Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
The Coppell Chamber of Commerce has a new President/CEO – Kristi Valentine, a native of Fort Worth who is a Coppell resident and who has spent the greater part of her life promoting civic and business opportunities.
“I started working back when I was in high school for the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Fort Worth and continued to work there while I was at TCU,” Valentine said. “I used to sit in their Tourist and Information booth and direct people on Saturdays and Sundays on where to go and what to see and all the great things about Fort Worth.
“I have that background, and I have that personality. I’m thrilled to have this position to be able to promote our community and to let other people know Coppell is the greatest place in the world,” Valentine said. “Being able to publically promote Coppell is a great opportunity for me.”
When she and her husband married in 1998, the couple moved to Valley Ranch and then later to Coppell.
“Since then, we’ve had lots of opportunities to move to different places through transfers with his job and other things that have come along, and we have purposely chosen not to leave Coppell,” she said.
The Valentines have a 13-year old son who is a seventh grader at Coppell Middle School East and a nine-year old daughter who is in fourth grade at Mockingbird Elementary School. Valentine graduated from TCU with a journalism degree with an emphasis in advertising and public relations and a speech communications minor. She started working in advertising while still in college. Through the years, she worked for several ad agencies including Tracey Locke and worked her way into corporate marketing, including several years with Sprint. When she and her husband started their family, they made the choice for her to stay home for several years.
“During that time I volunteered, did part time work and consulting to keep things going and to keep me energized,” Valentine said. “I had an opportunity to work for a small business here in Coppell and saw this opportunity which I had actually looked at and considered a couple of years ago when my predecessor was hired.”
She chose not to throw her hat in the ring at that time.
“But when it came back around again, I thought, ‘This might not happen again anytime soon,’ pursued it, and was lucky enough to be chosen to head the Coppell Chamber.
“I’m not a seasoned veteran of chamber affairs; I haven’t worked for other chambers,” Valentine said. “That’s not what they were looking for; they were looking for a Coppell person who loves this community and has exposure to businesses and civic organizations here, which I do. They wanted somebody to come in and make those connections.
“Living in Coppell, it feels like everybody knows everybody, but that is not the case. Every day I meet people I didn’t know. It’s one of those six degrees of separation where we do all know and have mutual friends, and so that growth and that opportunity are huge.”
She said the people of Coppell are Number One on her list of things she likes about the city. Another top asset she named is Coppell schools.
“We have so many people move to Coppell for the school district,” Valentine said. “That’s a big draw (along with) sports organizations, the churches, all the civic organizations, the community as a whole. It has a real small town feel to it. I love that, but yet, you’re not secluded and too far from everything. We have a lot of great small businesses here. We have some corporate headquarters here; it’s a very diverse business set.”
She does not have a bucket list for the Chamber but she knows others who do.
“Acquaintances that know I’ve taken this job say ‘Get us a Chick-fil-a,’ or ‘We really want a Pei Wei,’ so I tell them, that’s not really what the Chamber of Commerce does; that’s more economic development. I will be working with economic development to help them with their needs and what the Chamber can do to help them achieve their goals and then vice versa too. I’m really excited to get connected with those city leaders and to try to figure out how we can work together to take everything to a new level.”
Instead of bucket lists she thinks of action items and things the Chamber needs to do. Valentine said the Chamber is starting an initiative to connect with home-based businesses.
“You cannot identify them as easily as you can those with a retail front,” she said. “Being able to find those businesses and finding out what we can do to help them is another reason that they chose me. I have done that before. I have had a home-based business. I rose within a few months to be a director in that business, so I know what most people in home-based business might need and might want and how we might be able to help make connections for them and help them meet their goals too.”
“That is part of retaining and growing the membership,” she said. “We do have some home-based businesses, but I know we have tons we are not currently reaching, and they probably don’t know what the benefits might be to them to join the Chamber.”
Valentine said the Chamber also wants the community to know that it is not just some business organization.
“We are working with a connections group to try to help connect the civic groups, the nonprofits here,” Valentine said. “There are many that need volunteers to help with certain projects, and I have learned there are many volunteers around in our community that are looking for things to do, especially the youth. They have to earn service hours, so being able to connect those kids that need these service hours with the opportunities that are sitting there is beyond what the Chamber would normally be doing in a lot of communities, in a lot of business settings, but in Coppell, everything has overlap, and I think you’re really missing the mark if you’re not serving the whole community.”
The Chamber also sponsors social events for citizens of Coppell.
“We have a golf tournament, the Taste of Coppell, and our Community Gala, which is not just for people in business, but a community event,” Valentine said. “I want it to be the biggest party in town – one you wouldn’t think of not attending.”
The Community Gala is Sat., April 27 at Hilton Garden Inn in Lewisville.
Valentine, who has been on the job less than a month, said she is learning a lot about the Chamber, the nonprofit aspect of it, and figuring out what she can do to make the most impact in this, her first year.
“I’m excited to take on this challenge,” Valentine said. “I think my predecessors have done an amazing job of growing this from nothing. The Chamber started in 1990, and we have over 400 members and growing every day. It’s phenomenal the things that I didn’t even know as a Coppell resident that the Chamber can do and does do for businesses here and for the community. Being able to learn about that and then to be able to go out and promote that to the community. I think that is important.
“Most of the business people here live here as well,” Valentine said.“We all work here, live here, worship here, and play sports here, so if you’re not making a difference in the community, I think you’re falling short of what we should be doing as good citizens.”