As the executive director of the Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce (GVCCC), Maria Diaz has been working with small businesses since 1998, when she started working in a medical office as an administrator.
After graduating from Stony Brook University with a degree in Biological Sciences in 2000, Brooklyn-born Diaz developed a 17-year working relationship with a doctor, who would go on to serve as a mentor and inspiration to help small business owners.
In 2005, Diaz formed Tu Futuro Inc., her own consulting firm to help small businesses streamline their operations. She then expanded her work to assist non-profits and small businesses in NYC.
Diaz, who has roots in the Dominican Republic, began her work at the GVCCC after volunteering for several years on the executive board of a national Latina sorority.
Combining her business acumen and nonprofit management experience, Diaz entered the world of economic development in 2014, bringing programs like “Shop the Village” and “It’s Time for Chelsea” to life to help the businesses of the community she serves.
Asked about some of the small businesses the GVCCC works with, Diaz says the chamber works to support diverse businesses in Chelsea and Greenwich Village — from local pharmacies such as Grove Apothecary, to favorites such as Lasagna Restaurant and Garber Hardware in Chelsea.
“We have received an abundance of positive feedback entailing the chamber’s impact on the Greenwich-Chelsea community,” Diaz says. “We have been known to provide community events that support small businesses and create community, educational programs, and networking opportunities to help the entrepreneurs of Greenwich and Chelsea grow.”
Further, the chamber has sponsored programs including Safe City Safe Streets, which gives back to NYC police officers who work to keep the city safe.
“Every year, the Chamber holds a luncheon to honor, recognize, and build positive relationships between local precincts and NYC police officers,” Diaz explains, adding that the chamber creates connections and fosters relationships by providing business owners and the community the opportunity to gain inside perspectives, look at programs and strategies that officers are employing, thereby helping to facilitate dialogue and discussions.
The chamber also holds regular networking events, including business card exchanges where both members and nonmembers can come together to network. These events have also been held virtually in the past to allow attendees the chance to network with other small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Looking ahead, the chamber plans to continue to work with and recruit new businesses in the community and to help current members grow their businesses further by providing outreach and new marketing strategies and campaigns.
In addition, the chamber will also be relaying stories and hardships local businesses face to elected officials so that policies can be created to positively impact businesses.
Diaz adds that local businesses can get more involved by volunteering with the chamber to execute programming.
“Local businesses are always encouraged to join the chamber to experience the benefits we offer,” she says. “We welcome both members and non-members alike at our Business Exchange events… a great environment in which to network and get involved.”
Diaz says the easiest way to stay up to date is by following the Chamber’s social media platforms and visiting the GVCCC website, villagechelsea.com, and subscribing to the organization’s newsletter.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.