Movers & Shakers

Connecting Businesses with Community

If there’s one thing Fox Cities Magazine believes in wholeheartedly, and has subsequently based its tagline, it’s that we “Celebrate the Place We Call Home” at every turn. Whether it’s honoring local history, supporting area restaurants, or patronizing our neighborhood galleries and museums, we know the importance of showing up.

This month, our Movers & Shakers do too. In fact, it’s ingrained in their missions

At the very base level, the definition of a chamber of commerce (according to is that it’s “an association or network of businesspeople designed to promote and protect the interests of its members. A chamber of commerce is often made up of a group of business owners that share a locale or interests, but can also be international in scope.”

We’re lucky to have three area chambers out our front door: Fox Cities Chamber, Fox West Chamber and Heart of the Valley Chamber. 

Individually and together, they literally build up our main streets and help to maintain vibrant businesses, events and more.

Heart of the Valley Chamber

Mission: Specializing in the small business sector, our mission is to serve the business community and local entrepreneurs as connector, an advocate, a community champion and as a resource to promote the success of business in the Heart of the Valley.

Representing nearly 600 member companies and thousands of employees across the Heart of the Valley Region, the Heart of the Valley Chamber has made it their purpose to serve as catalysts to connect members and help to create meaningful collaborations and partnerships in the local business community since 1927.

Times have changed, and so has the chamber.

“Our commitment to small businesses is 100% woven into the fabric of our mission. We recognize the distinctive challenges and opportunities faced by small business owners and we’ve tailored our membership model to focus on the specific needs and resources crucial for their success,” Nicci Sprangers, Executive Director, says. “Our staff are the biggest cheerleaders for our small business community, often From the day a business joins the HOTV Chamber, we show them how they can take advantage of benefits.

“We listen to feedback, continually refine our programs, and make it easy for each business to get involved, ultimately helping them meet their unique business objectives. One noteworthy change is that over the past 5 years our membership has grown by nearly 45%. We have an all-time high in number of members and have seen a huge increase in young professionals and young business owners being some of our most active members.”

Whether it’s one-on-one business counseling, networking, development workshops or involvement in professional peer groups, Spranger says the HOTV Chamber has a hand in anything having to do with business growth.

“We also help our members celebrate business milestones including grand openings, anniversaries and expansions and recognize the accomplishments of the small business community with a huge Annual Business Awards event each year,” she says.

Fun events, programs or changes happening in 2024:
Nine-month Leadership Academy in 2024 that will be open to 30 leaders. “The program is unique in that it has a focus on Servant Leadership,” Sprangers shares. “The program is designed for high potential employees, emerging leaders and business owners who want to develop their leadership confidence, build high performing teams, and create a culture of success in their workplace. Each month participants will meet and learn from some of the Fox Valley’s most dynamic leaders and hear how they are changing the leadership landscape and learn how to implement game changing leadership strategies into their style!”

We also recently launched an exciting new Young Entrepreneurs group called HYPE!  This group is similar to a young professional’s group but focuses on supporting entrepreneurs under 40. The HYPE group meets monthly and connects local entrepreneurs to exchange ideas, share advice, hear from expert speakers, and make an impact in the community. The group is open to both seasoned and new entrepreneurs.

We are partnering with TDS to offer a small business grant twice each year to give a new local business a financial boost. The grant is called the Dream Big – Small Business Award and all HOTV chamber members are eligible to apply. The grant will support a small business owner with funding to invest in new products or additional inventory, necessary equipment or office supplies, new marketing strategies or services,  leadership or skill specific training, payroll, rent, etc.

How to become a member: Becoming a member is as easy as completing a quick membership application. Upon joining, businesses will receive a one-on-one meeting with Heart of the Valley Chamber staff who will help determine the best ways for each business to utilize their membership to reach their specific goals. 

Fox Cities Chamber

Mission: The Chamber promotes employers and economic development while serving as a catalyst to further improve the quality of life in the Fox Cities.

The second largest chamber in the state (after Milwaukee), the Fox Cities Chamber prides itself on connecting, growing and leading so businesses can succeed and our community can thrive. With the following values: “Trust in each other,” “Collaborate,” “Be agile,” “Solve and create,” “Engage” and “Have fun!” it’s no wonder the group’s history has spanned 150 years.

“The mission today is no different than it was 150 years ago because it was a group of businesses coming together, asking ‘How do we make this a better place?’” Becky Bartoszek, President and CEO, says. “It started because of that and it’s still the case today… we’re still coming together wanting to be better.”

The kickoff of celebratory events began in January, but that’s just the beginning.

“Every single event that we do throughout 2024 is going to tie back to the anniversary,” Becky Bartoszek says. “Not only are we doing a full year of events, we actually partnered with McFleshman’s Brewing Co. to create our own beer.”

