Liberty County now has two chambers of commerce — the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and the Liberty County Minority Chamber.
The Liberty County Minority Chamber was recently formed with the goal of creating a networking system for minority-owned businesses.
The Minority Chamber was founded by Sabrina Newby, CEO of the organization and owner of BouGie Natural Salon in Hinesville.
The idea for the Minority Chamber started a few years ago. Newby’s business was located across Ryon Avenue
from the Liberty County Chamber. She hosted monthly mixers for minority business owners, during which they discussed their business needs and created a networking system.
Newby changed locations and the networking dwindled. She started to interact with the Urban Savannah Chamber of Commerce, which works with African-American entrepreneurs and professionals to increase business investment and tourism in the Savannah area. She learned how to run this kind of organization, and the Liberty County Minority Chamber was created.
Newby said membership started slowly but has picked up recently, with new members joining daily.
"I was once a member of the Liberty County Chamber years ago," Newby said. "After I saw what I needed to do on my own, I knew other minority businesses identified with some of the issues I had. We all have a need for a minority chamber. With the wonderful growth of Hinesville, we just want to be a part of that, and we feel that we have the means to make that happen as a network."
Newby said the focus of the Minority Chamber is African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and white female business owners, but the organization is still inclusive.
"There are not just minority businesses that identify with the need. There are major businesses, bigger businesses, corporations that see the benefit of a minority chamber, and they want in," Newby said.
One of the needs for minority-owned businesses is a strong networking platform, Newby said, and the Minority Chamber offers services — many of which are free — to small business owners who do not know how to promote their business after opening.
"We understand that the small-business owner needs a little more hand holding than the established businesses because we have people starting businesses on any given day and they have no idea what they’re doing," Newby said. "They don’t understand the necessity of social media … or getting with people who have the same problem they’re having that can help them find solutions. We’re here for that. This is some of the problems we identified within our minority community. Those are the solutions we are offering."
Before formally establishing the Minority Chamber, Newby said she talked with local business owners who felt there was a need for it. Newby also talked with the Hinesville officials and the Chamber about the organization.
"I met with the Chamber and told them specifically why we are here and that we are not here to separate. We’re here to help the community," she said. "We’re not here to establish any kind of, ‘Oh, we’re a minority, and we want all the minority businesses here.’ No. We recognized a need in Hinesville for minority business owners, and we offer our support to the Liberty Chamber."
Leah Poole, the CEO of the Liberty County Chamber and Convention and Visitors Bureau, provided a statement to the Courier in response to a question seeking comment on the Minority Chamber.
"We at the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce of course welcome the addition of any new business to the community," she wrote in an email. "With 40 years of service to Liberty County, our members realize that through us, they can accomplish collectively what no one of them can do individually. More than 450 members (80 percent of them small businesses) work together to enhance the economic climate of Liberty County for business growth and improved quality of life. From home-based operations, to retail shops, to service providers; small businesses make up a large portion of the Chamber membership."
Newby said the Minority Chamber’s mission is to help build business and help minority business owners thrive.
The Minority Chamber has different levels of membership for "that one-man show or one-woman show to the biggest of businesses," she said.
"We have so many businesses in Liberty County starting daily, and they have no idea where to go. And they find themselves paying for services that they could have possibly done themselves for free, or they can come and we teach them," Newby said.
The Minority Chamber will also offer classes and programs that target youth and promote different cultures in Liberty.
Tori Turner, who owns an invitation-only travel club business, is a new member of the Minority Chamber. Her business helps customers get the most out of their trips on a budget. Turner joined the Minority Chamber because she wanted to network with other minority business owners.
"I expect to see more support, more networking and learn from other entrepreneurs," she said. "I’m looking forward to see how far I can go."
So far, Turner has attended mixers and said she realized there is a lot more going on in Liberty County than she thought. Turner plans to attend classes and wants to learn as much as she can, while meeting more people.
"It goes back to having great support, great networking and a marketing platform," Newby said. "We’re not here to make the community or the town of Hinesville feel uncomfortable. … We’re just here to contribute."