Friday, October 30, 2009

Workshop to Help Businesses Leverage the Internet

On Friday, Nov. 20, businesses have the opportunity to learn how to leverage the Internet to grow their business from Chris Bessler, founder of Keokee Company. Recent estimates reveal at least 70 percent of small companies now use the Internet to help operate their business, yet with more than 1 billion websites, the small business website is often virtually invisible and even difficult for customers to find. Bessler will discuss how businesses can define their website goals, take steps to achieve those goals, unravel some of the mysteries of search engine optimization and search marketing, and share other ideas for improving results from the business website.

Bessler founded Keokee Co. Publishing in 1990, and expanded his company services to website development in 1995. Currently, Keokee hosts more than 150 websites for local and regional businesses, and provides website services including search optimization and marketing. Keokee produces the community portal website which now logs over 1 million hits from 20,000-plus unique visitors per month, and also publishes the bi-annual Sandpoint Magazine.

Among other experiences, Bessler was vice president of content for, a Seattle-based automotive services portal he helped found in 2000 during the dot-com boom, which in 2001 became the sole provider of the CarPoint auto services channel on

The workshop is part of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce’s Business Development Committee’s 2009 TGIF Workshop series presented by the Bonner Business Center and sponsored by MetLife Home Loans. The cost is $12 for members and $15 for non-members and includes a lunch provided by a local restaurant. Advanced reservations required and can be made at the Chamber at 263-2161 or online at

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pend Oreille Pasta & Wine Honored as Business of the Month

The Chamber is proud to announce Pend Oreille Pasta & Wine as business of the month.

Owned by John and Valerie Albi, Pend Oreille Pasta & Wine has served the Greater Sandpoint area for over 10 years. They began as a small business making handmade pasta and pasta sauces. They had a few tables to serve customers at that time. Now, located in Ponderay, the gourmet grocery store includes one of North Idaho’s most extensive wine selections with a large assortment of domestic and imported wines and quality selection of handmade pastas and sauces, cheeses, and artisan breads. Their high quality, specialty foods combined with excellent wines make excellent gift baskets that they can personalize to fit a budget. Additionally, they offer reasonably priced catering for all occasions and have continued a long-standing service catering dinners for Lake Pend Oreille Cruises.

John and Valerie love good, fresh foods and enjoy preparing these foods for their customers. “They sell good, affordable wines and are very helpful when you are looking for the perfect wine for the perfect dinner,” says Carol Warren.

Pend Oreille Pasta & Wine has been a long-standing supporter of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce. They’ve provided catering services and have been involved with the annual Taste of Sandpoint and Summer Sampler. The Chamber thanks them for their continued involvement and impeccable service to the Greater Sandpoint area.

For more information, call 263-1352 or visit

Photo Caption: Pictured are owners John and Valerie Albi (on right) accepting the Business of the Month award by Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce Ambassador chairman Carol Warren.

Lee Hoge Announced Volunteer of the Month

The Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce selected Lee Hoge from Sandpoint Realty as volunteer of the month.

"He is always thinking about what someone needs before he considers his own,” said Chamber board member Marcia Phillips from First American Title Company.

Hoge’s volunteer activities are greatly impressive and demonstrate his commitment to the Greater Sandpoint community. He serves as chairman of the flag committee and chairman and organizer for the 2009 4th of July parade for the Sandpoint Lions Club, an organization which sponsors the Toys for Tots Drive, raises the American flag to honor our country and veterans in surrounding cities, plans the annual Easter egg hunt, and raises money for scholarships. He also wears the hat of President for the local Shriners and co-chairs an annual golf tournament to raise funds for children with medical needs. He is also an active member of the Sandpoint Chapter of the Wishing Star, Chamber Ambassadors, the Elks Club, and serves on the Chamber’s Nonprofit Development Council.

The Chamber is pleased to extend the honor of Volunteer of the Month to Lee Hoge who has made a positive impact on our community and our youth.

Photo Caption: Pictured is Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce board member Marcia Phillips from First American Title Company giving the volunteer of the month award to Lee Hoge from Sandpoint Realty who has demonstrated his commitment to the community through many volunteer efforts.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Women in Business Conference on Nov. 5th

Packed with a powerful line up of speakers including KXLY anchor Teresa Lukens, business coach and entrepreneur Pam Stewart, and Kinderhaven executive director Phyllis Horvath, the 2009 Empowering Women in Business Conference brings education, inspiration, humor, and fun to women throughout the region on November 5th.

