Spotting for Start-Ups

Menomonie business owner offers insight into Chamber benefits

Lauren Fisher, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Thomas Sampson
Thomas Sampson

Thomas Sampson is chairman of the Young Professionals of the Menomonie Chamber of Commerce and owner of The Machine Shed CrossFit gym. He opened his gym in 2016 and joined the chamber a little more than a year later. Sampson is a lifelong Menomonie resident who is dedicated to growing the community through entrepreneurship, investment, philanthropy, and volunteerism. He envisions a community that offers the employment and recreational opportunities that will encourage locals and UW-Stout students to make their permanent homes in Menomonie.

Volume One: What is the role of the Chamber of Commerce in Menomonie?

Thomas Sampson: Basically we would like to showcase what Menomonie has to offer, as far as businesses, restaurants, nightlife, opportunities for people looking for jobs, Stout students. Why do we want people to stay and work in our community? Why would they want to raise a family here?

What is your role within the Chamber?

This year, I took over as the president of the Young Professionals Steering Committee. My role for the most part is to be the voice between the steering committee for the Young Professionals and the chamber board. The chamber has kind of outlined what they want the Young Professionals to do for the year as far as activities go. This is awesome for me because every single time we do an event, I learn. I don’t have a business degree, I don’t have a marketing degree, I don’t do web advertising or anything like that. … (It’s) to educate young business professionals on job skills that they might need, or that would help them advance in their jobs and their business. We’ve done financial literacy. … We’ve had somebody go over Internet marketing and advertising. There’s a variety of things we go over – health and wellness in the workplace. If I can go to some of these events and learn something that’s going to help me do my job better, that’s awesome.

What kind of resources does the Chamber offer to local businesses?

I probably don’t even take advantage of a fraction of what they have. Advertising is a big one. We can put our pamphlets and our bumper stickers or anything like that at the Chamber office. We’ve got a spot on their website where any time Machine Shed or another business is hosting an event, we just send information over to the Chamber and they’ll put it out in their monthly newsletter. Say you open a new business; the Chamber will come out and do a ribbon cutting. Any time that you’ve got a big event going on you let them know and they’re going to be there to make sure that you get the word out. There are a lot of things that go on in the community that you wouldn’t know about if there wasn’t a central location for all that information.

Do you work with many business owners in the area through the Chamber?

I absolutely do. I work with young business owners, older business owners, supervisors and managers at other corporations. It’s really, really neat, you kind of get that intergenerational community. You can share information back and forth. To also kind of rub shoulders with other young business owners, it’s really neat to see these young guys come in and whether it’s real estate that they’re into or whether they’re opening a body shop, if we can kind of help each other, that’s a good thing.

What are some of the bumps and hurdles people face when starting a business locally? What can be the biggest stoppers?

That’s a tough question because I don’t know that any two businesses would be the same. Let’s say you want to open a grocery store or a convenience store, you’re probably going to have a little different perspective than I have. But the biggest thing that I ran into was the learning curve. The amount of sweat equity that has to go into you starting your own business doesn’t compare. You can have the money to start your own business, but the sweat equity, the long hours, the early mornings, the late nights. … You’ve got to learn how to be a plumber, you’ve got to learn how to be an electrician, you’ve got to learn how to do sheetrock. That was probably the toughest thing. To see your dream come to life, it’s gonna be a lot more work than you would assume it is. But it’s not impossible, you can do it. When you come up with your business plan, odds are it is not going to go how you planned. You have to be an innovator.

To learn more about the Young Professionals and other programs of the Menomonie Area Chamber of Commerce, visit menomoniechamber.org.