First student-run chamber of commerce in Wisconsin established Breaks barriers between campus and local entrepreneurs

For the first time in state history, students have made it possible for small businesses to advertise on a college campus.

Through the collaborative efforts of Whitewater Student Government and the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, the UW-Whitewater Student Chamber of Commerce opened for business last Tuesday.

Former WSG President Patrick Johnson, who is serving on the executive committee for the chamber, said by using WSG as a medium, businesses can advertise on campus using the WSG logo.

“It’s important that we let student businesses thrive,” Johnson said. “Some people might think we are competing with the Whitewater chamber, but we just saw a problem and solved it.”

To apply for membership to the chamber, businesses must provide either articles of incorporation or a letter of intent. If businesses choose a letter, it must be renewed once a year, and all members must pay a yearly fee.

After acceptance, members will be able to advertise in the University Center once a month on the bulletin boards around campus, through ads in the Royal Purple and can use the digital signage in the UC.

WSG President John Jensen said the dues collected will fund the operation costs for the chamber and to a lesser extent, WSG.

“This is a subset of WSG, and student money is not going into the chamber,” Jensen said. “We were very careful when drafting the constitution and membership fees will cover any costs.”

Jensen also said the chamber will be audited by WSG every February.

CEO President Dan Fink said this is an important step in opening up the campus to establish business relationships between student entrepreneurs, local business owners and the university.

“As a state university, we have limited funds, and it can be difficult to disperse them if alumni don’t donate,” Fink said. “The chamber promotes student businesses and entrepreneurship in its entirety.”

Justin Murphy, WSG Business and Financial Services director, oversees the chamber and said he encourages student businesses to contact the chamber.

Several are already members, and he said the chamber plans to expand the services it offers through the College of Business and Economics.

“Now that we are out of the planning stage, businesses can start advertising right away,” Murphy said. “We are looking to add services in the future, such as accounting, by working with CoBE.”

Further plans for expansion include offering chamber membership to associate members, which include small and corporate businesses in the community.

Murphy said allowing membership for those not affiliated with the university would provide the chamber with a greater income.

He hopes to offer businesses micro-loans in the future, most of which would be funded by these associate members.

The founding members also placed restrictions in the chamber’s constitution to keep power in the hands of the students.

The executive committee of the chamber will always consist of five members.

One will be appointed by the CEO president, two will be WSG senators, another will be the WSG business and financial services director and finally one outside member.

The final member will be voted on by the businesses. Associate members can nominate someone for that position, but cannot hold that position.

Jensen said the priority when drafting the bylaws of the chamber was to help students.

“We made it so this will always be operated by the students, while encouraging others to invest in the campus,” Jensen said.

Business owners interested in applying for membership can contact Murphy at [email protected]

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