Candace Ledesma started her first day as the new San Benito County Chamber of Commerce CEO on June 25. Born and raised in Hollister, Ledesma hopes to bring collaboration and new life to the chamber.
In her first month as CEO, Ledesma has already started to reach out to businesses within San Benito County to try to increase chamber membership and hear first-hand what local businesses need.
“In the last week and a half I’ve had six new businesses join,” Ledesma said in a July 3 interview with BenitoLink. “Three of those businesses are from San Juan Bautista.”
When looking at the needs of local businesses, Ledesma believes increasing foot traffic through community outreach and media promotion is key.
“San Benito County is huge,” Ledesma stated. “We have to have more events downtown, more social media, and I have heard from business owners that we need to connect.”
Though creating outreach to attract tourists to San Benito County is a goal of Ledesma’s, she also stated creating foot traffic with locals who are invested in the community is just as important.
“It’s easy to attract tourists to any community, but it’s not just about getting the [transient occupancy] tax,” Ledesma explained. “It’s about drawing people from your local community.”
With a growing population and new businesses arising, Ledesma stated that local people do not need to go far for quality dining, outdoor activities, or a variation in entertainment.
“We need to tell people you can stay in Hollister and San Benito County,” Ledesma said. “You can eat, hike, and go to a national park. You can go skydiving. You can go to Casa de Fruta and have your kids ride a train and pan for gold.”
Ledesma also believes that finding a way to work collaboratively with local businesses and organizations will be beneficial for all parties involved.
On the day of her interview with BenitoLink, Ledesma could be seen putting this principle into action as she was volunteering at the Hollister Downtown Association firework booth to raise funds for the annual Lights On Celebration.
“There should be cross collaboration,” Ledesma said. “We need to work on local business advocacy and strengthening our reputation.”
Ledesma has already started working toward gaining new membership by reaching out not only to new businesses, but businesses that were previously members as well.
Wanting to allow current members to find ways to support one another, Ledesma has further created two opportunities for businesses to come together this summer.
“I’ve created two chamber summer mixers,” Ledesma said. “One is at the 18th Barrel on July 26 and the other is at Vertigo in San Juan on August 20. Mixers are an opportunity for anyone who has paid to be a member to network.”
Reaching out to businesses outside of Benito County, including Gilroy Gardens and Monterey Bay Aquarium, Ledesma hopes to continue the process of networking and collaborating to strengthen San Benito County.
“It is important to learn from what other communities are doing and to allow them to learn from us,” Ledesma said. “I am excited to see what’s going to come to San Benito County in the next five years. I want to be a community where people look at us and say ‘What are they doing?’”
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