New Hermosa Beach Chamber CEO breaks with old chamber ways
by Kevin Cody
This Friday is Reveal Day for Hermosa Beach’s Secret Valentines. Over 100 Secret Valentines will drop gifts they purchased from Hermosa stores on the doorsteps of other Secret Valentines. Participants in the Secret Valentine signed up at the start of the month at HermosaOne.com. They listed gifts they would like to receive that cost under $30 and can be purchased in Hermosa Beach. On the cutoff date of Jan. 22, Secret Valentines were given the name and address of another, randomly selected Secret Valentine.
The Secret Valentine’s purpose is to introduce residents to local shops and to their fellow Hermosans, explained HermosaOne’s Jessica Accamando, who orginated idea.
Accamando also spearheaded a Hermosa Beach Secret Santa this past December.
She said she came up with the idea on a camping trip, while scrolling through Facebook.
“Amazon had a Secret Santa sign-up. I thought, Why Amazon? Why not sign up to shop locally,” she said.
The local promotion caught the attention of the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce, which was looking for a new CEO with new ideas. Maureen Hunt, the chamber’s current executive officer, is retiring after 17 years with the chamber.
Accamando will take over Hunt’s position this week, though on a part time basis at least through the end of the pandemic.
“Jessica has great energy, great digital marketing experience and fundraising experience. And she lives in Hermosa and has been supportive of the business community,” Chamber board member and immediate past president Marje Bennetts said of her new CEO.
“I have a lot of respect for the work Maureen and her board have done. I have big shoes to fill. But Hermosa’s chamber has been operating as a traditional chamber. I want to take the chamber to the next level,” Accamando said.
Her first focus, she said, will be improving the chamber’s social media strategy.
“Because of the pandemic, businesses need to pivot to virtual space. I see restaurants selling gift cards, but they are requiring residents to buy them at the restaurants. Why not offer the gift cards online,” she said.
Another goal is to unify the business community, which has been splintered by groups that have operated independent of the chamber.
She also wants the Chamber’s email newsletter to include specials by local merchants and photo submissions from Hermosa shoppers and diners, a feature she said is popular on HermosaOne.
Like the small businesses it serves, the Hermosa Chamber has been battered by the pandemic. The Chamber-run Hermosa Fiestas, held for the past four decades on the Memorial and Labor Day weekends, were canceled last year, along with the Chamber’s St. Patrick’s Parade and Holiday Tree Lighting. In 2018, the two Fiestas accounted for approximately $800,000 of the Chamber’s approximately $900,000 in revenue.
Because of the pandemic, Bennetts said, the chamber raised no money this year, except for dues from its approximately 300 members
Accamando acknowledged that the Fiestas are controversial with residents because of the traffic they generated on the summer’s two most popular weekends.
Ideas for making the fiestas more popular with residents, Accamando said, include involving more local restaurants and local breweries in the food court and beer garden, and featuring more booths with local businesses and artists.
Post pandemic, she said, she hopes the outdoor dining decks and new downtown bike lanes will remain.
“We can’t add parking, so we need to encourage people to bicycle and use other modes of transportation,” she said.
Accamando was born in Illinois and raised in Las Vegas. After graduating from George Washington University in 2003, she moved to San Pedro and, in 2011, to Hermosa Beach. She founded Creative Fish Design Studio in 2104. Her company provides design, marketing and social media services.
Accamando is a member of Leadership Hermosa and the Hermosa Beach Economic Stakeholders group.
“The Chamber board’s expectations are high. There’s no way I’ll let them down,” Accamando said. ER
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