According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of “chamber of commerce” is, ‘an association of businesspeople to promote commercial and industrial interests in the community’. That often leads people to believe that local chambers are only focused on those interests, and not the interests of the community as a whole, however on Bainbridge Island, our Chamber of Commerce takes a different approach, encompassing not just our local business interests, but interests that benefit the entire community.
The Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce (BICC) has been serving our community for more than 90 years, and prides itself on relationships developed with not just local businesses, but also non-profits, city, state and county agencies, as well as assisting new entrepreneurs in developing and growing their businesses.
The Chamber also provides two important additional services; in partnership with the Washington State Department of Licensing and the Kitsap County Auditor’s Office, they provide a satellite desk at their Winslow Way office for vehicle and vessel registrations, plus fish and game licenses (Note that driver’s licenses cannot be acquired at the BICC). They also house two official Tourist Information Desks at the Chamber office and in the Ferry Terminal Kiosk.
In non-pandemic times, the BICC also hosts a variety of events open to members and non-members alike, such as Chamber Breakfasts and Monthly After Hours. Of course, there’s my personal favorite, the annual Grand Old 4th celebration, which they host in partnership with the City of Bainbridge Island and many other businesses, individuals and non-profits throughout the island (please note: events are currently being held virtually, or on hold until further notice).
When the pandemic hit, the BICC was already wading through a heartbreaking situation; Rex Oliver, the President/CEO of the Chamber, had resigned due to illness, and subsequently passed away in July 2020. However, the staff, board members and business community as a whole needed to continue the work, and with the dedication of their long-time Director of Marketing & Tourism, Mickey Molnaire, Licensing Manager, Kris Rothert, and former President/CEO, Kevin Dwyer (who was rallied to return on an interim basis), they were able to continue to support the community by providing vital information, access to free PPE equipment and connections to support programs and organizations of all kinds.
All the while (and even pre-pandemic), in the background, Stefan Goldby was also working to assist local businesses to grow and thrive.
Stefan grew up in a small village on the outskirts of Nottingham, U.K. and made his way to the U.S. via a study abroad scholarship in 1992. He fell in love with American football and music, and a bit later, his wife, Christine, who grew up in the Denver, CO area. After completing college in the U.K., Stefan came back to America in 1995 and began his career in the music industry, first in Denver, and later in Los Angeles. While still in LA, Stefan and Christine co-founded Chemistry Productions, which furthered their work in the entertainment industry.
Although living and working in LA was an exciting time, Stefan and Christine knew they eventually (and before their children reached high school age) wanted to move to a friendlier small town, and through the recommendation of friends, they found their way to Bainbridge Island in 2015.
Once here, Stefan continued his work with Chemistry Productions through a variety of projects across the entertainment, business, retail and non-profit worlds as a project manager, business, consultant, and content executive for hire. Local projects included work with Pegasus Coffee House, and business strategy guidance for the community non-profits The Tyler Moniz Project and Bainbridge Island Rowing.
Connection with the Bainbridge small business community led to the creation of last year’s Bainbridge Strong campaign (uniting local artists and residents to support local businesses), and the Bainbridge Island General Store, a “one-stop” ecommerce site showcasing local businesses, making it easier to discover goods & services from more than 80 brick and mortar stores, online businesses and independent artist studios, and to shop small and shop local.
Stefan’s love of Bainbridge and his involvement in assisting local businesses flourish made him a candidate for the permanent position as President/CEO of the BICC, and in the beginning of 2021, he humbly accepted the position.
As Stefan explains it, he sees the Chamber as the connective tissue for both businesses and locals, an organization that can help build a unifying factor to benefit the entire community. With more than 500 members, the BICC is perfectly positioned to enhance that connectivity, and bring people and businesses together to help achieve a larger and more cohesive vision.
One such measure underway is the renovation of the BICC office on Winslow Way. The goal is three-fold: to create a more functional space to service customers of the DOL/Fish & Game licensing desks; to fashion a more user-friendly tourist information desk; and a new conference room to be used by members who need meeting space, which will also provide a home for new business-related workshops for the community. The entire project could not be completed by the Chamber alone, and is being run as a partnership with a collection of local businesses, led by the team at Coates Design Architects.
Stefan and the BICC staff are also excited to announce an additional coming-soon feature; a “pop-up” business space in the large front window that faces Winslow Way. This space will be made available to new and small business members that don’t have a large brick and mortar presence on the island to showcase their products and services (this includes artists and online only businesses).
In addition, they are updating the BICC website with new features like enhanced business listings and a new board that will allow local businesses and non-profits to post job opportunities and internships alongside volunteer opportunities throughout the island.
Going forward, Stefan and Mickey will continue to keep on top of important information pertaining to grants and other government funds designed to help keep businesses afloat during the pandemic, as well as continuing community updates via their Newsletter (sign up here to receive the newsletter via email). They are also expanding their team and currently looking for part-time candidates for Chamber Marketing Assistant and Department of Licensing Assistant as well as Island Ambassador Volunteers to help expand the opening hours of the Visitor Information desks (click here to learn about and apply for these positions).
*Images and logo provided by, and used with permission from the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce