I didn’t know what to expect the first time I set foot inside the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce almost six months ago because I didn’t fully understand what a Chamber of Commerce was.
My name is Jessica York, and as a graduate student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga who’s studying to become an English professor, my prior work experience hasn’t been in the business field. I’ve worked in university writing centers, conducted and presented research, taught college courses and been a graduate assistant — but I haven’t had much experience in non-academic workspaces.
At least not until my internship at the Chattanooga Chamber.
Walking through the Chamber doors that first day, I thought I would be greeted by hushed people in dark suits, but instead was introduced to my bubbly and vibrant supervisor, Amanda Ellis, who immediately made me feel welcome. From there, I quickly learned that everyone at the Chamber has the same enthusiastic energy, and that everyone on the marketing team has a unique background outside of business, like me.
Amanda Ellis, Marketing & Communications Manager, was a ballet dancer and instructor before joining the Chamber’s Marketing & Communications team.
Eric Lisica, Interactive Content Designer, creates Croatian styled rap tracks when he’s not at the office.
Jeremy Henderson, Creative Project Manager, is a digital artist and experienced kayaker.
And, Sybil Topel, Vice President of Marketing & Communications, who heads the team, is an extremely talented writer who’s currently gathering research for a creative non-fiction book.
Every day coming in to my internship was exciting because I got to work alongside such a well-rounded and talented group of people.
And it’s not only the people who work at the Chamber, but also the business members of the Chamber who are just as diverse in their skills and interests.
I had the privilege to interview and write about Phil Sieg and Mike Harrison, two tech savvy veterans who founded ring-u, a phone company that’s dedicated to creating affordable phone systems for small businesses. I put together an article on the crafty Gabby Blades, who creates original designs at her design company, Blades Creative, located in the Chamber-run Hamilton County INCubator. And I researched how M & M Industries simultaneously creates jobs in Hamilton County and helps displaced dogs when I wrote an article on their holiday Barkens Bucket.
During my time at the Chamber, I’ve learned about amazing businesses, while also gaining skills in interviewing, publishing articles and coordinating meetings. I also got to promote these Chamber members by creating weekly posts and original graphics to help market the articles I wrote through the Chamber’s social media accounts.
I researched and published two articles on the recent Facebook algorithm changes, learned digital marketing skills, created a Chamber style guide from scratch using Adobe InDesign and, with that new experience, recently started a small literary magazine press, called Wolfpack Press, with four other local female writers.
I feel so lucky to have worked with the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce as they champion economic development and growth in our community, and foster the growth of diverse and lively businesses.