Leads and Needs: Building Ferndale’s Small Business Community with Coffee and Conversation


Often times when people hear ‘chamber of commerce’ they think of an old boys club.  But times have changed, and chambers have changed with them. Founded in 1955, the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce boasts a rapidly growing active membership, with just over 350 members throughout Whatcom County. This is partially thanks to the chamber’s Director of Membership, Kelsey Rowlson, and Event & Program Coordinator, Audrey Audette, who create and organize various programs to meet the members’ needs

Leads and Needs meetups are open and friendly. Photo courtesy: Ferndale Chamber of Commerce.

As a great example, in November of 2017 Audrey and Kelsey started the Leads and Needs coffee meetup. Its goal is to provide an early time slot for an informal networking meeting where chamber members can share their needs and other group members can offer advice and brainstorm solutions.

Non-members can attend up to three Leads and Needs meetings with no RSVP required, so there is an opportunity for anyone to be introduced to the chamber community in a casual setting.

Leads and Needs in Practice

A proud citizen of Ferndale and owner of the Ferndale Mini-Mart, Becky Carr is one of eighteen Ferndale Chamber of Commerce members who currently serve as chamber Ambassadors. This select group within the chamber serves as goodwill Ambassadors—volunteering at events and promoting the chamber.

Leads and Needs is a great way to become acquainted with the chamber. Photo courtesy: Ferndale Chamber of Commerce.

Becky joined the chamber around six years ago when she and her husband purchased the Ferndale Mini-Mart from Becky’s parents, who had operated the store for 40 years. Her decision to join the chamber was important to her unique way of doing business. She understands that Ferndale Mini-Mart relies on the community, the same way customers rely on the mini-mart. Joining the chamber was an opportunity for her to get more in-tune with the business side of the community. She was entering the world of business and wanted to make sure she got out there to make new connections and strengthen old ones.

A self-described people person, Becky enjoys Leads and Needs meetings despite rarely having needs of her own. Mostly, she attends these meetings to interact with other local businesses. One such business is a local chiropractor that Becky’s father had been going to for years – it took attending a Leads and Needs meeting for Becky to meet the owner and finally put a face on the business.

Becky especially enjoys Leads and Needs meetups because of their casual approach to networking. No agendas are pushed and leadership takes a backseat to allow chamber members the opportunity to connect personally and discuss any challenges they may have.

The Ferndale Chamber of Commerce is active and fast growing. Photo courtesy: Ferndale Chamber of Commerce.

Strengthening connections between local businesses helps build a stronger local economy and can have far-reaching benefits. The Ferndale Chamber of Commerce’s Leads and Needs coffee meetups are a valuable and casual way for business owners to voice their needs and build open connections with people in similar situations. Without the esteemed work of the chamber, it would be much more difficult for businesses to connect and form lasting bonds, and a much more daunting task to search for help. Having a healthy chamber like Ferndale’s brings positive change to the whole community and makes doing business in Ferndale and Whatcom County a bit easier and a lot more fun.

Leads and Needs
Meets every first and third Thursday
8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Leader Block Wine Company, 2026 Main Street in Ferndale
Chamber Contact: Audrey Audette at 360-384-3042


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