By CASEY CAWTHORN
In October 2021, after lending nearly $23 million to Indy’s small business community, the Indy Chamber embarked on a media partnership with the Indianapolis Recorder. Little did we know then, this partnership would yield exponential value in ensuring that small, diverse businesses—navigating a rebounding business climate with ever-changing fluctuations—would prove to be one of the most important vessels for business awareness, resource-sharing and collective corporate calls for equity.
Through our partnership with the Indianapolis Recorder, over nearly the last two years, the Indy Chamber’s marketing and communications team has worked with minority, small-business owners in various industries and communities across the nine-county, Indy region. These individuals have trusted us to help them share stories about their business ownership journeys while also calling attention to the critical resources—capital, coaching and connections to a regional network of businesses—available through the Indy Chamber. At the end of 2022, data showed that through these articles, we’ve reached over 300,000 people (about half the population of Wyoming) across Indiana and beyond. Equally as important, we’ve reached them authentically.
Between 2020 and 2021, the Indy Chamber was immersed in initiatives to advance equity. Develop Indy, the front door to economic development for the City of Indianapolis and Marion County, was already leading equity efforts through inclusive incentives. However, in 2021, the Indy Chamber partnered with the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) and the Indianapolis Urban League (IUL) to form Business Equity for Indy (BEI), an initiative fully committed to advancing equity and economic opportunity for the region’s Black residents and other people of color. In addition to that work, the Indy Chamber’s Entrepreneur Services department, which includes the Central Indiana Women’s Business Center (CIWBC), Hispanic Business Council (HBC), Enterprise Corps, the Re-Entry Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDi) and Business Ownership Initiative (BOI)—a certified community development financial institution (CDFI), houses an entire team dedicated to ensuring diverse, small businesses have support at every stage of business growth.
As the longest-running African American-owned newspaper in Indiana and the fourth largest in the United States, a partnership with the Indianapolis Recorder was a true dream for our marketing team. Our team, which is tasked with amplifying the impact of our equity work alongside the success stories of our small, diverse members and clients, quickly began working with these individuals to guide their storytelling efforts. While we continue to expand our partnership with the Indianapolis Recorder, we’re excited to announce that we’re also launching a new, free event series to connect a greater number of businesses to storytelling support and opportunities.
A three-part Indy Chamber Masterclass series will take place virtually this summer. Each Masterclass will feature a specific, communications-related topic and invites business owners and community members to log in ready to learn. The first event, which takes place on June 27 from 1-2 p.m., is Storytelling 101 presented by Deana Haworth, chief operating officer with Hirons. Individuals interested in attending are encouraged to register online at IndyChamber.com/Events. The July session will feature Travis Brown, founder and CEO of Mojo Up Marketing, and the August session will feature Jennifer Dzwonar, managing principal of Borshoff. Specific dates and topics to be announced soon.
While we continue to expand our programs and services to support diverse small business owners, we hope to continue leveraging diverse media partnerships to increase the visibility of services, connections with the community and ultimately, the impact that the Indy Chamber has on our regional business community. If you are interested in learning more about services available to support your business, I invite you to learn more at IndyChamber.com/Entrepreneurship.
Casey Cawthon is Indy Chamber’s vice president of marketing and communications.