Assistant takes over as chamber director
he newly appointed executive director of the Platte City Chamber of Commerce already has a lifetime of local contacts.
Stephanie McKinley was just named last week to replace Angie Mutti, who left the position after nearly eight years as head of the organization. But McKinley, who graduated from Platte County High School, has done substitute teaching in the district and has been involved in the school district parent booster club activities, already knows “who’s who” in Platte City.
McKinley met many Platte City business owners during the past year when she served as assistant director under the leadership of Angie Mutti, who recently resigned as executive director to accept a position in another area community.
McKinley said she has a definite advantage that she can mostly skip the important job of making contacts and, instead, can dig into her mounting to-do list.
Foremost on the agenda, like last year, is how to maintain contacts and relationships between business owners during the pandemic. Last year, Mutti and McKinley instituted a new host of virtual activities, sprinkled with the occasional in-person events that were carefully orchestrated to limit numbers and maintain social distancing.
McKinley said she is planning for a year that at least begins with the same challenges but might ease into more in-person events as the pandemic wanes, but admitted she is adopting a flexible, wait-and-see approach.
“We’re all hopeful that with the vaccine, we’ll be able to hold events,” she said. “That’s entirely out of my hands.” If restrictions continue throughout the year, “we’ll try to think of ways to do things and still make it fun and engaging.”
For instance, most of the chamber’s monthly luncheons, which allow business leaders to meet and network, were cancelled last year. Instead, they focused on supporting local businesses through technology, such as advertising on social media, announcing businesses’ new hours, limits on the number of customers allowed inside and curb-side pick-up. McKinley said most area businesses were able to avoid shuttering.
“We’ve been very lucky,” she said. “A lot of businesses have held on,” she said, adding that some took advantage of financial assistance and special government funding to help them through the pandemic.
Because her new position was so recently announced and due to uncertainty around COVID, she is limited on specifics. One event that was successful last year was a beer and whiskey festival that replaced the chamber’s annual fall festival. Because the fall festival traditionally was free and opened to the public, there was no way for chamber leaders to limit the numbers attending, as required by the Platte County Health Department. Instead, they replaced the event with the beer and whiskey festival to which they sold tickets and limited the number of attendees. McKinley said future events may need to be re-fashioned in order to meet health guidelines.
Because the chamber is classified as a non-profit, McKinley’s experience leading the Parent Cheer Association at Platte County High School, where her daughters, Natalie, and Ashlee, serve as cheerleaders, allowed her to rack up experience running a non-profit. (Stephanie and her husband, Scott McKinley and their daughters live in Platte City.)
In that un-paid role, she advertised events and fundraisers, took photos, and posted them on social media, ordered equipment and spirit wear. She built relationships in the school community and beyond that continue to help her today.
“You build relationships and know who to contact,” she said.
In addition, her position last year allowed her to build many contacts. “It was nice to meet people from different businesses in town and have an idea who to contact for special questions or to collaborate,” she said. “It’s good to have that baseline.”