30 Under 30: Acacia Pangilinan is helping chambers of commerce change with the times

Pangilinan takes an inclusive approach by supporting solopreneurs and gig-economy workers as well as traditional businesses and their employees

Acacia Pangilinan, 29

Executive director, Kamloops Chamber of Commerce

Life Story: From a young age, Kamloops-raised Acacia Pangilinan volunteered at school and in her hometown. “It made me realize that I wanted to help the community that supported me so much, and I didn’t really know what that looked like,” recalls Pangilinan, who also won the Miss Kamloops competition at age 15.

She began her career in politics, working for local MP Cathy McLeod while earning a bachelor of business administration at Thompson Rivers University. After a temporary job as an events coordinator with the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce became permanent, then–executive director Deb McClelland showed Pangilinan the impact the Chamber could have. “I just got hooked after that point,” she says. When McClelland stepped down, Pangilinan applied for her job—twice—and got it in 2019. She credits her volunteering, work and school experience, and role as a community ambassador with preparing her for the role.

Bottom Line: With its three staff, the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce serves about 650 members. “The last year has been so focused on saving our membership,” Pangilinan says of COVID. She emphasized communication during the pandemic, advocating strongly for businesses, inviting government experts to talk about grant and loan programs and jumping on social media to explain eligibility. As chair of the professional development committee for the provincial BC Chamber Executives Society, she also held biweekly coffee chats.

Pangilinan, who thinks chambers and other business groups need to modernize, says she takes an inclusive approach. To her, that means supporting solopreneurs and gig-economy workers as well as traditional businesses and their employees. “That’s something that I’d like to see done at a national level.” She’s also boosting the Kamloops Chamber’s online presence. “I think there’s so much opportunity for chambers to use their digital channels to be champions for business.”