Nashville Business Journal - by Cynthia Yeldell Nashville Business Journal

The Tennessee Christian Chamber of Commerce is gaining momentum with 45 members and more than 300 attendees at a recent networking event.

Started by former sales specialist Celeste LaReau, the organization wants to cross social, economical, cultural and denominational lines by reaching out to blue and white collar workers, managers and employees.

"You don't have to be a CEO or wear a suit," LaReau says. "It is for anyone that is Christian."

LaReau says during her research she discovered that the Christian presence was missing from Nashville's business community in its many niche chambers of commerce.

In Middle Tennessee, there are many geographically focused chambers such as the Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce and the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, and niche chambers such as the Nashville Area Junior Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Black Chamber of Commerce and the Nashville Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Stephanie Pepper, public relations manager for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, says niche chambers are effective in reaching out to specialty groups.

The Tennessee Christian Chamber is one of about 15 Christian-based chambers in the United States, according to Paul Northrup, chief steward officer of the U.S. Christian Chamber of Commerce. He says most have formed within the last three years.

"So many businesses are operating without basic business principles and the Christian value system," Northrup says.

LaReau says once her organization gets cemented in the Nashville area, she would like to expand it to Memphis and Knoxville.

In the coming weeks, the Tennessee Christian Chamber will add job postings and member links to its Web site.

LaReau says the organization's goal is to give Christian leaders a place to network and give Christian-based businesses a chance to be leaders in the community through ethical business practices.

"If someone wants to do business with a legitimate Christian organization they should go through the Chamber because their is an accountability process," LaReau says. "We are taking the church to the streets, to the marketplace" LaReau says.

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