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The Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce has dedicated its mission to the development of local businesses and those within our community.

President, Zeb Welborn knows this mission starts by playing an active role in the growth and education of those who will take the baton next. He acknowledges this by saying, “the biggest responsibility of a Chamber is to promote business in the area they serve. Helping and supporting youth is a great way to fulfill the mission of our Chamber”.

When Zeb saw an opportunity within the Chamber Valley of Commerce website, he decided that student perspectives would greatly improve and modernize the online presence of the chamber. After going to the office about internship programs, he was connected to professor Dr. Kristen Schiele and her Digital Marketing classes.

“Connecting my students with the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce was a wonderful experience. Zeb was so great to work with, and I truly appreciate the great opportunity he gave my classes” says Dr. Kristen Schiele. This connection later created enough content for two classes to benefit from Zeb’s original internship program request.

Students were presented with the real life task of improving the online presence of an organization and were made accountable for their participation. This accountability made students gain a higher desire to succeed in this project. Student, Ashley Quintero says, “it allowed me to put my creative side to work…I believe working with a real organization really gives you that push to do your best and take it seriously. It allowed (me) to put what I learned throughout my college career in the college of business and show what I have to offer.”

The entire community has benefited from this project that exposed Cal Poly Business students to the actual marketing needs of the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce. Students gained real life marketing experience to place on their portfolios, the chamber had hands on involvement in the development of these students whilst the Chamber received valuable insight from a fresh set of eyes, and students have new resources for their future endeavours.

Student Experience on Real Life Marketing Needs:

Unlike most semester projects, this one, that partnered with Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce, allows students to include their submissions into their personal portfolio to share with future job prospects. Students were assigned to study the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce’s mission and compare it to its online presence. Once those observations have been made, they were assigned to create various forms of website and marketing recommendations to present to Zeb Welborn.

The pressure of presenting how they have used what they’ve learned to a real client encourages a student to try their best for the organization, the organization’s president, and for their own personal brand and portfolio. Quintero says, “Most companies hire marketing interns or employees to bring in more customers, members, sales, etc and change their status. Chino Valley definitely needed this and we gained the desire and obligation to make this company better in marketing to attract new members”.

Although not what they are normally used to, students agree that this project has enhanced the skills they have been working on their entire school career. When asked what skills they feel were improved during this Ethan Dang lists, “content creation, communication with team members, and public speaking,” as improved qualifications while Nick Nguyen explains that his, “time management, designing, and analysis skills” were polished during this project.

Students were given a task that involved a real client in an environment where it was encouraged to communicate their ideas with each other. This created a team amongst them where each member would guide their peers in their strengths and lean on one another when approaching something new. Quintero mentions this project approach, “makes you rethink and question yourself in a positive way to improve”.

Learning concepts like web design, digital marketing, and marketing strategy to later present as recommendations to Zeb helped students gain knowledge of those concepts, and real life marketing experience, preparing them for their post graduate lives.

CHAMBER INVOLVEMENT IN DEVELOPING STUDENTS OF COMMUNITY:

The Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce’s hands on involvement boosted self confidence in students and helped them gain more passion for the skills they seek to improve. Student, Ethan Dang says “Once we were able to connect and communicate with the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce, my perspective of the organization shifted. I became invested in demonstrating my best efforts to help them as much as possible”.

In order for students to get the full digital marketing experience from this project, they had to understand why Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce online presence was important. Zeb Welborn emphasizes, “The Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce is the hub of the Chino Valley business community. The better we can make our business both online and offline, the better it is for our businesses”.

Knowing that the quality of the work they present to Zeb has an effect on the betterment of local businesses, transformed the classroom into a conference room. Professor Dr. Kristen Scheile says, “by working with the Chamber, the students learned about real problems the organization is facing and were able to work together to give solutions for the client”.

This project was not only about their grade, it was also about putting what was learned into practice. This type of learning experience makes the learning objectives students gained more memorable. Dang says, “I can utilize these tools greatly in my own career. I would be able to show my future company that I am knowledgeable with their competitive analysis and be able to provide ideas on how they can improve their company in an interview. I feel like having these resources at my disposal will exponentially benefit me in finding my future career and applying when I am working.”

By the end of the semester, students had created detailed website suggestions, information videos promoting the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Events, and website platform new posts ideas to improve engagement with members. When asked about student feedback Zeb responded, “I enjoyed the honest feedback from the students at Cal Poly Pomona. It forced me to focus on our online presence and how we can make better changes to our website and marketing efforts to have a bigger impact for the businesses we represent.”

Student Exposure to Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce:

Overall, students were exposed to the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce and how a Chamber of Commerce organization really is beneficial to local businesses it supports. This is important because no matter their future endeavours, a chamber of commerce is a great opportunity for a business student to use as a resource.

Dr. Schiele says, “Before this project, a lot of students didn’t know exactly what the role of a chamber of commerce even was. Now the students understand the value this type of organization provides small businesses and how to communicate that value to others using social media”.

Student Noe Ramirez admits, “I did not know much about this organization, but after this learned that many cities or communities have these groups available for people seeking to gain new customers and expand their business. I was able to gain the insight that it is always important to network with others”.

Another student, Diana Mora, acknowledges after the project, “I’m glad the Chino Valley of Commerce was our client. We learned about the multiple opportunities and supporting community the commerce companies provides”. In order to obtain new photo suggestions for future advertising, students were encouraged to attend at least one Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce event.

Another student refers to the 2019 Business Expo they attended saying, “it was worth every minute to be there”. Additionally, Minerva Young was able to attend the Chino Hills State of the City Address reflecting, “they were both nice events that gave citizens the opportunity to learn more about the resources and businesses the city has to offer.”

This project was a great way to expose students to opportunities to network and boost their success through networking and using resources provided. Students themselves gained awareness of a new tool they can refer to if they need or desire a business owner support system.

When asked if they can see themselves signing up to their local Chamber of Commerce in the future, many students acknowledged that there was a high chance. Student, Natalie Nieto, supports this saying, “my dream is to create my own clothing business and run a few shops in different cities. I do plan to join my own local Chamber of Commerce in the future so I can help my own and other local businesses by sharing ideas or tips, being a part of a community”.

By actively participating in improving the online presence of the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce, students gained a better understanding of why it is so beneficial for a business organization to join. This is something they will keep in mind as they join or create organizations in their local community and throughout their own careers.

Reflection: Teaming Up with Cal Poly Pomona

The community benefited by exposing a real life problem/improvement based project to the business students of Cal Poly Pomona.

Zeb says “By collaborating with students at Cal Poly Pomona we are creating opportunities for students to apply real world applications on the things they’re learning in class and the Chamber benefits by incorporating those strategies to market ourselves and our businesses better. It’s a win-win.”

This project was a semester long experience for students who felt they had a true effect on the betterment of the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce. What is normally perceived as just a school project was now being valued as something they can show to other prospects. Being able to focus on content they created and present those ideas to Zeb was a confidence booster and impacted the way the students perceived the project.

Professor, Dr. Kristen Schiele, says, “from this project, I will always remember how proud the students were as they presented their final projects…In their presentations, you could tell they were now more confident with the digital tools and technologies. I’m just so proud of them and everything they’ve accomplished”.

Furthermore, student Mariano Cardenas remarks there is another reason he gave this particular project her/his best, “I supported the cause we were behind. I am all for supporting your local business and upon learning that this is part of what Chambers of Commerce do I was happy to be apart of this project”.

Either way, students reflect that they were both excited and highly involved with the project every step of the way. These potential local business owners gained and polished skills and learned how to communicate with each other as a group while learning how to communicate and give feedback to other groups. Because everyone in the room had the same goal in mind, which was to improve the online presence of the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce, outside and personal factors were set aside so that full focus could be placed onto this project which made students feel a greater sense of pride and accomplishment once the project was over.

Quintero reflects that what will be most memorable is, “the validation and how fulfilling it is for someone to comment and listen to your recommendations to better their company. By Chino Valley using our content and putting to use our recommendations makes me feel more prepared and confident into working in marketing and continuing my career” which supports the overall mission of the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce.

*This article was written by Esmie Bonilla, a student from Cal Poly Pomona and intern at the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce.*

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