Members from six local chambers of commerce gathered Thursday evening for a packed event that marked the first time the Central Coast business leaders all stood under the same roof.
DCH Lexus of Santa Barbara hosted the two-hour “La Vida Local” networking mixer, featuring members of the Goleta Valley, Santa Barbara Region, Santa Barbara Hispanic, Santa Ynez, Carpinteria Valley and San Luis Obispo chambers of commerce.
The car dealership showroom brimmed with the voices and laughter of more than 400 guests, many standing shoulder-to-shoulder near tables of free food and a bar with free drinks of their choosing.
Dana Ochoa, corporate business sales manager at DCH Lexus, said the gathering came about when staff tried coordinating an event for the Santa Barbara and Hispanic chamber organizations.
The mixer was meant to help bring businesses together and into DCH Lexus, which has been open nearly two years and has been becoming a member of chambers of commerce ever since.
Word spread a bit better than organizers imagined — hence the long guest list.
“We just wanted to spread the word on the Central Coast,” Ochoa said. “I just felt like we didn’t want to leave them out. We’re thrilled and excited to be a part of the community.”
All chambers had booths set up to relay information and answer any questions, and a large crowd gathered around the center of the room to hear who won raffle prizes.
Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber President Luis Villegas was using the event to help get the word out about the organization’s new small-business workshops to complement the usual social mixers.
“It’s great,” Villegas said. “It’s all about collaborating and bringing more resources to small-business owners.”
Catered treats were all from local purveyors, hand-picked by local chamber members who represented the small-business owners’ interests.
Many guests talked about how excited they were to see so many faces — both new and familiar — gathering for the sake of fostering small business.
“A lot of us see each other at events,” Carpinteria Valley Chamber President Lynda Lang said. “Now we’re together in the same place.”
DCH Lexus plans to make the joint mixer an annual event, maybe inviting chambers from Santa Maria, Lompoc, Buellton or others next year, Ochoa said, adding, “The more the merrier.”