Strengthening community bonds and developing the local economy is what has remained at the heart of The Sevenoaks and District Chamber since it first established in 1911. It was initially set up as a trader’s association for the Market town following a meeting of several town businessman to discuss the prospect of replacing gas lamps with electrical lighting. Despite the deferral of this decision, at the same gathering it was agreed to urge the Council to stop fairs being held in Bligh’s Meadow to the detriment of local business. Sparking a collective interest in the town’s future, the meeting promoted a union of co-operation between all traders with the first president being E.J Payne.
Having reached its impressive 110th anniversary this year, the Chamber’s rich history, success and valued place in the Sevenoaks district is indeed one to celebrate. With 200 loyal members at present, today the Chamber continues to proudly forge valuable relationships amongst local businesses in the Sevenoaks, Westerham and Swanley area. Through regular vibrant and relaxed networking events, such opportunities provide excellent platforms for local business communities to come together in order to expand support and bolster success through exciting future projects.
Instrumental to the success of the local business community is CEO Julie Philips and the Board of Directors, who have developed the Chamber over the past five years and created a sustainable business that can stand the test of time. With no other test like the current Pandemic that hit in March 2020, the Chamber proved just how resilient strong business and community ties can be. By transforming the previous face to face interaction to an online platform, helping businesses navigate the precarious path of Covid-19 has been achieved through digital networking, workshops, seminars, and toolkits.
It is through the uncertain and unstable times of the pandemic however that engagement between members has been favourably fuelled. With online networking events still attracting 70+ participants, it is undoubtedly evident that the Chamber stands as a pillar of strength to many businesses in and around Sevenoaks. This sense of community resilience was accounted for by Chairman Nick Brooker who said that:
“members have engaged with each other for support and advice and a stronger sense of co-operation has emerged. One example was the success of the “wellness week” offering advice on financial management, health and wellbeing.”
Alongside the Chamber’s focus on the wellbeing of today’s members is also the wellbeing and development of future business men and women. Equally important to the recovery of businesses after the pandemic, networking is used as an effective tool to help individuals at the early stages of their career. This gave way to the launch of ‘Next Generation’. Lead by Amy Lane from Thompson Snell and Passmore Solicitors, this initiative not only secures the ambitious future of the Chamber, but also introduces young people to the world of business where they can prosper and create a positive impact on the community’s future.
The future of the Chamber is one that, like many businesses, will have to adapt to life post-pandemic. In order to continue maximising their member presence, the Chamber hopes to hold more face to face events on smaller scales that are more sector specific. This will not only help businesses promote themselves in a much missed warm and friendly atmosphere that digital networking lacks, but also will provide opportunities where links can continue to profit members on a more direct and personal level.
With members having been key to the successful longevity over the past 110 years, the Chamber now looks forward to the next century in which they understand a constant evolution in line with the ever-changing business environment is paramount. From promotion via social media channels, to publishing blogs and articles on behalf of members, the future of the Chamber is one that is set to be as diverse and influential as the businesses it supports.