“We invite professional working women, business owners, and future entrepreneurs to network and build their relationships with women throughout the area,” said Marcia Phillips, chairman of the Women in Business committee hosting the event. “With a fashion show, dynamic speakers, and other women, you’ll be sure to gain valuable contacts and tips to take back to your office and home.”

How owning a business is like PMS, communicating effectively at work and home, and maintaining work/life balance with husbands, children, and full-time careers will be addressed by the line-up of speakers. There will be plenty of time for networking, laughter, and genuine girl fun at this conference.

The conference will be held at Coldwater Creek Auditorium, located at their headquarters at 1 Coldwater Creek Drive. The cost is $50 for Chamber members and $65for non-members and includes a light breakfast, lunch, and materials.

The event is hosted by the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business committee and sponsored by diamond sponsors 95.3 KPND, Bonner County Daily Bee, Coldwater Creek, Horizon Credit Union, Horizon Northwest Home Mortgage, and The Spa at Seasons. The event is also supported by pearl sponsors First American Title Company, Pend Oreille Health Care, Pend Oreille Insurance & Financial Services, and Your Relaxation Destination.

To register or for additional information, call (208) 263-0887 or visit

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chamber Announces Headquarter and Visitor Center's Move to Downtown Sandpoint

The Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors held their monthly Board meeting Thursday, October 15th to discuss, among other Chamber business, the possibility of moving the Chamber’s headquarters and Visitor’s Center from its current location on Highway 95, just north of Larch Street along Sand Creek, to the original Panhandle State Bank building located at the corner of Third Avenue and Oak Street.

Part of the proposal included keeping the current location as a seasonal Visitor’s Center or relocating a satellite center in Ponderay. The Chamber is currently talking with Ponderay’s Mayor Carol Kunzman as well as officials from the Ponderay Community Development Corporation.

Chamber officials have been looking at the ever-increasing expense of running the Visitor’s Center in its current location and noted that with the current economic conditions and the byway construction underway, it was in the Chamber’s best interest to look at several more fiscally-reasonable options for operating the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center.

According to the Chamber’s executive director Amy Little, the costs of maintaining the current location have become more than the Chamber’s budget can bear. “The Chamber office and the Visitor’s Center are two separate entities, and without the financial support of the Chamber, the Visitor’s Center would cease to exist.”

Little says that the Visitor’s Center operates in the red each year, and has been increasing its strain on the Chamber’s finances. Though the Chamber owns the building, general maintenance costs are over and above what they could reasonably pay in rent.

Also, according to Little, there has always been a misconception that the Visitor’s Center is a publicly funded rest stop. “We do not receive any public funds to maintain our location. The only money we receive from the state is our annual tourism grant, though those funds are earmarked specifically for the promotion of tourism in the greater Sandpoint area,” explains Little. The grant does not allow for the moneys to be used to fund operations or salaries.

The greatest expense is the maintenance of the grounds, leased from the Idaho Transportation Department. Additionally, the building is aging and is in need of many very expensive repairs and upgrades, including a new roof over fifty percent of the building. “The time was right to look at other alternatives, and fortunately Panhandle State Bank was looking at ways to fill up their original building, now housing only their drive-through banking operations.”

The Chamber’s Board of Directors approved the change of location for the office and Visitor’s Center, which will be located in the lobby of the building. They have yet to determine where to locate the satellite Visitor’s Center, leaving the possibility open that the Chamber will continue to operate the current center during the peak season from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

According to Michael Whitley, Property/Project Manager for Panhandle State Bank, the corporation planned to turn the building into a place for nonprofits and for-profit businesses to lease space and foster better relationships and communication among nonprofits and their stakeholders, many of them small businesses in the community.

“On behalf of the shareholders and employees of Panhandle State Bank, we welcome the Sandpoint Chamber as a new tenant of PSB Community Plaza,” said Whitley. “We are looking forward to the positive contribution that PSB Community Plaza and the Sandpoint Chamber will provide for the downtown Sandpoint Community. The 3rd and Oak Street site will provide a centralized location to meet current and future downtown community needs.”

