A Taylor Watts cartoon character would be easily recognized by the quickly appearing light bulb over her head. Before she became the executive director of the Zachary Chamber of Commerce, Watts was the reigning queen of bright ideas in Conway, Arkansas.
She is a community “Jackie of all trades,” with business, marketing, real estate and nonprofit experience. Those skill sets mix perfectly in a small-town chamber of commerce, and Watts is not foreign to that concept after working in the ambassador program in Conway.
Watts sparked bright ideas all over Conway working as a real estate agent, volunteering and serving on the board of a regional women’s shelter, lending her “good hands” to the marketing efforts of an Allstate agency and working as the ambassador leader at the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Back home, I was so involved in the nonprofit world and bringing people together and making the community more connected,” she said.
Her résumé has layers instead of the usually chronological order because she enjoys being involved in several ventures and volunteer projects at once. “I was involved in anything and everything I could get my hands on,” Watts said.
If a favorite had to be chosen it was her work with the women’s shelter. “That was my big, big platform,” Watts explained. “I did a lot of speaking for them and was involved in a lot of fundraisers.”
She even had purple hair that she said was a natural ice breaker. “People would ask me why I had purple hair, and I would tell them that was the national color for domestic violence,” she would say before segueing into “and let me tell you how you can help.”
“If there was something out there to volunteer for, they knew they could call me, and I would do it — I was that person,” she said.
When her husband got an opportunity to return to his home state, Watts found herself out of the familiar circles of Conway and in the new surroundings of Zachary.
Watts had only three weeks’ notice, but the move promised her spouse less travel and the ability to spend much more time with her and their three daughters. They jumped at the idea and soon found themselves in Zachary.
She initially received the Zachary Chamber’s events position, but the director left soon thereafter and she got the chance to head up the entire operation.
Some of her bright ideas have been to insert a “From the Archives” segment in each weekly newsletter to highlight Zachary’s history and background and a video series called “A Day in the Life,” that looks at a specific job or occupation in Zachary. Her first installment shadowed a Zachary police officer.
Her next ideas will center around ways to earn more money and plug it back into the Zachary community. She has a plan in the works that will highlight and encourage local business by reorganizing the chamber awards program. “I have a Woman in Business award, a Minority Enterprise Award and a Young Business Professional Award,” she said. “I have really shaken it up and that was our goal.”
Watts sees the community development assignment to be one where new connections are made and relationships are mended. In the future, Watts would like to find new income streams for the chamber and recruit more members. Since joining the chamber staff, Watts has seen membership grow from 241 to 303 a net growth of 62 businesses and organizations.
Those are remarkable numbers, but Watts said the secret was simple: listening. “I think listening is key,” she said. “I feel the community often feels like they aren’t being listened to so that’s what we are leaning toward.”