- Jan 21, 2021
PJ Weiland – Chamber Volunteer of the Year
PJ Weiland is an ActionCOACH, part of a global franchise network of entrepreneurial coaches. That business name is especially appropriate for Weiland because she is an individual who transforms ideas into action on a daily basis. During the pandemic, the Chamber and its members have benefited from Weiland’s tireless energy as she shared her technical expertise, marketing creativity, and spirit of mentorship. In appreciation for all her countless hours of service, the Chamber is happy to honor her as its Volunteer of the Year.
“In her role as a Chamber ambassador, PJ has always been generous in her support,” notes Membership Director Kathi Quinn, “but when the pandemic hit, PJ stood up and offered help and solutions to the small business community. She supported the Chamber in being Zoom savvy and led our Roundtables to keep members connected. Additionally, she went out into the community with inventive marketing campaigns. PJ has done amazing things for the Chamber and the entire business community the past year!”
Weiland went into the business coaching profession ten years ago, looking to combine her career experience in the fields of technology and marketing in a meaningful way. Coaching offered the opportunity to help entrepreneurs, a passion that has deep roots in her family.
“My father was an entrepreneur, and I have seven siblings who are all small business owners,” she explains. “I was looking for my life’s purpose, and I really gravitated toward helping small business owners.”
A longtime Chamber ambassador, Weiland has always enjoyed the opportunity to help new members make the most of their Chamber experience. She was well known to other members from her participation in networking events, where she excelled at matching up individuals for productive connections. This year, she has been even more visible as she guided the Chamber in developing virtual events, helping to transition the popular First Friday Networking Breakfast to a digital format and supporting the creation of new programs like the weekly Virtual Business Roundtable.
Long before the pandemic struck, Weiland used teleconferencing as an essential part of her business. She consults with clients all over the US and frequently meets with ActionCOACH groups from around the world. Those discussions with her global community made her acutely aware of the looming impact that COVID-19 would have on local economies and businesses.
Weiland took a characteristically active stance in response to the pandemic. By mid-March, she had organized her first webinar on how to prepare for mandated shutdowns, with 350 people tuning in. She also reached out to more than a dozen area Chambers of Commerce, volunteering to assist with setting up virtual programs. For many Chamber leaders, using Zoom was a completely new experience. Members also needed support learning to use the technology; Weiland estimates that she has taught around 3700 people to use Zoom, including seniors up to age 96.
In Northbrook, she manages a seamless flow of conversation between 80+ First Friday participants, in partnership with event emcee Dan Gelfond. She also works closely with Membership Director Kathi Quinn on the weekly Virtual Roundtable, developing discussion topics and facilitating Zoom participation.
Away from the computer, Weiland has been out in the community helping to raise support for local businesses. The neon-yellow “Yes We’re Open” signs that appeared in dozens of local restaurant windows last April were produced and distributed by Weiland, free of charge. In later months, she created “Grand Reopening” Facebook videos for retailers as restrictions were lifted. She also developed the blue bow giveaway campaign that encouraged residents to display bows in support of first responders and hospital workers, while providing community recognition to participating Chamber businesses.
In addition to her volunteer efforts for Northbrook’s and other Chambers, Weiland is deeply involved with organizations that fight food insecurity. She has served on the Board of Hunger Resource Network and devotes her Saturdays to working with the food bank at Mission of Our Lady of Angels in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, among other hunger initiatives. She also mentors high school students in the business incubator program in Glenbrook District 225.
With all her professional and volunteer activities, Weiland worked nonstop for the first six months of the pandemic. Without a hint of complaint, she notes that there is no such thing as a day off when there are businesses and people in need. She knows that these meaningful interactions form relationships that enhance her personal and professional life.
“I’ve talked to so many people I never would have met otherwise,” she reflects. “I’ve been able to help them when they needed it, and I know those doors will be open to me in the future.”