The Chamber’s presence on the first floor of the building was appealing to the corporations’ Board of Directors, making the Chamber the building’s anchor and helping to create a business-center in the downtown core. With its proximity to Farmin Park as well as the number of events held downtown, the Chamber believes it will serve more visitors and increase their ability to promote the entire area better than ever before.

According to the Chamber’s Chairman of the Board, Kathy Hubbard, the most important task is continuing to serve the Greater Sandpoint area. “Losing our visibility to traffic on highway 95 and the ability to serve all our communities is our biggest concern. We are encouraged by our meetings with Ponderay officials that we will find a suitable location in partnership with our stakeholders to continue to serve the Greater Sandpoint community,” says Hubbard.

According to Hubbard the move will take place during the week of Thanksgiving to minimize the impact to the businesses and the community. The Chamber estimates that operations will be shut down for no more than a day or two and will be up and running the Monday after the holiday.

The mission of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce is to support, develop and promote the business community of the Greater Sandpoint area. Currently, the Chamber has over 550 members, 3 full time staff, as well as two part time staff serving the Visitor’s Center.

For more information, call (208) 263-0887 or visit

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chamber Announces Re-Launch of Youth Leadership

The Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the re-launch of Youth Leadership, now titled Youth Professional Development.

“We are thrilled to have this program up and running again, after a one-year hiatus,” said the Chamber’s executive director Amy Little. “A lot of thought and energy has gone into this, in particular to make it a positive addition to our student’s education. Fostering leadership skills in our youth is one of the most important things we can do.”

Initially launched in the fall of 2007 with 17 graduates, the program’s primary mission is to provide students with lifeskills – how to market, how to get in a field or job their passionate about, interviewing and resume building, and budgeting and the importance of good credit. Similar to the inaugural program, the students come from both Sandpoint High School and Clark Fork to foster communication and synergy amongst area youth and take field trips to gain exposure of varied businesses in the Greater Sandpoint area. Fifteen students from Sandpoint and fifteen students from Clark Fork are a part of the 2009/2010 class.

Youth Leadership Development began on October 6th with “Enterprise/Being an Entrepreneur” wherein local business owners spoke with students, and their upcoming class on October 30th will be at the Bird Aviation Museum & Invention Center to echo what they learned in their previous session. The program also includes sessions on finance, tourism and customer service, and tours to various businesses.

The program is led the Chamber’s Leadership Sandpoint class’ Vice President Alana Hatcher from Coldwater Creek. She has coordinated efforts with Sandpoint and Clark Fork High schools, the Leadership Sandpoint class, and businesses to continue the program.

“Although the program is being developed and supported exclusively as a volunteer effort, there are some minimal costs associated with the program to ensure a fully rounded experience for students,” she said. “We hope your business may be willing to provide a small donation to this worthy cause to promote and fund the continuation in the following years.

The Chamber would like to thank Alana Hatcher for her leadership to bring life back to this needed program and asks businesses to support these efforts. If interested, a donation of any size is appreciated.

To learn how you can support and for further information, please contact Alana at 265-7067 or email

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Coffees Brewing at Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters

Brewing exquisite coffee is the specialty of Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters, a new coffee roasting company in downtown Sandpoint. Even before their grand opening party slated for October 16th, they were voted one of the favorite businesses at the 2009 Business Fair and are becoming the talk of the town.

Like a winery, Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters takes an Artisan approach to their craft, focusing on sourcing exceptional beans from farms using only sustainable practices and roasting in a style that highlights the many flavor nuances of each individual coffee. Their coffees can be purchased at restaurants, coffee shops, markets, and directly at their Roasting Studio, located at 524 Church Street in downtown Sandpoint by the old Granary building. Individuals can also purchase with a Coffee Club, similar to a Wine Club, with special discounted and limited Roaster’s Reserve coffees to sample.

Additionally they host an active event schedule partnering with local artisans, musicians, local nonprofits, and other businesses. Neighborhood Tastings are held the second Saturday morning of every month where the community can sample, learn, and provide feedback about their coffees.

