Amber Chaney is the founder of Chaney Communications (C2), a marketing firm based in Rockville, Maryland. They are a small team of women who do social media, marketing, and strategic marketing campaigns for small businesses and larger organizations such as Bowie State University Women’s Forum, USM (University System of Maryland Women’s Forum), the Smithsonian Museum. They are dedicated to the missions that empower and impact women.
Chaney Communications was founded in 2019, right before the COVID-19 pandemic. Laid off from work, Amber had to make a choice—try her hand at entrepreneurship with her own business or look for another job. Amber had always done social media marketing as a side hustle but, with no full-time job, the opportunity to take her side hustle and turn it into a full-time business presented itself and she decided to go for it!
“I said I’d give myself a year and if I am not making an income I will return to looking for a job. It has been almost two years since then and we have grown at amazing speed and accomplished some phenomenal milestones. I never looked back!” says Amber.
However, launching a new business during a pandemic was not easy. COVID was a challenging time where Amber had to adapt to the many jobs of being a business owner while trying to make ends meet.
“I went from working a full-time job earning a paycheck, to being a manager, accountant, hr. director, and many more roles, working 10–12-hour days, 7 days a week!”
As she learned to navigate these many roles she also struggled with being one of the first and few in her community. Amber is used to being the first of many. As the middle of seven children, she was the first and only to attend college, receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, a master’s from American University, and studying abroad both at the University of Ghana and the American University of Rome.
“Both of my parents had severe drug addiction issues, we often lived in homeless shelters or cars. I was determined to live my life differently from the way I was raised,” Amber shares.
To pay for her education she worked full-time while being a full-time student for each degree, and also worked part time jobs waiting tables to make ends meet. Amber also worked for the Vietnam Veterans of America for 12 years while she earned my degrees. There she was awarded the Chapel of Four Chaplain Award for her work with veterans, an immense honor as a civilian.
“That nonprofit background was where I found joy, helping those in need. I am the product of help myself. Many wonderful mentors and community members that believed in me as a kid from a low-income family that wanted to attend college and inspired me to be more,” she says.
“This is my motivation to do the same for others. Chaney Communications is driven by being storytellers and communicators, recognizing voices that are unheard and helping businesses like us to achieve success.”
Being the first business owner in her family and in her neighborhood meant that Amber often felt like advice, resources, and overall help were limited. She did not always have someone she could lean on and ask for advice. She learned to navigate these obstacles by being vocal, transparent, and looking for businesswomen mentors to ask for help.
“You cannot be afraid to say my business is struggling, saying I am not managing money well or I am looking for grants so I can hire more staff. Being vocal is a part of this journey, asking for help shows you there are so many with stories like mine willing to help and give advice.”
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‘Keep the door open’ for others
During COVID-19 shutdowns, Chaney Communications started a “Keep your doors open” initiative where they would help any small business with social media and marketing free of charge. This was critical to many of these businesses who had phenomenal store fronts and fantastic products but now had to pivot to the virtual world.
“Some of these wonderful businesses in my community had never used social media, some did not even have a website. Teaching them social media and marketing allowed so many businesses to keep their doors open.”
Their initiative started with Island Tropical Ice Cream of Silver Spring, Maryland. This local ice cream shop was like Amber, women owned, black owned small business in her neighborhood. The owner posted to Facebook that her store would soon close down and Amber immediately went to her shop and offered her social media services free of charge. They planned a “Keep our Doors Open” event and that one-day event enabled the ice cream to SELL OUT of ice cream with a line wrapped around the door.
“Two council members and our state governor attended!” says Amber. “This is our proudest moment, a woman owned business lifting up another woman owned business. That ice cream store is still open to this day.”
Amber still teaches a social media marketing course each month free of charge now, transforming their mission to not only offering strategic marketing plans that grow businesses, but offering solutions that benefit other small businesses.
“My strength as a minority business owner is helping others to believe they are capable. I share my story, I offer assistance, I recognize my privilege in the things I have accomplished surviving my childhood and neighborhood, and my power is in ensuring I bring other women up alongside me.”
To other minority women who want to start a business Amber says, the sky’s the limit! Build a business doing what you love. Nothing is too big or too small.
“Be good to your clients, let your work speak for itself, and be honest and good in what you do and watch how your business grows! Also, do not be afraid to ask for help. There are so many resources, grants, and fantastic mentors here to help you. I live by the quote ‘Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.’”
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