KOKOMO, Ind. — As a lifelong Kokomo resident, Sandy Chapin has a passion for growing her community, creating new opportunities for businesses and residents.
Chapin is in a unique position to make a difference, as the newly-appointed manager of the Greater Kokomo Chamber of Commerce.
“I’ve built connections within the community, knowing it and loving it, so I bring that to the job,” said Chapin, who graduated from Indiana University Kokomo in 2001.
“My goal is to see us thrive, to keep growing the way we have been,” she said. “I geek out on getting to meet new business owners, and learn what they do. It’s amazing how much Kokomo has changed in the last 10 years. I’m glad I get to bring my kids up here, where they have opportunities I did not have.”
Chapin enrolled at IU Kokomo without a specific major in mind. She chose professional communications at the suggestion of Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke, after Chapin took her public speaking class.
She also gained leadership experience as student athletic director, running intramural sports and events like cosmic bowling.
“I learned how to network, how to raise donations, and talk to students about recruiting team members and marketing their teams,” Chapin said. “I had great experiences here, and teachers who were always so supportive.”
She worked full time while earning her degree, including in landscaping at Delco Park. When her manager left, she stepped into that role, launching her career in non-profit work.
She spent 10 years as an event specialist with the American Cancer Society, recruiting volunteers to lead Relay for Life events, and for programs for hospitals and cancer patients.
“That was a great job,” Chapin said. “I got to meet lots of new people on a daily basis, and see the money we raised in action with the patients. It was a good job.”
Her husband, who is a stockbroker, suggested she try banking, but she quickly discovered it was not a good fit. In 2018, she joined the Chamber as its membership coordinator.
“It seemed like a natural fit,” she said. “I absolutely love it. I get to connect with businesses and watch them grow and thrive. It’s a win-win.”
As Chamber manager, she continues to lead membership development, working with business owners to share the benefits of belonging, and planning events to promote advocacy, networking, and education.
It’s challenging work during a global pandemic, when events have been scaled back, canceled, or moved online.
“We’ve had to streamline some events and incorporate more technology,” she said. “People have started to see the value in these types of events. We realized we can use it for educational programming, or we can have limited in-person activities. It’s really made us step back and re-evaluate our member benefits and how people are using them.”
During the last year, she’s helped plan sessions with the small business administration about help available to them during the pandemic, and was part of weekly updates in partnership with the City of Kokomo and Howard County Commissioners. The Chamber also hosted the Kokomo Forward initiative, a resource for businesses to acquire the protective equipment needed to do business safely.
She looks forward to continuing to serve area businesses through Chamber membership.
“We offer so many opportunities for business owners to network, engage, and learn,” Chapin said. “I think one of the reasons I was appointed to this job is because I enjoy what I do. When that comes through in your work, and people see how much you love your job, opportunities start to open up.”