SML Regional Chamber of Commerce's #StrongerTogetherSML campaign

Local business leaders joined together to show their support for the SML Regional Chamber of Commerce’s #StrongerTogetherSML campaign.

As area businesses are trying to navigate the challenges created by COVID-19, the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce is working to provide services to help, as well as inspire residents to continue shopping local.

The campaign #StrongerTogetherSML was started by the chamber in March. The goal is to encourage the community to support local businesses by purchasing gift cards, shopping online or ordering takeout services from local restaurants.

Since its launch, the campaign has gained the support of nearly 30 community leaders from across the region, including county administrators, board of supervisors, CEOs and small business owners.

“The #StrongerTogetherSML campaign is intended to project unity, strength and togetherness as one lake community,” said Christopher Finley, executive director of the SML Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The Smith Mountain Lake community has faced many times of trial before. Together, we will endure this crisis and emerge on the other side better and stronger than ever.”

The campaign is one of several projects the chamber has launched recently. The chamber’s website has regular updates related to COVID-19, including guidance for employers, resources for patrons and a daily member spotlight that showcases chamber members.

The chamber has also launched weekly virtual meetings that provide a forum for local business owners to share advice and tips with each other. Other meetings have been open to the public to allow people to engage with representatives from local governments to ask questions.

“The idea for virtual meetings and networking forums evolved from our staff meetings and brainstorming exercises on identifying ways the chamber can continue delivering on our mission of growing business for its members and the community,” Finley said.

The chamber’s business after hours meeting has also gone online. The monthly event provides a resource for businesses to network and share ideas. Nearly 50 business representatives attended last month’s business after hours hosted by Laker Media and Mango’s Bar and Grill.

While the last few weeks have been challenging, Finley said the community has shown incredible creativity, grit and strength during an unprecedented time.

“I know it has been a challenge for them as it has been as well for the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber,” Finley said. “When I reflect to seven weeks ago how we are all conducting business certainly looks a lot different. But we have all adapted and for the most part doing the best we can all things considered.”

While Finley said it is too early to speculate when the pandemic will end and businesses will reopen, he said the chamber will continue to work with local business owners to provide assistance during this climate of uncertainty.

“When it is time to travel again and get out and about, the Smith Mountain Lake community will be ready and excited to welcome and serve our visitors,” Finley said.

“We are a resilient community that supports each other and continues to work together.”