In the beginning of the Fox Cities Chamber history, the group had a hand in the Appleton International Airport, Highway 441 being built, the Exhibition Center and more. Notably, Octoberfest is one of its largest projects. It’s estimated that the chamber brings in 100,000 people to the community on Friday night and 220,000 people on Saturday evening.

“It’s important to know there’s nothing that we do with the chamber that is not driven by volunteers and driven by our members,” Bartoszek says. “Octoberfest is by far our largest event and one of the biggest ways that we can impact the economy in a very, very tangible way.

“Our team actually was given an award for Octoberfest for it being the top community impact event in the entire Midwest last year.”

Fun events, programs or changes happening in 2024:
Connect Free’s mission is to grow the economy in the Fox Cities. Bartoszek explains that it was created specifically because of Appleton’s potential.

“The biggest thing that’s holding back the Fox Cities is we don’t have enough people for the growth that we’re experiencing,” she says. “For every job seeker, there’s two or three jobs out there. How can we get more people to live here?

“Nobody is saying ‘I want to find the biggest Best Buy’ when they look for a city to move to.  They’re saying ‘I want to go to boutiques, I want to go to cool restaurants, I want to get entertainment.’”

Connect Free provides free resources for small businesses with five or less employees or nonprofits with 10 or less employees or freestanding restaurants.

“We signed up about 500 small businesses within the first 12 months,” Bartoszek says. We also made our young professionals program free at the same time. So in 2023 alone, we signed up over 600 new Pulse Professional members.”

Each spring, the Fox Cities Chamber’s Junior Achievement program travels to schools and meets with the classrooms to prepare them for their “huge” Career Expo, bringing in approximately 3,000 students from about 17 different schools with about 100 employers ready to engage with them.

“ I have a speaker that comes in and her name is Kristen Bock and she teaches them about body language. Students walk through the door and speak to employers that have opportunities right here for them,” Bartoszek explains.

“Hold tight and watch some of the things we have planned,” Bartoszek urges. “We invite the community to come and celebrate us through 2024.”

How to become a member: Visit and “Become A Member” is prominently placed on the homepage.    

Fox West Chamber

Mission: Building business and enriching community.   

The Fox West Chamber—generally, but not limited to, Grand Chute, Greenville, Hortonville and Fox Crossing—is the newest of the chambers in the area being formally founded in 2012, but their mission is clear and concise, and focuses largely on volunteer work and giving back.

“We like to really emphasize the fact that we care about all of our businesses that are our members and that includes nonprofit organizations and school districts and municipalities,” Scott Sawinski, Executive Director, says. “(The chamber) is meant for all those that are part of our community who are coming together to build the business of others and then obviously to enrich our community.

“The Fox West Chamber of Commerce is committed to improving a greater ‘sense of community’ in the Fox West Area. Our objective is to strengthen the civic, cultural, recreational, and educational choices for everyone in the community. We actively seek the expansion of business and industry to strengthen the economic choice of employment for you and your family. We actively seek improvements in the Fox West Area to provide a better place for you to live and work.”

Fun events, programs or changes happening in 2024:
Fox West 50 is the “charitable arm” of the chamber, a collection of 50 individuals within the chamber.

“These 50 individuals get together once a quarter, and we discuss various topics. As long as their primary focus is on youth, they can apply and then we will have a committee meeting where we decide on the finalists and then the finalists present to the entire committee,” Sawinski explains. “The Chamber also makes a sizable contribution along with that. It’s $2500 or more that goes to an organization each quarter.”

“I just want to continue that small town feel for the Fox West Chamber but still provide the big city amenities that can come with that. I want everybody to know each other’s name and their businesses and what they do, but I also want to know that we don’t have to think small.

“The focus is growing the chamber and bringing new ideas to the group. If things are getting a little stale, it’s time to shake it up. My goal is to really connect with the members to see what they want for their membership,” Sawinski says. “I value each and every member.”

Fun events, programs or changes happening in 2024:
The chamber’s Ambassador Program helps new members to get involved, and guides them in all things networking and chamber business.

“We have to admit that some people hate networking,” Sawinski reflects. “So it’s kind of like a buddy system. You can check in with each other and invite them to go to these events together. You have a built-in person to do it with.It’s support for getting involved and connecting with others.”

“I think we do a lot of incredible work with a part time budget and the goal is to one day grow the chamber to a level where we have a full time staff,” Sawinski shares. “The more people that are able to help with the chamber the better, but I never want to discount the fact of how much my board of directors does. They truly do work and some of the key volunteers within the chamber are business leaders that have stepped up and lead committees. I’m forever grateful for all those individuals.”

How to become a member: Anybody is welcome to join the Chamber of Commerce. Go to and fill out a short application.    

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Movers & Shakers

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