The Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce has its new President and CEO, Shannon Full. Full comes to the community with 21 years of experience, most recently she was the President and CEO of the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce.
Full’s path to our community began in a small town in northwest Wisconsin called Grantsburg which currently has a population of 1,343.
“I grew up in a very typical midwest family,” said Full.
During her youth, Full quickly learned the value of work and giving 110%.
At the age of 13, she began working in her grandfather’s machine shop. In high school, she participated in sports while also having a part-time job.
“A really strong work ethic was instilled in me from a very early age,” said Full.
After high school, Full attended college at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire and majored in mass communications and business. She also was a corporate trainer for Applebees, where she opened new stores and trained team members. During her last year of college, she was the backstage manager for Country Jam USA.
“That gave me a lot of insight into the business world and the process of hosting massive events,” said Full. “I found out I really liked volunteer management and the event side of things.”
At the same time she was coaching a 16 and under volleyball team.
“Coaching and investing in people is a love of mine,” said Full.
After college, Full moved to Minneapolis to help open a bar facility that included three indoor volleyball courts.
“That experience really melded my love of sports and hospitality together,” said Full. “As a new business, the first thing we did was join the Chamber of Commerce, which was my first encounter with a chamber.”
Full hasn’t looked back since that first exposure to the Chamber.
Soon, after Full started volunteering at the Chamber and eventually joined the Board of Directors at the age of 22. She was then approached by the head exec who said they were going to resign and told her she should apply to take over the position.
Initially, Full says she didn’t feel ready or qualified in the slightest. But the exec took her under her wing for six months of mentorship and at the age of 24, Full got her first President/CEO job, running the Fridley Chamber.
During her time there, the Chamber expanded from one community to eight communities and about 200 members to about 1,300 members. It is now known as the Twin Cities North Chamber of Commerce.
“It was a really great experience, but I tell people I hit a point where I was single and sick of winter so I wanted to try something new,” said Full.
She found warmer weather after being recruited to run a 16-community Chamber in Melbourne, Florida. Full describes the community as being highly diverse and very immersed in military affairs.
“This is a passion of mine that I haven’t really had the chance to do a lot with,” said Full. “I’m excited for the opportunity to be more involved with this. I have the utmost respect for our military personnel.”
However, she eventually missed the sense of community found in the Midwest, leading her to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as part of her next stop.
Her introduction to Cedar Rapids came just two months after disastrous floods caused $6 billion in damage to the city with 5,400 homes and 1,200 businesses lost.
“There was just something that spoke to my heart about making an impact,” said Full. “When I got on the ground, I was sold.”
During that recovery process, Full says she saw different groups all working together, Democrats and Republicans, laborers and professionals, and everyone in between.
“That taught me a lot about how in the face of adversity, what a diverse and unlikely group of folks working together are capable of,” said Full.
From there, Full headed to Appleton, Wisconsin and then Minneapolis, Minnesota.
What excites you most about Fargo?
There’s a lot that excites me about Fargo. The first thing that drew me to this position is the community. My husband and I were very impressed and pleasantly surprised by this community when we came to visit. The visible demonstrations that you see are around collaboration, philanthropic giving and supporting of community members. The diversity of business is a very appealing piece as well. There’s something to be said about a very stable economy in very unstable times. Many people ask me, ‘Why on earth would you move in the midst of a pandemic?’ But I believe that when opportunity knocks, you open the door and you take on those opportunities. There’s a vibe about Fargo that is extremely appealing.
The Chamber was also a huge reason to come to Fargo. At numerous regional conferences, I remember seeing Craig Whitney and Jim Parsons talk about the significant programs that the FMWF Chamber has. The Chamber also has strong programs and makes a significant impact in public policy, military affairs, talent and workforce initiatives, and more.
What are you looking to change when you get here?
I think it’s way too early to tell what I would be looking to change. My leadership style is very much a catalytic leader so I am a change agent. However, I’ve also learned over 20 years that listening to those that have set the foundation and gathering insight from different stakeholders will be very important for gaining trust and respect. I want to build on our greatest strengths while also bringing new innovative ideas to the table.
With your event background, how do you plan on tackling the challenges of holding a successful event during the pandemic?
We’re seeing really dynamic events across the country that are hybrid and ones that are virtual as well. I’m really optimistic about leaning into some of those practices that have worked for other chambers and other businesses that have figured this out.
I think the way that we deliver events and programs in the future will be very different in the future, but one thing is for certain, people want to gather, they want to build relationships and they want connection, so we will continue to deliver on those needs.
What else should people know about you? Do you have any hobbies or anything else you would like to share?
I have a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old, so my hobbies are much more their hobbies than they are mine. However, my husband and I are big outdoors people. We love to play golf, and go boating. We really just like to spend time with our kids, and it is a very rewarding time to see them starting to find hobbies that they love. They’re starting to explore sports, and they already love golfing, fishing, and boating which may have been influenced by us. I also love entertaining and look forward to creating a strong social network here in our new community.
People should also know that I describe myself as having a strong balance of grace and grit. I strive to give people grace and understand them, but I also have the grit to make tough decisions.
What does the Chamber of Commerce mean to you as a leader?
The Chamber of Commerce is so much more than a membership, pro-business organization. It really is all about growth and prosperity. The Chamber is a catalyst for growth and prosperity as we promote and protect businesses, invest in people and inspire the future. It is essential for us to be able to compete in a global marketplace. We need to lean into our differentiators and tackle some of the tough issues to help us be even more competitive. We need to work together collaboratively to focus on this common goal.