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Connection Feature: Building the Next Leaders of the Santa Maria Valley

The Santa Maria Valley Chamber recognizes the great importance of workforce development in our efforts of continuing to promote the development and success of the Santa Maria Valley. Over the last few years, the Chamber has implemented several programs and initiatives to support our local students and professionals as they grow and learn. 


Junior CEO provides local youth with an opportunity to build entrepreneurship skills and launch their own business.

    The Junior CEO program is a six-week business course developed to teach kids the basics of starting their own business. Educational sessions throughout the course include topics such as: business fundamentals, marketing, customer service, money management, and safe food handling procedures. After completing the course material, the students participate in a Business Launch Day where they are able to officially open their business to the public for the first time. The program is licensed from the Visalia Chamber of Commerce and is locally operated by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber with the support of several community sponsors. 


    The Junior CEO program recently graduated the Spring 2023 cohort, the fourth cohort of students to complete the program. This hard-working and creative group’s business products varied from accessories to sweet treats, candles and much more. 


For more information about Junior CEO, please reach out to Yuliana Nelson, Strategic Initiatives Manager at 


The SMVCC connects local educators and school professionals with the SMV business community. 

    Fostering community relationships across various sectors of our community is a great strength and mission of our organization. To bridge the business community and our local education systems, the Chamber has held an annual State of Education event for several years. This event has great success in bringing together community leaders to hear from leaders in education about the most pressing challenges and greatest successes of our school districts throughout the last year. 


    “With workforce development as a priority of our organization, we view partnerships between local businesses and education systems as a vital component to these efforts,” said Glenn Morris, President & CEO of the Chamber. “The State of Education event is not only an opportunity to educate our community on the work being done by our local education systems but also to inspire business leaders to further engage in the efforts of building our future workforce.” 


    However, the Chamber hopes to see these connections develop into ongoing partnerships. To support this hope, in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Education Office, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber launched a Teacher Tours program this academic school year. This collaboration effort is designed to provide local teachers/school administrators the opportunity to tour local businesses and speak with industry-specific leaders. This allows for a unique platform for the group to discuss local workforce challenges and needs. Teachers are able to take this new insight into the classroom as they continue to refresh their curriculum with ever-changing industries.


Leadership Santa Maria Valley challenges participants to expand their networks and refine their skills.


    Leadership Santa Maria Valley is a program designed for local professions looking to take the next step in their personal and professional development journey. Throughout this 11 month program, participants have the opportunity to build a well-rounded understanding of our local community while expanding their network. Each month the program focuses on exploring one specific local industry for its day-long seminars, also referred to as “topic days”. While in the program, each class is also tasked with creating a Legacy Project to give back to the community. 


    Currently, the program is getting ready to graduate the Class of 2023. The Class of 2023 has been working hard throughout this year to think outside-the-box – planning creative topic day activities and tours. Seeing great value in their experience through this program, the Class of 2023’s Legacy Project is a scholarship which is designed to provide financial support for small business owners interested in joining the LSMV program. 


For more information about Leadership Santa Maria Valley, please reach out to Terri Oneshuck, LSMV Program Director at

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