New Wells chamber director has firsthand experience as a small business owner

Published 11:58 am Friday, August 11, 2023

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Nina Cardel, owner of Grey + Clay, is passionate about supporting small, local businesses.

“I’m a big proponent in shopping small, shopping local, supporting local businesses in and around southern Minnesota,” she said.

She’s also the new executive director of the Wells Area Chamber of Commerce.

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So when Lacey Hassing, owner of Lacey’s Catering, reached out to her about serving as the new executive director of the Wells Area Chamber of Commerce after Tabitha Swenson left, Cardel talked with her family to gauge their thoughts, applied and was subsequently offered the role.

“Being able to support small businesses in the community,” she said, referring to the appeal of the job. “Really, I’m very passionate about supporting local and supporting small businesses.”

Cardel described herself as proficient in social media, including Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok.

“I use all of which for my own business, so I’m able to take my knowledge and bring it to the chamber here,” she said. “Social media is a huge part of the world right now.”

She also felt her experience in creating graphics was a strong suit, as she could work on the chamber’s Facebook page and other social media platforms.

Cardel also described herself as outgoing.

“Since I’m not from Wells, I’m coming into a community of people who know each other, and so I kind of have to make my mark and get to know these people,” she said.

As director, she’ll be responsible for all social media pages, tracking budgeting and financing, planning events and engaging with chamber members, of which there were between 80 and 90.

Owning a polymer clay jewelry business, she described her business experience as running through southern Minnesota.

“I do craft sales and things like that, including Wells,” the Albert Lea resident said, noting “a lot” of her gift purchases were from small businesses.

Starting a small business at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic also opened her eyes to the strain it took on the small business community.

“Once COVID ended these businesses were still struggling, and I felt really compelled to, if I didn’t shop there or if I didn’t necessarily have a need to shop there or go to this business, to at least share about these businesses on social media — Facebook, things like that — to at least get the word out,” she said.

Owning a small business also provided a new community for her to connect and make friends.

So far, her new role has allowed her to meet some community and chamber members.

Long-term, she would like to increase chamber membership while promoting it in a “positive way” to encourage membership. She also wanted to develop a supportive community and drive sales for small, local businesses.

“Really promote, and hopefully drive, the economy in town,” she said. “Help people spend their money locally.”

In an email, Brittany Voigt, vice president of the chamber, was happy about the addition of Cardel.

“The board is thrilled to have Nina as our new executive director.” she said. “She has really hit the ground running and has already proven that she’s a great fit for this role. Businesses in our community will benefit from her skill set that includes social media management, photography and marketing. It’s very exciting.”

Cardel and her partner Logan have a son, Greyson, and a dog, Goldie.

Nina has a passion for supporting local artists, and the couple enjoy exploring neighboring towns and being tourists.

This is Cardel’s first work in any capacity at a chamber. Her first day was July 31.

“We are involved in Kernel Days, we’re involved in Summer in the City, we run Wells Does it Bright,” she said, noting this will be her first time running these events and how excited she was about the opportunity.