This week Vivid Minds interviews Eilish Chalmers, the newly appointed Executive Officer for the Armidale Business Chamber.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I was born in Armidale and have spent most of my life here. I went to St Mary’s Primary School and finished high school at Duval, after which I attended the University of New England. I am an avid reader and enjoy spending time with my family, long walks in the Pine Forest, crafting, and cooking, not that I’m any good at it.
Over the years I’ve taken part in some great projects. While studying at UNE I also worked there as a CRM administrator. One of the projects was turning the CRM into an online application portal. It was a long and difficult process, but it was a great experience working with the team we had, some of whom are now my best friends. I also did a similar job at North Coast TAFE in Coffs Harbour, building a CRM from the ground up. It was really cool to see the vast difference in contexts between UNE and TAFE. At TAFE you work for a much broader range of people. In October last year I left UNE to start working at Reader’s Companion. After school I always worked full time, and included some part time study on the side, so it was great to take a breather and work with the amazing team at Reader’s Companion part time.
What does the Armidale Business Chamber do?
Armidale Business Chamber aims to support all local businesses, from small stand-alone shops, to locally–owned franchises, right through to larger enterprises. But more than that, we also seek to build a sense of community. So much of business is about community, which I think is really cool.
What does an Executive Officer for the Chamber do?
Anything and everything from admin support, to answering enquiries, building membership, liaising with sponsors, to event coordination. The main task is assisting the board to articulate and eventuate their vision for how Armidale Business Chamber helps the Armidale business community.
What excites you most about your new role?
I’m looking forward to the challenges the role will afford, but also meeting with and working with the great people who work in and own Armidale businesses. In my previous roles I always worked with the same people, which was great, but the opportunity to work with a new mix of people and different perspectives really excites me. It’s going to be really cool to try and help the range of interests and different people in the community. I am keen to learn more about the Armidale business community and work with them.
What can we expect from you in this role?
The biggest things I believe I bring to the role are fresh eyes, and a fresh energy. I’m naturally inquisitive, so I will be asking a lot of questions to understand where people are coming from, and I hope to bring a fresh perspective and, of course, solutions. I think it’s going to be slow initially due to it being a part time role, and in the current climate, but I think that will accelerate very fast. I’m really excited to help the executive to get some of things they want to get going off the ground. I’m Looking forward to supporting them in any way I can.
You’re only two weeks into the role, what have been some challenges you have already faced, or expect to face?
Getting my head around how everything works, membership, different software systems, what relationships we have, and who is who. Anthony Fox, the Chamber President and Michelle Wheatley, who is a member of the Board, have been great in taking the time to explain everything to me. I think currently we are facing the immediate question of how local business operates in the ever-evolving conditions, and then how business operates in a post-COVID world, and what that look likes for our local economy. Furthermore, we are always looking for sponsors, but with the economic impact of first the bushfires and now the pandemic, finding new sponsors will be a challenge.
How will you overcome them?
Working very closely with the executive who have an innate understanding of how the business community operates. I will also listen to our members and the community as whole, and work at helping them in any way the Chamber can. I think as long as we are actively listening, we can help. One thing we are doing is offering free membership to the business community during COVID. This obviously helps as they can access Chamber benefits and not have to pay during these trying times. I’m confident that by communicating openly with the business community, and working closely with the executive, I can come up with some solid plans that will help all parties.
What inspires you?
The people I work with. I’ve always been very fortunate to work with people who really know their stuff, from UNE, to TAFE and now the Armidale Business Chamber. Working with Michelle at the bookshop, and now working with Anthony, they are real doers. They have an idea and they do whatever they need to do to bring it to fruition. They really inspire me.
My family equally inspires me. They really encourage me to go for these kinds of things. My family always lovingly push me, encourage and believe in me. I find that comforting and inspirational. If they think I can do it, I must be able to do it.
Where do you see your role/the Chamber in 12 months?
I think by then the role of Executive Officer will have expanded as the Chamber itself grows. I hope to be able to take on more day–to–day operational activities in the future, freeing the executive to focus on what they are there to do: helping the business community.