With warm embraces and even some excited shouts, the Santa Clarita Valley business community gathered in person for the first time in nearly a year and a half at the SCV Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Business After Hours Mixer.
“We are excited for the safe return of our in-person events, including our premier Business After Hours Mixer, which brings together over 100 business professionals,” said Ivan Volschenk, managing partner at Evolve Business Strategies, which manages the chamber. “In-person interactions are vital for both fostering and creating connections, and while we did our best in the virtual environment to keep everyone connected, there’s no substitute for genuine one-on-one interaction. The business community thrives on in-person events, where our leaders engage in authentic interactions to build lasting connections with one another, and these reliable bonds ultimately strengthen the fabric of our business community.”
Wednesday’s mixer, hosted by Valencia Acura, gave many SCV business leaders a chance to mix, mingle, catch up with old connections and make new ones, which was especially important for some, such as Valerie Bradford, president of the newly formed Santa Clarita branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“Because our branch is so new, it’s exciting for me to get out and meet other business owners,” Bradford said. “Our whole goal (at the NAACP) is to establish relationships, so this is one of the ways I can do that.”
Many agreed face-to-face events like this one present an important opportunity for those in the business community to make new connections, especially in today’s COVID-19 landscape, where those connections can help them navigate changing public health restrictions.
“Networking is important, but you also get to see what people are experiencing (in the industry),” said Omar Perez, a sales manager at Culligan Water. “We’re all in the same boat. … We’re all experiencing some of the same problems, so just helping each other out … it’s important, especially for Santa Clarita, because it’s unique (compared with) other parts of L.A. County.”
The mixer was the first time Dennis Verner, manager for Burrtec Waste Industries’ SCV division, was able to network since the pandemic began.
“I think these types of events are the lifeblood of the (business) community,” Verner said, adding that without in-person events, making new connections is much more difficult.
During the event, Valencia Acura owner Don Fleming, the chamber and Acura staff took a moment to honor his wife Cheri Fleming, who died in November.
“This was one of Cheri Fleming’s favorite events,” Fleming said, as he held back tears. “I know we all miss her. She was a force to be reckoned with. So, thank you for being here tonight.”
Fleming then rallied the business leaders in attendance, commending everyone for getting through the pandemic as he looked toward the future.
“Thank you for shopping local,” he added. “We got through COVID, so let’s take on the next (challenge).”