all tourism advocacy organizations continue to push with government for solutions.

 

 

Is talk of the pandemic a thing of the past?

 

I recently returned from the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s Annual Tourism Congress.  The conversation was around the legacy effects of COVID cited above but I think the entire industry is ready to put the pandemic itself in the rearview mirror and focus on what we do best – welcoming visitors and showing them why our area is fantastic.   

 

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Cloudy morning skies gave way to afternoon sunshine which paved the way for a fun day at our recent Golf Classic.

 

The annual tournament, the first ‘official’ large golfing event held at the Galt Country Club since the pandemic began, brought out more than 80 participants July 12, many of whom couldn’t wait to hit the links again and reconnect with others outside of a virtual setting.

 

“It’s so nice to see camaraderie and nice to actually see people and faces,” said Energy+ CFO Sarah Hughes, after taking a swing mid-course during the day-long event.

 

She had already been golfing for a couple of weeks with her women’s league prior to our event but relished the chance to golf with members of her corporate team.

 

“One of the gentlemen is new to our team so this is a nice onboarding. And another gentlemen on my team I haven’t seen in-person in a year and half,” said Sarah. “It’s just so great to be able to see people.”

 

That same sentiment was shared by many of the participants as they made their way around the 18-hole course, and visited the sponsored holes spread throughout.

 

“I find it very energizing to see people and reconnect,” said Kristen Danson, Managing Partner at Mitographics Inc./Swift Components Corp., adding the tournament is a great way for operators of the businesses that sponsored holes to network. “It’s neat for them to have the chance to engage with Chamber Members. A virtual setting is hard for small businesses, and they really need to be here in-person talking to people.”

 

Networking and having the chance to meet people was something Anthony Gignac, an Associate at Racolta Jensen LLP Chartered Accountant, said he welcomed as a first-time participant at the Golf Classic.

 

“It’s great to have the chance to socialize and say hi to new people,” he said, while finishing his boxed lunch after a busy morning of golf.

 

Lunch and a take home dinner ‘kit’ created by the talented kitchen staff at Galt Country Club were provided to all the participants in keeping with Stage 2 safety protocols regarding indoor dining. (Waterloo Region was scheduled to move into Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan on Friday, July 16).

 

In terms of the COVID-19 protocols, participants said they felt very safe.

 

“People are just so glad to be outside. I don’t think there’s as much apprehension or hesitation considering vaccination rates,” said John Tyrrell, Sales Manager at TD Commercial Banking.

 

Erica Tennenbaum, Wealth Advisor at RBC Dominion Securities, agreed and said she felt comfortable with people’s mask etiquette.

 

“It’s just so nice and refreshing and heartwarming to see everybody,” she said.

John echoed that same feeling.

 

“It’s just nice to be out of the office and see people’s faces again and golf is really the only thing you can do in a larger group setting, so it’s nice to see some familiar faces again,” he said.

 

Having the opportunity to not only reconnect with both familiar and new Members helped make the day a success said Cambridge Chamber CEO and President Greg Durocher.

 

“We’re thrilled we could provide our Members and their guests with the chance to not only meet safely but have a great time doing something that’s familiar and fun. We all can use it considering how tough the last year and half has been,” he said. “We also appreciate the support of our many sponsors for helping to create such a memorable event for everyone.”

 

Plans are in the works for our annual Fall Scramble, so please keep an eye on our Events calendar for more.

 

For a look at photos from our Golf Classic and a list of prize winners, please visit: https://bit.ly/3AEyTkB

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