Chatham Borough resident Michelle Lease, owner of The Nantucket Collection and public relations specialist and Chatham Township resident MJ Morgan, owner of Embel Consulting, a social media marketing company, have partnered to develop a marketing platform for the small business community in the Chathams. ‘Keep Chatham Thriving’ is a grassroots initiative launched to proactively promote and support local businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Given her small business and communications background, Lease knew something had to be done to help the Chatham community. She put her business on hold and created the promotional website, keepchathamthriving.com, to put the shops and restaurants in town on display. Lease and Morgan are donating their time and expertise at no cost to the businesses and working in tandem with Chatham Borough & Chatham Township.  

“In addition to the work that the Borough’s Economic Development Advisory Committee is doing, Michelle and MJ have been invaluable in developing social media and marketing initiatives to assist our small businesses weather the COVID-19 storm and reach out to residents of both Chathams by digital means," Chatham Borough Mayor Thaddeus Kobylarz said. "We are very fortunate to have these marketing professionals assist us in this regard. I encourage all of our residents to visit www.keepchathamthriving.com as part of their effort to support our local businesses."  

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“Michelle and MJ represent all that is wonderful about the Chathams," Stacey Ewald, Chatham Township Committee member, said. "They knew people were suffering and they jumped in to help. Without hesitation, they’ve given countless hours to help our small businesses keep afloat.

" On behalf of the entire Chatham Township Committee, I’d like to thank them for all that they’re doing for our community. To our small business owners, please don’t hesitate to reach out to MJ and Michelle to find out how keepchathamthriving.com can help your business during the COVID-19 crisis."

Lease said, “Keepchathamthriving.com contains information for restaurants, shops and services with direct links to all of their websites or social media pages.  It is user-friendly and  makes it easy to see what businesses are offering, from clothing, birthday presents and special gift baskets, to dinner specials and information on what delivery services are being offered.”

The site also features a ‘news’ component that showcases the latest happenings with various businesses and serves as a great source for those residents not on social media.  The campaign also has a growing Facebook page, ‘Keep Chatham Thriving’, that is dedicated to promoting Chatham.

The goal is to make it easier not only for businesses to get their word out, but for residents to see their messages. Morgan said, “The small businesses in town have done an incredible job redefining their services based on restrictions during this time while still meeting the needs of the community. Chatham Sandwich Shop launched an option to deliver sandwiches to front line workers with thank you notes included, Chatham Eatery transformed into a grocery store, selling much-needed staple items to the community and Sorriso Kitchen, which operates as a breakfast and lunch establishment, now offers ‘Sorriso Suppers’ three times a week.

And those are just a few of many examples around town. Most businesses are leveraging social media to get the word out regarding delivery options and information about their products and services. We hope this platform gives them another means of doing just that. Also, we have such a great community in Chatham, and people are looking for ways to help.

Residents want to be there for the businesses that have always been there for us. They have supported our children’s sports teams, schools and charities and provided us with fulfilling dining and shopping experiences. We hope this initiative makes it easier for the businesses to get information out and for the residents to find it so that they can rally around the wonderful town we all call home.”

The new site also has a resource page for businesses to find valuable information on government funding, free business resources and marketing tools. “We are currently working with restaurants and businesses to get them set up to receive online gift cards to obtain an influx of cash.” said Lease. "If you’re a Chatham business, whether it is home-based or a storefront, please email michelle.lease25@gmail.com to be included on the site.”

She also added, “It’s virtually impossible to survive when your business is shut down for this period of time. It’s incredibly important that we all pull together and support our business community. Every little bit helps our restaurants and shops whether it’s buying a gift early, ordering take out or purchasing a gift certificate.  When a call to action is issued it’s so inspiring to see how our community can pull together in support.” Lease spends time giving the owners ‘crash courses’ on social media marketing how to think out of the box and be more creative in the ways they market their goods online. “Many don’t have this expertise and I’m happy to share what I have learned from my online businesses.  Overnight they have had to shift their sales strategy into unfamiliar territory and it can be  very overwhelming. I am happy to be a resource for them.” she said. 

Morgan is also volunteering her consulting services to help set up social media or improve upon existing online presence for small businesses.  At the onset of the pandemic when restrictions were implemented, she contacted each Chatham restaurant to determine which ones were open and what services they were offering. She then circulated the information to the community online. She said, “People are at home, and they are online more than ever. They are looking for ways to support their local businesses and seeking information in the community,”  she said. “Now is the time to be communicating directly with your customers as much as possible about hours, changes in service, and the ways in which you are aiming to keep them safe, with options like curbside pick-up or no-contact delivery.”

When Morgan learned of Lease’s efforts to kickstart the Keep Chatham Thriving initiative she reached out to ensure the content regarding the restaurants was included. “After one conversation it became apparent that we shared a common goal of doing as much as we could to support our downtown during this unprecedented time, so we were really excited to collaborate,” Morgan said.

The marketing duo kindly asks that the community SHARE and FOLLOW the ‘Keep Chatham Thriving’ Facebook page which is frequently updated with videos and photos from the businesses: https://www.facebook.com/keepchathamthriving/ . They also just launched the Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/keepchathamthriving/ along with the hashtag #keepchathamthriving.  Any local businesses in the Chathams that would like to be included in this initiative may email: michelle.lease25@gmail.com. If you are seeking social media support please email: mj@embelconsulting.com.