HOT SPRINGS - This week’s 5-on-5 interview is with the new Executive Director of the Hot Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, Olivia Mears, who recently took over the reins of the chamber following the departure of longtime director Scott Haden, who resigned to take a new position with the Hot Springs VA.
Please meet Olivia!
1) Tell us a little about your background, where you grew up, previous related job experience and how/when you came to live in Hot Springs.
I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and qualified as a Speech and Drama Teacher, through Trinity College, London. I worked in the Entertainment Industry in various capacities until 1986 when I started working full time in feature film production. In the early 90’s I followed my sister to California and continued in film in Los Angeles. I had worked my way up from Production Secretary to Line Producer and then in 1998, my boyfriend at the time, took a job on Pine Ridge and asked me to accompany him. We had never heard of Hot Springs, but when we showed up here, I knew I had found my home in America. After the hectic fast pace of Los Angeles, Hot Springs was a breath of fresh air and I fell in love with our little town. I took a job in retail and worked my way up to District Manager with Fresh Start Convenience Stores until I joined the Chamber of Commerce in 2012 as the Executive Secretary.
2) How will your previous experience as the Executive Secretary help you in your new role at the Chamber?
That position taught me the day to day running of the Chamber, and I was very fortunate that my predecessor, Scott Haden, was very generous with his knowledge and expertise and included me in all aspects of the Chamber operations. I was able to wear many hats and do everything from office management, event coordinating, secretarial, accounting, marketing and advertising and everything in between. I loved dealing with the members and was able to be both creative and administrative in that position.
3) Describe your priorities as the new Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce?
I plan to work very hard in growing tourism in our area and also want to expand our Chamber membership. I believe that we can all work together to make Hot Springs a premiere tourist destination as we have so much to offer in this wonderful town. It is vital to encourage support for local business as any money spent in our town benefits our community. I want to make sure that our members are aware of, and make use of, all the resources the Chamber has to offer. I would also like to reach out to the Ag Community and promote and support agriculture in our Area. It is also important that the community is made aware of all the things the Chamber does and I urge people to get involved with the Chamber and join us in growing our economy through Tourism, Agriculture and supporting local businesses.
4) What is it that you enjoy most about being a part of the community of Hot Springs and the Chamber of Commerce?
From day one in Hot Springs, I have felt welcomed, and many tourists and newcomers comment on how friendly we are in this town. We are a warm and inviting community with so much to offer and I am privileged to be part of promoting Hot Springs. I enjoy being creative and coming up with new ways and ideas to bring visitors to our area. The Chamber also puts on some great events and I believe that destination events, like our Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival, are not only fun for our community, but attract a lot of people to Hot Springs. I am excited to try some new ideas and although not everything can be successful, I would rather try something and fail, than fail because I didn’t try.
5) Why is it important to support a community’s Chamber of Commerce?
Being a part of your local Chamber of Commerce helps highlight your Attraction, Business or Services. The Chamber is a great source of information for visitors and residents, and the Chamber constantly refers potential customers to their members. The numerous Chamber publications such as newsletters, relocation guides, business directories and vacation guides, increase your visibility and Chamber events offer you the opportunity to network with other members. The Chamber Committees offer the opportunity to voice your opinions, share your ideas and be part of growing your community. There are other numerous benefits such as co-op marketing, seminars and training that are also available to members. I invite anyone to visit us at the Chamber to learn more about what we can do for you.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Chamber Board of Directors for putting their faith in me to lead our Chamber of Commerce, and I am honored to play a part in helping Hot Springs grow and thrive.