Jennifer Van Beckum, CMC’s director of membership

Jennifer Van Beckum, CMC membership director, reflects on her role, her vision for the future, and how she first became involved with the chamber scene. 

When did you first become a member of a chamber of commerce? 

Van Beckum: When I was living in Massachusetts, I was a teacher for 30 years, and I had a side business with a wellness company. Because of my side business, I needed to find new customers. I started getting involved in all kinds of networking groups. I found a chamber of commerce in Connecticut and joined the Ambassadors Committee. I found a way to leverage my membership by inviting folks that I wanted to network with to meet me at a chamber event. This benefitted everyone: it grew their network, it grew my business, and it grew the chamber. It was a win for everyone! I moved to Maryland two-and-a-half years ago.  

What do you think attracts new members to the CMC? 

Van Beckum: One thing that really sets the CMC apart is the fact that we cover a larger area than many other chambers. We also have a larger staff than some chambers. Because of my passion for networking—and because I have time in my role to do this—I can really help people make the most of their membership. Many people join networking organizations and don’t get enough out of it because they’re not sure where to start. Also, because I have the time—because our staff is a healthy size—I’m able to help people with their “elevator pitches” and with defining their target markets. In addition, our staff is very experienced. They have put a lot of processes in place and it’s like a well-oiled machine. We’re able to offer great customer service! 

What are the best characteristics, collectively, of the CMC membership currently? 

Van Beckum: I find them to be a very friendly group. That’s the feedback I get from folks—that CMC members are warm and friendly.  

Has the fabric of membership changed?  

Van Beckum: We have members from all different industries and all different-sized businesses. We want to increase the number of members of larger-sized businesses. Having a variety is good for the members because they all need unique resources and relationships. Some are looking to connect with larger-sized businesses, some with smaller businesses. 

What is your vision for CMC membership?  

Van Beckum: My vision is to not only grow the chamber but to improve the members’ experience by helping them to get involved in more ways. Our legislative affairs work is a strength, and so is the military affairs work. We are considered to be the chamber of Fort Meade. Our board is extraordinarily active and particularly supportive as well.  

What do you love about your leadership role in membership?   

Van Beckum: I love meeting new people, finding out what their particular needs are, and connecting them to the resources they need and other businesses they want to meet. You really need other professionals to help you when you’re in business. I also love helping people get over that hump of feeling uncomfortable reaching out to each other. I like helping people overcome that initial discomfort because we really do need each other. We need the community surrounding us to become stronger businesspeople. If I see someone making strides in that area, I’m very happy!