Sitting across from Rena Clancy, all I could think was “this is a woman on a mission, and she is going to accomplish it all with a smile on her face.” The Coronado Chamber is an established organization with over 80 years of connecting Coronado businesses. Rena joined the team in February 2020 and is now the Executive Director. She laughs as she recalls a conversation with exiting Executive Director, Sue Gillingham. Rena told her about starting the role, “my son is in first grade now, we have structure.” While the structure in February enabled her to take the position at the Coronado Chamber, shortly thereafter the pandemic’s transition to remote work during one of the most challenging times that businesses have faced, challenged Rena to find a new way for success.
Navigating Small Business Community During a Pandemic
Rena calls the beginning of her time at the Coronado Chamber “surreal.” There was no playbook for what was happening. She recalls focusing on Coronado’s Lifeline Loans, connecting with members, and being in survival mode. Rena shares that when her father passed, she watched the struggles her mother faced as a small business owner. “It’s hard even when it’s good for small business owners,” she observes.
Working with Coronado businesses over the past 18 months, Rena explains, “I meet them where they are emotionally. You want to solve all their problems but you can’t. So how can you help? Give an ear and a voice. We all wanted someone who didn’t glaze over, but gave real resources.” She describes rolling with the punches and being straightforward with business owners. “When the state opened up June 15th, we asked ‘what can we do to help you?'”
When asked what the Coronado Chamber does that Rena is most proud of, she laughs as she says that they do a lot of things really well. Elaborating, Rena explains that the communication, connection, and personal relationships are what leads to their success.
Stepping into Executive Director
As Executive Director, Rena is looking forward to rolling out a four-part plan, a “360 Approach” she teases. The focus is not on just having a membership but using it and providing value to the business leaders and entrepreneurs. She adds that the community can expect “constant innovation and giving back.”
Coming up, Rena is excited for Celebrate Coronado on September 30th. Normally an annual event, this will be the first one in two years. This is the opportunity to showcase two years worth of local heroes. The event is summarized on the Coronado Chamber website as, “our chance to recognize and thank our local police officers, firefighters, lifeguards and city employees for all their hard work!” Find details here.
Rena is adamant on meeting people where they are. She is pursuing four types of mixers – a morning, afternoon, evening and virtual. Presenting every opportunity for members to max out on their value. For patrons, Rena developed the “inCoronado” app. The app pulls straight from the Coronado Chamber website and provides information about which restaurants do delivery, which stores to go to for your shopping needs (toys, jewelry, gifts, etc.) and much more! All without leaving Coronado.
Sue’s retirement allowed the possibility for Rena’s dream. Rena gushes, “All roads have led me to this job. This is my dream job. This is my community. I live, work and play here.” With her background in finance and hospitality, Rena identifies herself as a connector. “I enjoy connecting on this level and connecting people. I know all parts of Coronado and that’s why I have 360, why I am approaching Coronado that way. It’s already fantastic and I’m coming from a place of love to polish the gem.”
Rena ends by thanking her team, “Kerri [Dowling] is fantastic, I am so glad we get to work together. I learned so much from Sue, she’s been an incredible mentor and I am excited for her next chapter. I have phenomenal Board — business-centric community members, with collective teamwork that leads to success.
A Word From Sue Gillingham, Outgoing Executive Director
For her final thoughts as she closes this chapter, Sue shares:
My career as the Executive Director of the Chamber came at a perfect time for me. I spent 25 years in corporate America followed by the amazing construction project of the 1906 Lodge and starting the hotel from scratch. I managed twenty million dollar accounts for Computer Sciences Corporation and then ran a small local business when I had to make payroll during the great recession. Having experience in both big and small business was a great background. It has been an honor to advocate for all the hardworking business owners, especially over the past 18 months. They have shown remarkable resilience and determination weathering this pandemic.
I’m excited to start my next chapter and feel great about handing over the Executive Director reins to Rena Clancy. She came onboard at the Chamber just three weeks before the big shutdown. Working remotely, she dove into the job with gusto, getting to know our members over the phone. I love her energy and total commitment to our community. She has lots of creative ideas for new services so stand by!
Finally, I want to recognize the Board of Directors who have shared this six year journey with me. Special thanks go to Dean Eckenroth Jr. who has served on the Executive Committee for five years, including two years as Chairman. Current Chairman Mike Woiwode has been a fantastic champion of the Chamber and has the perfect skill set to lead the organization through its leadership transition.