Carmen Schramm

As a former retail business manager, Executive Director of Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce Carmen Schramm is well acquainted with the challenges small business owners face.

As she assists 529 area business owners in recognizing and staying ahead of business and customer trends and identifying business opportunities, she finds her work challenging but highly rewarding.

What makes her intense schedule worthwhile is the satisfaction Schramm gains when businesses experience success after partnering with the Chamber and making use of the organization’s resources.

“It seems we never have as much time as we’d like to sit down with members to thoroughly discuss their needs,” Schramm says. “However, when we’re able to assist someone who reaches out to us and find resources that resonate with them, that’s a very good feeling.”

Schramm, who grew up in Menno, finds the diversity in the Yankton community to be an asset to local business. The area’s variety of amenities and recreational opportunities draws a diverse set of visitors to Yankton and surrounding towns. Schramm also enjoys interacting and working with the small towns outside Yankton as they develop events and attractions.

“Whenever there’s an event in Yankton, small towns in the area experience some carryover from it. We also experience carryover from their events,” Schramm says. “Partnering with one another is beneficial to all of us.”

Yankton’s Chamber of Commerce, established in 1920, is celebrating 100 years of providing leadership for local and area businesses to enhance economic opportunities that will create value for members and the Yankton area. In developing anniversary events, Schramm has searched local records to learn more about the early years of the organization.

“From what I learned, some local businessmen began working together to promote Yankton and bring more business and commerce to the city. Plans to build the Meridian Bridge over the Missouri River was one of the early projects.”

Names for these early groups included the Yankton Commercial Club and Monday Evening Club.

“Many things, including retail business, have changed so much over the years,” Schramm says. “One thing that’s still the same is our focus. We search for ways to keep our community vibrant and we are a member-business driven organization helping make businesses successful.”

In addition to recruiting business and keeping in touch with the pulse of business activity and growth, Schramm participates in community board activities, committees and groups, plans a wide range of Chamber of Commerce meetings and oversees basic management Chamber activities.


“There is never a dull moment. Like any other nonprofit business, funding is always a challenge,” Schramm says. “Many people don’t recognize that we don’t receive any money from either the city or other government sources. Chamber membership is our sole source of funds.”

Schramm wants area businesswomen to know they can find “a ton of resources and wonderful support system” through Chamber membership. She hopes all area businesses will take advantage of the experience and expertise found in a network of mentors and fellow business owners to help area businesses meet a wide range of needs.

“For those developing a business plan, we love to brainstorm with them. By reviewing their plan with them, we can help identify any concerns about their plan of action,” Schramm says. “We have a network of people who can assist new or existing businesses work through roadblocks such as cash flow or succession plans.”

For women who may be on course to shoulder bigger responsibilities in positions such as Schramm’s, she encourages them to reach out to others for insight and support as they acquire their business expertise.

“Don’t be afraid to take on new responsibilities,” Schramm says. “It’s not uncommon for women in a career field to feel they’re not qualified to manage a new position or project. I beg to differ. Even though a person may not have the educational qualifications for a specific career, you may find that passion for the work is at least equally valuable. We’ll never know what we can accomplish unless we try.”

Schramm hopes fear won’t stop any area business owner or entrepreneur from stepping into a new challenge. She wants to make it known that support is just a phone call away.

“There’s plenty of fear out there and plenty of resources to help us face and work through each one,” Schramm says. “None of us has to figure things out all on our own. There are people in our community, connected to the Chamber of Commerce, who want to see you succeed. Once you find your passion, you probably won’t question your abilities anymore.”