Owners and brothers, Randy and Rick Evans share a passion for coffee and living life to the fullest. Roast Master Randy refined his craft alongside the gurus of the industry for a decade, and Rick’s background includes 10 years in Hospitality Sales and Marketing. Their collective experience allows them to serve both wholesale partners and individuals on a level above what they are accustomed to.

“We want to engage our community through our passion towards coffee and life, becoming a homegrown business that Sandpoint can be proud of,” they said. “We want to raise the bar for coffee quality while bringing attention to the farmers around the world that bring us their exceptional coffees.”

The public is invited to come to their grand opening party on Friday, October 16th at their Roasting Studio with live music with Ray Allen and the Monarch Mountain Band, a dance party with DJ Boomerang, fire dancing, Photography Expo, food, and coffee tasting. The fun never ends at Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters. On October 29th they host a Halloween Bash with a “Yappy Hour” to benefit the Panhandle Animal Shelter and will host other special events. The public can also come to their Roasting Studio on Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 am to 3 pm or Saturday mornings.

For more information on Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters, call (208) 265-5553 or visit

Photo Caption: The Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce welcomes new business Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters. Pictured from left on front row is Ambassador Clem Hackworthy, Ambassador Peggy Shadel, Ambassador Colleen Spickelmire, owners Rick Evans and Randy Evans cutting the ribbon, and Mandy Evans holding Trace Evans. On second row from left is Meri Kate, Ambassador Andrea Marich, Ambassador and Chairman-Elect Clif Warren, Ambassador Connie Rosco, and Ambassador chairman Carol Warren.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fun for the Whole Family at Oct. 8th Business Fair

On Thursday, October 8th from 3 to 7 pm, the 4th annual Business Fair is bigger and better at the Bonner County Fairgrounds.

“The Business Fair is a great opportunity to see first hand the unique products and services available right here in our community. There's something for everyone — whether you're looking for a creative gift idea, thinking about launching a new business or growing an existing one — this is an event you won't want to miss,” said Business Development committee chairman Amy Whalen and President of Graphic Ink Creative Group.

“Our Business Development committee added spark to this year’s fair – making it a community-wide, family-friendly affair,” said Chamber executive director Amy Little. New activities and fun include free hot dogs and kettle corn, climbing tower, hay rides, and Silverwood Theme Park’s Garfield – and lots of free stuff.

This is an excellent opportunity to win door prizes, gather information for future purchases, and have a fun evening, said event organizers. And for our business owners and professionals, this is the premier event to network with other business leaders and develop a new customer base.

Over thirty businesses will participate this year to showcase the variety of services they offer – including insurance, finance, wholesale foods, fitness and recreation, coffee roasters, wireless internet, cranio sacral services, marketing, and more. Businesses will be giving away samples and services and contributing to grand prize drawings, each worth over $250.

New this year businesses will feature their ‘green’ offerings including cell phone recycling by The Wireless Works, locally grown and produced foods at Six Rivers Market, organic and botanical products by Avon, Bamboo Planet scrubs by Catie’s Uniform Shoppe, and more.

“It’s impressive the amount of environmentally-friendly and sustainable products and services our business community offers,” said Little. “And with the movement to ‘buy local’ in which the Chamber has always embraced and endorsed, this is the premier annual event encouraging support for our small businesses who then give back to support our local community,” she said. “By shopping local, you are making a ‘green’ decision - investing in your local community.”

“We invite everyone to mark their calendars to come,” said Little. There is no admission to attend the fair and all activities are provided at no cost.

The Chamber’s Business Development committee would especially like to thank catering sponsors Costco Wholesale, It’s Poppin’ Kettle Korn, and McDonalds for providing free food and beverages and Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, Idaho Army National Guard, and Silverwood Theme Park for the activities they are providing. The event is also supported by advertising sponsors 95.3 KPND, Bonner County Daily Bee, Horizon Credit Union, Mountain West Bank, Panhandle State Bank, STCU, and Boyle, Platte & Kee.

For more information, call the Chamber at (208) 263-0887 or visit

Photo Caption: Pictured are businesses at last year’s event as they give out free samples and meet with local residents. The 2009 Business Fair is slated on October 8th from 3 to 7 pm at the Bonner County Fairgrounds in Sandpoint, ID with new activities for the whole family.