Shari Fiveash moved to Fayetteville earlier this year to start her new role as the President and CEO of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber.
“I am new in this role in Fayetteville, but I have done nonprofit management for chambers and associations for a little over 30 years now,” she said.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in Design at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Fiveash spent her career in roles with multiple chambers, economic development, nonprofits, visitor bureaus, association in management positions and event hotel management.
“A design degree you wouldn’t have thought would work but has worked very well in my position,” she said. “I have helped design a welcome center in Missouri, I was the lead contractor for a remodel of a chamber in Kentucky, so I have used my degree but just not straight up, and you never know what's going to lead you to what you
Since moving to North Carolina from Connecticut, Fiveash has been taking on her role as Chamber president with enthusiasm and a respect for local organizations and businesses.
“Once you get into it, you kind of get a passion for that nonprofit and hospitality and kind of do that service thing,” Fiveash said.
“It’s kind of addictive, you get attached to it because you enjoy working with people and the opportunity to meet new people and not doing the same thing every day.”
Originally Fiveash had looked at job opportunities in Georgia and South Carolina which weren’t the exact fit and wasn’t sure of the position in Fayetteville, before she met the people and that’s what sold her on being here, she mentioned.
“It was just a really nice group of people I spoke with, it was just the right situation,” Fiveash said.
The Greater Fayetteville Chamber acts as the catalyst in growing a healthy business community through advocacy of business-friendly public policy, fostering of diverse innovative business initiatives, delivering valuable programs and services to the community.
The Chamber’s origins can be traced back to 1899 and has functioned under various names for 100 years.
“This Chamber is coming out of COVID just like a lot of businesses, we were down staffed, and we took a hit just like everyone else did so we are picking up the pieces and coming back together and trying to regroup so I am doing a lot of jobs that I might not normally be doing,” she said. “We are trying to grow back and open up and do all kinds of things.”
Due to those reasons, Fiveash said she’s currently wearing lots of hats that she wouldn’t normally have on and there’s no average day for her as they are still rebuilding.
Her day involves a lot of answering questions and reaching out to people, a lot of operations and marketing, she said.
“So everything’s changed a little bit due to COVID and we’re trying to bring everything back up and dust them off and change them up a little bit and make everything bigger and better,” Fiveash mentioned.
After starting her position, she’s focused on regrouping and has helped celebrate the Army’s birthday, the business networking breakfast, coffee clubs and more.
“The Chamber's main purpose is to help keep the economy strong in our community,” Fiveash said. “We help businesses grow, thrive, network with educational opportunities, resources and more so that they have the opportunity to prosper and help our community to do so also.”
Her main job function is working for the directors of the chamber, by taking their vision and applying her experience to help craft it and lead the business community in the right direction, she mentioned.
The Great Fayetteville Chamber belongs to the state and national chamber, and has a government committee that does lobbying and stays aware of the different things on different levels for businesses and the community. The Chamber also helps the community take up leadership positions in local government.
“Right now there’s a lot of open positions on different committees in the city, county, and so we have a program called Leadership Fayetteville where we try to educate people and encourage them to not so much be political figures but to give up their time, talent and service to our community,” Fiveash said.
A part of her vision as the new president and CEO of the chamber is to implement new programs.
“One of the things I discussed with the government relations group is Washington Fly-In, where you go see many legislators in D.C. which I think have a viable impact and value,” Fiveash said. “Another program I would like to see happen here is where we teach kids to make business plans, a joint effort with the school system and small businesses.”
She wants to see young entrepreneurs grow and teach them the value of staying in the community.
“We’ve got some great colleges and teaching kids there is great opportunity here and continue to grow our community with some young entrepreneurs, keep growing our economy that would be very valuable,” she mentioned.
In her free time, Fiveash says she enjoys the beach, loves a good bargain, estate sales and auctions as well as drawing and painting which she hopes to get back into as time permits. She is also a Rotarian.
Every one of her past roles have been different from each other, but all focus on service and helping the community stay prosperous and grow, she says.
“I would say seeing a community grow and blossom is what inspires me,” Fiveash added. “This community is growing and changing, it's just on the cusp, it could be so much more and I think that potential is there, but they just need a little push and a nudge over the edge to make some big leaps.”
Pictured above: Shari Fiveash is the President and CEO of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber.