Passion, Poise & Purpose 7

Catching Up with CeeCee Collins, the Heart and Soul behind Our Area’s Chamber

FIRST AND FOREMOST, HOW DOES THE LITTLE MIAMI RIVER CHAMBER ALLIANCE CONTRIBUTE TO OUR AREA?

We needed events, we needed people coming to our town. Business owners who’d invested everything needed people to see where we were—taste our food, go to our shops. People thought there was nothing in Loveland. We needed to move forward while keeping with the rich history that’s already here. That’s why we do events. The energy we’ve brought to this area has contributed to its success, along with a lot of support from our city government and board of directors. Now we have businesses outside of Loveland who want to be involved, too. They know we’ve got something going on here and want to be part of it.

AND BEING ITS PRESIDENT AND CEO?

It’s not always easy, but I’m passionate about the services we offer and the way we go about offering them. At the beginning, I didn’t know how I was going to do it. The Chamber was a nonprofit with no money, and I had a short window to turn it around. I talked to the city. I talked to business owners, asking them, “What’s missing? What can I bring to help you be more successful?” I knew how to try but didn’t know if it would work. The people here had to trust me. They did. And it worked. Five and half years later, with massive support from both the board and the community, we’re doing well. I’m proud of that.

BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?

Meeting with the business owners. I’m not only excited for them, I’m excited about where they’ll fit into our community, especially when it’s something our area doesn’t have or something I can see will be done well. Talking to a new business that needs help or an older business that’s not doing well, that floats my boat—hearing about their plan, their business model. Helping businesses get to the right people to be successful is fantastic.

HOW DOES YOUR FAMILY FEEL ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?

At first, they didn’t really understand my job. We were doing a lot of events—events for the community, events in the community. I worked a lot of weekends and evenings. They’d ask, “Do we have to go? Do we have to help?” But then I started bringing in events that were netting $15,0000 to $25,000 for the Chamber, and my family quickly started to understand what I was doing and why I was doing it. My parents instilled in me that you have to give back, and I probably do this to a fault. I want to help so much, I say yes to everyone. My kids have learned that, too. Now they say, “Hey, Mom, I want to pitch in at your event tonight.” It warms my heart to see my children recognize the value in what I’m doing and appreciate it. It’s been a family effort for sure.

TELL US ABOUT “LOVELAND STRONG” FOLLOWING LAST YEAR’S TRAGIC FIRE.

The Loveland Strong movement was unbelievable. People were ringing us off the hook in the days following the downtown fire. What I’m proud of is the different groups that responded—residents, business owners, the fire department, the city itself—everyone had ideas and was asking what they could do. We collected thousands of dollars of immediate relief for people out of work and people who’d lost everything—plus grocery gift cards, toothbrushes, mattresses, rental homes. It was really cool to see the community come together. And that’s what the Street Fest was all about, to say thank you. To say, “Look how strong we can be. Look what we did together.”

FAVORITE EVENT?

The Loveland Food Truck Rally. To me, it really kicks off the summer. People are itching to get to the lake or don their summer clothes, and this event is the one that really signals the start of it all. People love it. More importantly, the Rally was an event we created since I came to the Chamber, not one we inherited.

CAN YOU SUM UP LOVELAND WITH A WORD OR TWO?

Cinderella story. I love that I feel we’re successful. We’re the dream city. Other chambers look at us and see what their towns can become, what they can have if they work together. And you can’t deny the natural landscape. We’ve got something cool going on here—within minutes, you can be at a park or find yourself in the middle of the woods for a quiet run, a kayak trip or bike ride. That’s incredibly special. I’m passionate about this area, I’m its biggest cheerleader and patron—it’s why I’m good at my job.

“My parents instilled in me that you have to give back … it warms my heart to see my children recognize the value in what I’m doing and appreciate it.”