Congratulations on winning the 2023 Spirit of the Chamber! Tell everyone a little bit about this award. What is it? And what does it mean to you to receive it?
Kari: Spirit of the Chamber is an annual award voted on by members of the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce. It recognizes an ambassador who actively advocates for the Chamber in the local business community and regularly attends Chamber functions and events, such as ribbon cuttings for new businesses.
This is a volunteer position, and I am not the only one who puts in time and energy to advance the Chamber in the community. We have a great — and I mean great — group of ambassadors. Any one of us deserves this award. For my fellow volunteers to choose me is the best recognition there is. I am so deeply honored.
How did you get involved with the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce? What is your role? What does the Chamber do?
Kari: Well, I never really thought of the Chamber until my daughter suggested it. She told me I have the Channel of Community in my Human Design chart and that being part of something like this would be advantageous for me, not only in a business capacity but also on a personal level. If I’m being honest, I was a little cranky about it at first because I didn’t believe I had the time to add one more thing to my already full plate (if you’re a small business owner, you know what I mean). But she pushed me. Of course, I’m so grateful she did.
I knew that most business communities have a Chamber of Commerce, but I honestly didn’t know their true function until I attended my first AM Connect. The HB Chamber is a non-profit 501(c)(6) organization representing nearly 700 local businesses ranging from entrepreneurs and startups to major corporations. It has three main objectives: connecting people, advocating for businesses, and building a prosperous local economy.
After attending a few AM Connects I realized that, while the Chamber has an incredible small team of paid staff, it takes a village to make things happen in the community. This is where volunteer ambassadors come in. I knew I wanted to be a face in the community, and I knew I wanted to be part of this group. So, I volunteered to become an ambassador.
Being an ambassador has not only helped me expand my business network and my knowledge of the HB community but —and I’d argue most importantly — it’s also the reason I have some wonderful new friends. Also, last year I was nominated to be a Chamber of Commerce Board member. This will be my second year on the Board, which is yet another thing I’m very grateful for.
What do you love most about being involved with the Chamber? How has it impacted your small business?
Kari: The other individuals I volunteer with, hands down. We have fun, we laugh, and we have a committed focus on advancing the Chamber in our community and assisting new businesses as they open their doors. The Chamber has given me more exposure in the community and connected me with individuals I know I wouldn’t have met otherwise. And, hey, I have a good relationship with our mayor, Gracey Van der Mark! I would not hesitate to reach out to her if I had a question or needed her advice.
What were your favorite moments and events of 2023? What are you looking forward to in 2024?
As for 2024, it’s already off to a great start! I just attended the renovated re-opening of Polly’s Pies on Adams and Brookhurst. This was a special ribbon-cutting event for me because my parents used to have regular date nights at the original Polly’s in Fullerton. I had the privilege of meeting Don Sheldrake (pictured below), one of the two founding owners of this family-owned restaurant, and telling him how much my parents enjoyed their meatloaf and peach pie.
All in all, I’m looking forward to having more fun this year. I truly love making a difference in my community, and I love that I get to volunteer with a group of great small business owners who share similar values. I’m excited to see what the year has in store.
What are the benefits of joining the Chamber? How can someone get involved?
Kari: The first thing I would say is to go to the chamber website at HBChamber.com and search the “Events and Programs” tab. The second thing you can do is either join us at an AM Connect or After 5 Mixer. These are great social events that will allow you to network with other business owners in the community. Come check us out. I know you will be glad you did.