Outgoing Chamber Leader Still Dreaming Big For Farmville

Published 11:09 am Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lisa Tharpe has always been a dreamer. She doesn’t have just any dreams. She has big ones. As she ends her tenure as director of the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce, Lisa remembers the first time time she worked with the chamber more than 15 years ago.

Fresh in town from Raleigh, N.C., and working at Green Front Furniture, Lisa got the idea to throw a party — a big one. A Summer Finale Festival. With a background in marketing and advertising through radio and television, Lisa knew the best place to get anything done in a town was through the Chamber.

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Although she concedes her idea was a bit of a hard sell initially, with some persistence she got the Chamber to front the cost of the massive event. Three bands were lined up, food vendors, as well as a beer garden. The event was advertised and marketed heavily and buses were even chartered to bring in people from Richmond and Lynchburg.

But Mother Nature had other plans. Hurricane Dennis ripped into town the night before, flattening carefully set up tents “like paper airplanes,” Lisa says. The event had to be postponed till the following weekend.

Despite the delay, more than a thousand attendees still turned up at the airport on a beautiful warm September weekend. Coupled with Lisa’s decision to buy rain insurance (she had to talk a local insurance agency through selling her this rare type of coverage), the Chamber made more than $13,000.

“It was almost a complete disaster,” Lisa says with a laugh, “but that put me on the playing field of the Chamber of Commerce.” This near disaster would become a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

In 2012 she accepted a position as interim director of the Chamber and in June 2013 officially became director. Lisa has always been a firm believer in the powers of local chambers and over her lifetime has been a member of more than 25. From member to board member to director, for Lisa the transition was a natural one.

During the past 2½  years at the helm, Lisa has grown membership at the Farmville Area Chamber from 200 to 315. Attendance at the Chamber’s trademark luncheons has doubled. Lisa feels that her biggest accomplishment during her time with the Chamber has been adding value to the membership and helping local business owners realize that it is truly worthwhile and beneficial to be members.

“I’ve discovered that my passion in life is putting people together,” Lisa says. “I was very fulfilled in that passion while working with the Chamber.”

Although she will miss the members, Lisa keeps her trademark big dreams and bright hopes as she leaves this month to pursue another path. Her main focus will be spending time with her family (her daughter Lexy is 12 and son, Josh, is 13.) and assisting her husband as his own business, JR Tharpe Trucking, rapidly expands. In her spare time, she plans to work on her own marketing business.

It’s not just a passion for generating beneficial and meaningful connection that has driven Lisa. As a longtime resident of the community who has put her roots down deep, she feels strongly that it is in her own best interest and the interest of her family to do all she can to make the community a better and more thriving place.

“It’s important to me to make my community the best possible place to live,” she says. “I feel like I’ve done my part in doing that. Now I want to enjoy it.”

A lover of Farmville and good stories, Ilsa Loeser gets her kicks out of highlighting those who make her community shine. A former Farmville Herald reporter, she now runs Letterpress Communications, an online marketing and public relations business. Her email address is ilsamloeser@gmail.com.