Tam Hawkins, herself a business owner and proud mother of two, first got involved with the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce when her late husband, Joseph, told her the chamber was searching for a membership manager. With her extensive business background, experience in corporate sales, and penchant for marketing, he thought she would be perfect for the job.
Tam knew what it took to make a business successful and could help identify pain points and recommend process improvements, just as she had when she was selling enterprise software to major corporations. Tam not only got the job, she also went on to become the vice president of membership and community outreach. In this position, Tam worked on operational procedures as well as fundraising for the chamber.
When her predecessor left in 2015 to pursue new opportunities, the board asked Tam to become interim president because they knew her business acumen, work ethic, and dedication to the community were what they needed to fill the leadership gap.
I think the chamber really has to be known as a resource for people in the community that it represents.
As she describes it, the support ethnic chambers can provide businesses is life changing. “It literally allows people to send their children to college, it helps eradicate economic disparities for people who look like me, and there is no other work that I could think of that could be more rewarding,” says Tam, who is the chamber’s the newly minted president and CEO.
Two major challenges Tam sees for most small businesses are attracting funding and gaining access to opportunities. She believes the chamber, with its focus on the business interests of the Black community, can help with that. For example, the chamber recently hosted a networking event at the Google Fiber space downtown.
“I think the chamber really has to be known as a resource for people in the community that it represents,” she says. One of the chamber’s foci is to “make certain that you [Black businesses] have a seat at the table.”
With Austin having recently been named the Best City in the U.S. for startups, even more opportunities for Black businesses to sit at the table are on the horizon.
During her tenure, Tam’s priorities will include community engagement to identify needs and opportunities, Black business recruitment to help alleviate Black unemployment, and program review and innovation to ensure that chamber offerings are both cost effective and meet the needs of chamber members as well as the community at large. To learn more about Black Chamber, its programs and how become a member, go to their website.
The community is invited out to meet Tam Hawkins in person at her Welcome Reception and to network with other local members of the black business community this Wednesday at 6:30 PM at The Brass House.