In response to the civil unrest that occurred in the Twin Cities last summer after Minneapolis police officers murdered George Floyd, communities came together. Food shelves received a great deal of donations, emergency housing centers collected essential items and a number of organizations created relief funds for various causes.
One of these organizations was The St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. They launched a fundraising campaign for the businesses that were damaged by fires or looting. We spoke with their CEO and President B Kyle about this initiative and other projects that contributed to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal naming her one of 2020’s most admired CEOs.
Before the Chamber
Before she became President and CEO, Kyle was a member of the United States Army. It was there where she learned the importance of caring for your team.
“Your job is to care for the people who care for the clients, who care for the business, and so that’s been hugely impactful,” said Kyle.
Kyle not only cares for her own team at the Chamber, but the community she serves as well. Last summer, the Chamber along with the Downtown Alliance and Midway Chamber of Commerce created a relief fund for businesses affected by the civil unrest.
“The idea of raising funds simply was a way to channel our energy for good. What do I have in my arsenal of abilities to bring, to bear, to serve the situation?” said Kyle.
Kyle reached out to businesses to hear their stories and figure out how the Chamber could help.
“We got heartbreaking stories time and again about the suffering underway. The businesses lost their entire buildings, they lost their livelihood,” said Kyle.
In the end, over 700 individuals, more than 70 companies, philanthropic organizations, and nonprofits donated money to the fund bringing the total amount raised to $1.3 million.
“We got $5 bills sent in the mail, right? Talk about a blessing,” said Kyle.
Leave it or bring it
Kyle also talked about trends she’d like to see left in 2020 and trends she’d like to bring into 2021.
Kyle wants to leave behind the idea of the chamber being viewed as an exclusive club.
“That is really not functional because by the very nature of our work moving forward is learning how to build bridges, expand our reach, bring in new partners,” said Kyle.
As for what they want to bring into 2021, Kyle said her organization will continue to invest in the digital experience like Zoom meetings. She also said she wants to continue collaborating with the other 31 chambers in the Twin Cities area.
The Chamber also has a number of focus areas for 2021 including jobs and professional development.
“I believe that one of the best pathways to a better quality of life is a good paying job. That’s our lane as a chamber of commerce,” said Kyle.
Businesses have been telling the Chamber that they need help training their employees, specifically in equity and inclusion.
“How can I, as a business owner, provide that information, training and resources to my people? We’re really focusing on building that out,” said Kyle.