All posts in Chamber Blog

Porch Music Store Continues to Grow


Porch Music Store opened at 409 13th Street in Franklin in June of 2016, sharing space with sister company, Gibbons Business Solutions (GBS). Both grew so quickly that GBS soon needed its own space.

In June 2018 the store doubled in size, adding studio lesson space at 411 13th Street, which has enabled more significant growth. That growth included 100 new students, 7 more instructors, additional instrument instruction, and space in the original store for a builder corner and lab where visitors can make their own fun folk instruments.

The expansion was a collaborative effort. Deanna Wolfgong, their first instructor, was completing her master’s degree in music therapy and needed office space to begin her practice. She continues to teach piano, guitar, ukulele and voice for Porch Music Store and now sees her dream becoming reality as a music therapist with her own private practice space within their studios.

Meanwhile, Ashleigh Bennett became the lesson coordinator. She facilitated development of an online portal linked to their website, allowing new student sign-up, lesson tracking, and communications between staff, instructors and families.

She has also been instrumental in recruiting qualified instructors. As a result, they now offer instruction in piano, guitar, bass, voice, ukulele, drum, trumpet, clarinet, sax, tuba, beginner flute and beginner harmonica.

The collective of talented, experienced instructors inspires creative fun. Elizabeth Williams, who is also a piano tech, loves sharing music theory and hosts a “Theory Thursday” lesson each week on their Facebook page. Elizabeth, Ashleigh, and Deanna started a Mommy & Me class last year and a new class will be starting in February.

Mike Showers and Ryan Advent, drum instructors, are working with Randy Devlin (trumpet, tuba, bass, guitar) to create a new band room. That area is slightly larger than the current lesson rooms and will allow for small groups to jam together.

The growth of the builder corner and lab is also exciting. They’ve had fun hosting small groups to learn about handmade instruments and build their own canjo or cajon. They keep kits and tools ready for inhouse builds, or can go on site. This year they are planning to introduce new fun instruments for makers of all ages.

It has indeed felt like magic. It’s the magic that results from community. Their students, parents, customers, instructors and fellow businesses have provided support, encouragement, and advice. This story is a shared story. When we discover and enable fun collaborations, we can grow something in magical ways. Visit the Porch Music Store for a tour and share the magic.

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s January 2020 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

“Proud Member” Decals Will Mail Soon


Over the years and throughout the world, membership in chambers of commerce has offered business owners credibility to consumers looking to purchase products and services.

The Venango Area Chamber of Commerce has provided its members with the seal of approval from the early days when hand typed, mimeographed membership directories were distributed within the community to the modern day form of promotion through the chamber website and online membership directory. One way to let customers know you’re a member of the Venango Area Chamber is by displaying a window cling.

You’ve seen them all over the region—The Venango Chamber proud member window cling, adorning the entry doors on over 400 businesses and organizations in our community.

By displaying this cling, you tell customers that you played an integral role in the success of the Venango area through your membership in the Chamber. 2020 “Proud Member” decals will be distributed soon.

Three Years of Be Here


In early 2016, Venango Chamber President and CEO Susan Williams met with a few Chamber board members about a problem we were facing in Venango County–people talking negatively about our area.

Fast forward to January 26, 2017, and the launch of Be Here, focused on changing the narrative of our region and attracting and retaining people here.

It’s been a fun and eventful three years since this program started and as we head into 2020, we’re excited about the impact it has made, and we’re looking forward to seeing what this year holds.

Find more information about Be Here’s three year anniversary on the Be Here blog: beherevenango.org/ three-years.

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s January 2020 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Professional Development Tip of the Month: Networking


By Rachel Stiller, FLEX Events & Fundraising Committee Co-Chair

As a young professional, it is inevitable that at some point you will be networking. The difference is—will you do it well or poorly? Here are a few tips to start practicing now so that at you’ll feel confident and prepared at your next networking event:

First, take a moment to evaluate your body language and facial expressions. Your body language will be more evident to those around you than any words you say. Remind yourself to smile during conversations; this will help calm your nerves and others will see you as warm and inviting. By keeping your body language open and friendly, you will be more approachable and it will help you build rapport and trust.

Second, instead of waiting to be approached, take control and simply walk up to a person or a group, and say: “May I join you?” or “What brings you to this event?” Don’t forget to listen intently to their replies and remember that the most successful networkers are good at making other people feel special. Look people in the eye, repeat their name, listen to what they have to say, and suggest topics that are easy to discuss. Your goal is to be a conversationalist, not a talker.

Next, share your passions and be specific about your goals. Win people over with your enthusiasm. Leave a lasting impression by telling a story about why you were inspired to do what you do. Talking about what you enjoy is often contagious, too. When you get other people to share their passion, it creates a memorable two-way conversation.

Finally, remember to follow up. It’s often said that networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. If you’ve had a great exchange, ask your conversation partner the best way to stay in touch. Some people like email or phone; others prefer social networks like LinkedIn. Get in touch within a day or so of the event to show you’re interested and available, and reference something you discussed, so your contact remembers you.

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) January 2020 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

Winter Wellness: Keeping Your Sickness to a Minimum


As a new year kicks off, many people will make resolutions. Keeping some resolutions can be difficult, but many are attainable by taking small steps.

We talked to some local business on how to set and achieve attainable New Year goals related to wellness.

Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that happens as seasons come and go. Often referred to as “winter blues,” it affects many.

Katie Roth (Port), Oil City YMCA’s Wellness Director, suggests movement and exercise as a great way to combat depression. When people use their bodies to exercise and move, endorphins are released and can boost your mood and improve  your attitude.

“The social aspect of exercise is a huge part of the YMCA culture and can also positively impact individual’s moods and help to combat seasonal depression,” Katie said. “A lot of our group exercise classes are like little families—people laugh, talk and exercise together in community.”

Mental and physical health are integrally connected, illustrating how exercise can positively influence an individual’s mental health and lead to a more productive happy person.

Nourishing Your Body

Staying mentally healthy is one way people can resolve to avoid sickness in the New Year, but fending off the cold and flu are also important aspects of staying healthy. One important way to keep yourself from getting sick is to nourish your body.

Ashley Sheffer (Cowles), owner of Core Goods in Oil City, supports the idea of keeping healthy by eating fresh and whole food.

“Incorporating wholesome food in your diet can help keep your whole body in balance and feel better throughout the winter,” she said. “Instead of focusing on what not to eat, I encourage people to simply try to add nourishing items when they can—like vegetables, nuts and seeds, or whole grains.”

Simple Habits

Sometimes, simply adding small things to your life each day can make a difference.

“It might sound cliché but I am a firm believer in washing your hands, it makes a huge difference in staying healthy,” Katie said.

Daily habits, such as taking quality supplements or incorporating essential oils into your routine can have a huge impact in the long run,” said Calvin Bickel, owner of God’s Little Garden and Cranberry Wellness Center.

Despite the impending cold, snow, and wind that the winter brings, there are affective ways to keep your mind and body in shape even in the winter.

Keep those sick days away by staying mentally and physically healthy through movement that supports your lifestyle, and keep the cold and flu bugs away by nourishing your body, washing your hands, and adding simple habits to your daily routine. These tips will help to keep those sick days to a minimum and combat both the winter blues and sniffles.

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s January 2020 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.