With a background in marketing, Cyndi Lemke’s path is a foregone conclusion
■ By Chris Smith / Advisory Editor
The Hemet San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce is the hub in a beehive of small-business activity driving the economy of the San Jacinto Valley. That hive has a new queen in the form of Interim Executive Director Cyndi Lemke, a real estate and marketing professional who has lived in the valley for more than three decades.
Known for her infectious smile and unbridled enthusiasm, Lemke is an optimist with strategic goals, one of which is to “place a business in every single empty building in Hemet,” she says. Having lived in the valley for more than 30 years, she has seen times of prosperity and times of economic stress. Today, as a real estate professional with Authority Real Estate, and focusing on the commercial as well as the residential side of the business, she knows that economic development is the engine of prosperity and personal well being – for everyone. As interim executive director of the area’s leading business group, she has a unique opportunity to move business leaders in her direction, one she believes will translate into greater success for everyone.
While her current contract as head of the chamber is for only 90 days, Lemke plans to throw her hat in the ring among applicants applying for the permanent position left vacant with the resignation of Andy Anderson, who headed the chamber since 2013 following the departure of longtime director Patti Drusky.
Lemke sees inevitable change coming to the valley, change that many of the leaders in our narrowly defined demographic area may find difficult to accept. Diversity, both racially and culturally, seems to be the keyword, and one of Lemke’s jobs is to help smooth the transition to a more inclusive and diverse community of business owners, community leaders, and residents.
More immediately, however, she has three tasks ahead of her, and depending on how well she performs, they will determine whether she gets to keep the job of executive director of the Hemet San Jacinto Chamber on a permanent basis.
“I am charged with three main tasks,” says Lemke: “Retaining and growing membership, supporting the staff and volunteers, and analyzing existing programs and researching new ones,” says the former marketing manager of Soboba Casino.
Retaining and growing membership
Fresh on the heels of a successful business mixer and expo at the Simpson Center, Lemke is showing that she may have “the right stuff” for the job. She had to make some fast moves to pull off the recent Taste of the Valley event, traditionally held at the Golden Village Palms RV Park, when the former executive director decided to hold a similar event there within a week of the chamber expo (that last one is still scheduled for Jan. 28). The chamber event drew a large number of people and received glowing reviews from those who attended. Kudos also went to the Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District that allowed the chamber to use the center free of charge.
Growth is important to sustaining the chamber long term, and Lemke is in charge of implementing Chamber Board Chairman Lakshman Koka’s directive to have every member refer one new member. “If we can get every member to sponsor just one new business, we will double the size of the chamber,” notes Lemke. She currently is working on a program that would provide incentives for members to do just that.
Staff and volunteer support
The chamber runs on a mix of volunteers and paid staff. Volunteers are essential to the smooth operation of the organization and having someone available to answer the phone when, say, a person from out of town calls in seeking a business referral.
“We want to be highly efficient then add three or four more volunteers to help us reach out to other communities, such as Menifee and Temecula, and partner with their business and nonprofit organizations to further expand the chamber’s reach in our region,” says Lemke. She cited as one example Riverside’s upcoming Mega-Mixer from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Galleria at Tyler, an event that some members have expressed an interest in attending.
Lemke pointed out the inherent benefits of volunteering for chamber members since referral calls often go to those who help out with chamber activities. “One of our volunteers is a real estate agent, and we get calls for real estate agents all the time,“ notes Lemke.
Reviewing the chamber’s existing programs and researching new ones are part of Lemke’s newly adopted responsibilities.
One of the programs that she and the board of directors have re-launched is called Chamber 101, a series of classes on how business owners can best utilize the resources of the chamber to promote their businesses. “We go over the member benefits and how we support our businesses,” says Lemke. “We show people how to get on the chamber calendar, get listed in the email blasts, and be seen on social media. We added six classes – four on Wednesday’s at 10 a.m. as well as one night and one Saturday class.
“We want to restart the ‘Lunch and Learn’ programs,” says Lemke, who formerly taught social network marketing during similar classes at the chamber, but had surprisingly few takers. A knowledgeable marketing expert herself, Lemke has talents that could greatly boost the business results of many chamber members if they only had the time to learn how to use them.
“I want to bring in SCORE (Senior Corps of Retired Executives) representatives every Tuesday of every month,” says Lemke, “and I want to work with the U.S. Small Business Administration. We also should be able to partner with Mt. San Jacinto Junior College by providing internships and co-sponsored programs.”
So much to do, so little time, but clearly this real estate marketing pro has the experience, the drive, and the unique skills to reshape the business landscape of the San Jacinto Valley given the opportunity.