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Meet Frankye Payne of Southeast Chicago Chamber of Commerce

Today we’d like to introduce you to Frankye Payne.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My m story begins with being the product of entrepreneurial parents a closely knit family and a conscious understanding that doing good matters. I have witnessed generations of entrepreneurship that has greatly influenced my career path and thoughtful decision making.

At a young age a love for art and painting transitioned into a love for buildings and spaces. I was inspired by the power of design and how its relationships can aid in molding the people we become. How resources and accessibility can greatly determine your success. I saw a void in communities like the one I lived in and wanted to make it better.

The more I studied art and its power, the more I realized that programs and tools are vital for growth and prosperity. The more I studied I realized how interconnected resources for beautification, education, business and public policy work hand in hand to make a viable community.

I began working at the Southeast Chicago Chamber in the Calumet Heights/Avalon Park community in 2011. This is the same community I was raised in and was home to my family business. After all, if your passion is vital communities, why not start in your own backyard. As the child of a business owner, I witnessed firsthand the sacrifices my mother made for her dream of business ownership.

Business owners face several challenges one of the biggest challenges is managing their growth while still handling the day to day issues. For example, how can you manage your brand and marketing if you are most worried about paying your employees or a leak in your roof. Witnessing my mom with the support of my dad power through those adversities sparked a passion that got me to pursue my passion for community work in the business sector.

My role at the Chamber has dealt largely with wanting to ensure equal opportunities for resources and access to beautification. Every project the Southeast Chicago Chamber promotes shifts the narrative. Every project gets a business owner more access to the tools need to succeed and every community project becomes a beaming example of what can happen on the southeast side of Chicago.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road to community change is full of twists, turns and giant drops. The work that you do can often go unacknowledged and many times that is the hardest part of the job. You have to be passionate about the mission and not the notoriety. It is a requirement to keep your goals ahead of you and charge at them with all your might. Community organizers are often challenged with trying to change the narrative. It is not easy to promote good things happening in a community that is inundated by news and tweets saying just the opposite.

No matter where you go in the world, someone knows about Chicago. Ask anyone what they know about Chicago and they will likely mention the, “Cubs, Michael Jordan, Barack Obama and most often crime”. The media paints Chicago as a war zone filled with crime and chaos. Not to mention cable TV series that gives a deeper dive into what it may be like to be a Chicagoan. Imagine dealing with all of that and your job is to promote the opposite. Your job is to remind people that this is a great place to live and amazing place to start a business and raise a family. It’s no easy feat.

Southeast Chicago Chamber of Commerce – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The Southeast Chicago Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit organization serving the Calumet Heights-Avalon Park areas. The Chamber, supports investment and development within the community. By encouraging stability and growth within the business district and community by promoting business improvement programs, economic development initiatives, safety programs and a clean environment.
In working together, we increase awareness amongst business owners by distributing newsletters with updated news and facts. We alert business owners of grant information provided through the government and assist with the application process. We continue to improve community safety by adding roving security patrol who deter unwanted behavior of potential perpetrators. And, because we care about where we work and live, this partnership is responsible for removing of over 3000 bags of trash annually from the business district to support a clean and healthy environment for residents to stop and shop.

Our activities reflect our mission to foster and promote investment in the community. By creating and implementing programs that promote long-term economic viability, we help to enhance the delivery of services to our residents and hopefully attract more traffic to the business district. We value our owners and welcome new ones. We encourage all of our owners to take the initiative in solving issues that may arise. However, it is important to know that the Chamber is always available and the city provides great resources to support building your dreams.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The best moment in this career are when you receive an unexpected “thank you” in appreciation for an event, program or workshop. It’s rare that you get the opportunity to find out how attending an event or workshop changed the scope of someone’s life or business but occasionally someone in nice enough to share and those moments make you want to do more.

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