“The Indian American community contributes a lot more to the economy than many realize through business, science or technology,” says Sharline Martin, an entrepreneur and health care professional. “It’s a hard-working community that values education, giving back to the community, and making the world a better place.”
Twelve years ago, however, a group of young Indian American professionals including Martin noticed an absence of any formal organization to nurture the needs of the business and professional Indian American community in the Cincinnati region. Driven by a commitment to strengthen both the region and the world, the Indian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky was created in January 2010.
“There were a lot of local social organizations in the Indian American community based on language and religion but not based on our professional communities,” Martin says. “We needed a voice for that community — for startups, for Indian Americans looking to expand their businesses in the Cincinnati area, and even for those who wanted to expand business operations in India.”
Martin, who serves as the IACC board president, is quick to share that the organization also delivers programming and purpose for those outside the Indian American community.
“We were a little surprised at first,” she says, explaining that about half of their members are from outside Indian American culture. “It’s a lot of folks who are interested in learning how Indian Americans do business. We’ve done a great job of making the chamber something of value for everybody.”
IACC is a nonprofit organization that is run by an all-volunteer board who gives their time and resources toward the organization and its activities. Giving back to the Cincinnati community is vital to IACC’s mission. It participates in Cincinnati’s 8-in-1 ChamberInitiative, which encourages similar cultural chambers to present even more inclusive events collectively. “We’ve been part of that our whole existence,” Martin says.
Other strategic initiatives for the IACC include programming directed toward young professionals under 40 and women business owners and professionals. Recently IACC has given back to initiatives in health care in the U.S. such as partnering with the American Heart Association’s Heart Mini-Marathon and supporting Ekal Vidyalaya, a nonprofit which supports education and assistance to rural Indian communities.
The IACC is active in the community and encourages people to get involved. “We try to do one open networking event per quarter and offer need-based programming and seminars throughout the year that bring value to our members and supporters,” Martin says.
Unfortunately, as with other organizations, the IACC’s in-person event schedule was impacted by the pandemic. That’s why Martin and the other IACC board members were only recently able to host a 10th anniversary gala (12 years after its founding) in October 2022, with keynote speaker Dr. Ashish K. Vaidya, President of Northern Kentucky University.
“We’re in a rebuilding phase,” Martin explains. “The last 2½ years, we concentrated on simply staying afloat as an organization. So it was important that we bring the gala back.”
Events like the gala are crucial for the IACC’s ability to attract new members and ultimately deliver collaborative programming that impacts nearly every facet of the Cincinnati community.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Martin says. “We hope to build strategic partnerships with health care organizations, universities, nonprofits and local businesses to offer mentorships and provide pathways to employment.
“We were glad to return to in-person programming this year, and we’re always looking for volunteers and new members!”
Do you want to get involved in the Indian American Chamber of Commerce? To learn more, email email@example.com or visit indianchambercincinnati.org.