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Winning with Women Wednesday – An Interview with Noelle Lotano, Executive Director for the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce

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Today, is Winning with Women Wednesday and over the past week we had the opportunity to speak with Noelle Lotano. Noelle is the passionate and driven, Executive Director for the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce. The Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce was founded about 1918 by a group of concerned business and philanthropic leaders in the County Seat of Ocean. The chamber interacts with government, business, education, legal, civic, cultural, charitable, healthcare, athletic and religious groups endeavoring to create a healthy economic climate in which to live, work and raise a family…enjoying “The Good Life.” The chamber continues to serve as a spokesperson for business and looks to further the best interests of the whole community.

Get to Know Noelle:Noelle Lotano

Name:  Noelle W. Lotano

Age:  37

Education:  I attended Sweet Briar College, a small women’s college, in Amherst, Virginia from 1996-1998 before transferring home to Georgian County College from 1998-2000.  I earned my BA in English Studies from Georgian County College (now University) in May of 2000.

Company/Organization:  Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce  

Position:  Executive Director  

Time with Organization:  Six months  

Company headquarters:  Toms River, New Jersey  

Total number of members:  Currently, we support 352 members and we employee 3 employees.

Number of memberships overseen:  Currently, we support 352 members.

Noelle, how did you become involved with the Chamber of Commerce?  

The Chamber of Commerce has been an active part of my life since my family moved to Toms River in 1984.  As a local small business owner, my father joined the Toms River Chamber shortly after we moved here, and I saw firsthand how he formed many valuable working and personal relationships with other members.  As a young woman, it was not uncommon for me to attend chamber events with him.  In December of 2014, I was asked to serve as the Executive Director of our 97-year old organization.  I was thrilled by the opportunity, and have been enjoying every day of my tenure since.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Why and how did this person impact your life?  

I have been impacted by many people throughout my fifteen-year career.  I have parents who have always encouraged me, and have had a tremendous influence over my decisions.  Someone who has specifically left an impression on me since I joined the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce is Tara Cunningham, the Founder and Executive Director of Beyond-Impact.  Tara’s thought-invoking leadership is inspiring to be around.  She embodies everything I believe women should be in business.  Her mind sparks with creativity and bubbles with strategy.  Tara “goes for it” every day.   

What is one of the most important decisions you make a as the Executive Director for the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce?  

One of the most important decisions that I make as the ED of the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce is the mission and vision for our organization – but I certainly do not do it alone.  We recently began a rebranding process, and it was my responsibility to select a team of people who would best be suited to layout the framework for our chamber’s future.  In doing so, and with Tara’s guidance, we were able to develop a mission and vision for our chamber that will accelerate local business and our community into the next decades.

Where do the great ideas come from within your organization?  

Many of the great ideas come from our 39-person, highly engaged Board.  The members of our Board of Directors serve on many other community organizations, and constructively share what is working and what is not working from those experiences.  They regularly attend our events, and provide us with feedback that enables us to strive toward partnerships that serve our members in the most valuable ways possible.     

How do you and other leaders in Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce communicate the “core values/mission of the organization”?  

Because of our recent rebrand, our leaderships and membership are excitedly impart our new mission.  They consistently share the happenings and direction of our organization with the people they come in contact with.  It brings me joy to see how organically our message is being communicated to our community.  

What are three characteristics you believe every leader should possess?  

I believe that leaders should possess many characteristics, but in selecting three, I’d choose open-mindedness, an unceasing drive for development and progress, and a good sense of humor.  

What is one mistake you see leaders make more frequently than others?  

One mistake that I see leaders make is doing things the way they have always been done.  

Can you explain the impact, if any, that social networking and social media has made on the organization or you personally? 

Social networking and social media has made a huge impact on business.  It allows us to share information with people through an alternative medium, connect with large, targeted groups of people instantaneously, and allows people who might otherwise not normally share a room, exchange ideas freely.

What are a few resources you would recommend in Ocean County for someone who is looking to gain a competitive edge as a business owner or gain insight into becoming a better leader?  

I would recommend joining a non-profit board in Ocean County if you are looking to gain a competitive edge as a business owner.  While that might sound counter-intuitive, in my experience, I have met many of the brightest minds in Ocean County around the boardroom tables of our local non-profit organizations.  Smart people and strong leaders recognize the benefit of supporting these worthy causes.   

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?  

If you are going into leadership for the first time, listen {way more} than you talk.   

To learn more about the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce: Click Here

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