Category Archives: Venice Beach Organizations

Q&A: Donna Lasman, Venice Chamber of Commerce Executive Director

Donna Lasman.
Donna Lasman.

Donna Lasman is a Southern California native, born, raised and still residing on the Westside of Los Angeles. She has fond memories of summers at the beach and of the eclectic mix of entertainers and artists along the Venice Boardwalk.

It is no accident that she found herself at home as the Executive Director of the Venice Chamber of Commerce. Combining her love for business and community involvement is what Lasman enjoys most about her work.

Her experience in business began at an early age when she would spend weekends and summers (when not at the beach) at her father’s auto parts store.

Coming from modest beginnings, Donna worked part-time jobs during her time at University High and worked full-time while in college first attending Santa Monica College and then transferring to University of Redlands where she earned a bachelor’s of science degree in Business Administration.

She has more than 30 years’ experience in business, specializing in the area of business development and management.

Following college, after working for several firms, she finally joined the family business, an automotive parts distribution warehouse, as Vice President/General Manager where she tripled the size of the company during the 12 years she worked there.

After the birth of her son, desiring a more flexible lifestyle she resigned her position and spent the next several years working as a community volunteer and as a marketing/business consultant.

Lasman’s next opportunity found her, when a friend suggested her for a position at LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce working in membership.

After four years she moved on to serve the Venice Chamber of Commerce as their Executive Director.

She said she is proud and honored to work with the Venice community and believes that her intimate knowledge of operating a business, combined with her leadership skills acquired from business and volunteer involvement enables her to effectively and successfully represent the Venice business community.

What makes the Venice Chamber of Commerce unique?

We are part of the City of Los Angeles and part of Councilman Mike Bonin’s district. What makes the Venice Chamber really unique is that we are operated primarily by volunteers. We have virtually no staff with the exception of myself working part-time and a couple of consultants. Other than that we rely on the dedication and talents of our volunteers. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this community because it’s consists of people who are energetic, enthusiastic and passionate.

Venice is comprised of a unique fabric of artists and entrepreneurs and there’s an innovation and creativity that is very vibrant in our area.

Can you share a little about the history of the Chamber?

The history of the Chamber goes all the way back to 1922 when we were incorporated. It was at its height around the 1940s and 50s. Venice once upon a time was a city and was later dissolved and absorbed by the city of Los Angeles. Prior to my starting there four years ago the Chamber was operated all by volunteers for nearly 20 years. It was fairly low key – little impact or visibility within the community – mostly about a group of business people hosting monthly mixers. Four years ago we experienced a renaissance, building membership which at the time was at 120 members and now we are over 325. We have a full board with highly functioning committees and a lovely array of events. In addition to the annual holiday sign lighting hosted last week in partnership with the City of Los Angeles and Councilman Mike Bonin, there is the Venice Art Crawl, a Business Expo, Chamber happy hours, and most recently, the Venice Beach Young Professionals so there are lots of exciting things going on.

What was your background prior to joining the Chamber?

I have a degree in business. For the first part of my career I actually owned and operated a family business in the automotive industry. That’s where I picked up most of my of business skills. I think the best education is hands on. When you are working for a small business you get to work in every facet of running a business.

You get to see the direct impact of how your decisions influence and create immediate results. My educational background is in business, and following my work with the family business, I took time off, for my best career ever – being a mom. Having a background in business was a good fit for working with Chambers of Commerce, first with LAX as their director of membership and now with the Venice Chamber as executive director. What I love about it is that I get to combine my knowledge in business with my interest in community involvement. I enjoy the best of both worlds.

What is the Chamber’s relationship with the city of Los Angeles, in particularly Mike Bonin’s office?

Our chamber and our board members have close ties with the council office and their field representative come to member meetings. The council office and Mike Bonin have been helpful in facilitating issues that are of importance to people in Venice. A number of our board members have close relationships with the councilman.

What events do you have coming up?

Our monthly mixers are always on the fourth Wednesday at appealing locations. We did try a monthly networking meeting, but Venice people don’t like to wake up early, so we switched the morning networking to an evening happy hour. We have our happy hour mixer every first Thursday. The Venice Beach Young Professionals will start hosting mixers every other month and then coming up in the first quarter, we have the Venice Art Crawl in March. It is held quarterly focusing on different areas of Venice.

What do you love most about being involved in Venice?

I have to say it’s the people. The people who are involved on the Board of Directors, and the volunteers in our community are so talented and enthusiastic. I feel very lucky to be involved in part of this community.

And for anyone wanting more information about the Chamber?

Thank you for asking. We have our website, email, and by phone at 310.822.5425.

JillyJazz Dance Arts resumes winter session at Electric Lodge Jan. 9

Friday afternoons in Venice isn’t only for hipsters and happy hours. There’s also a happening for the tiny set just behind Abbot Kinney.

Resuming its winter session on Jan. 9, inside the dance studio at Electric Lodge you’ll hear Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift, old school Jackson Five, and see a sea of pink as JillyJazz Kids swings into action every Friday at 3 p.m.

Neighborhood children arrive by strollers, scooters, bikes, and by foot to dance with professional dancers Marina Munoz and Jill Strauss, who have been teaching adults and teens at Electric Lodge for 20 years.

JillyJazz Dance Arts resumes its Kids Dance Classes Jan. 9 to April 10, 2015, for its winter session.
JillyJazz Dance Arts resumes its winter session for Kids Dance Classes Jan. 9 to April 10, 2015.

JillyJazz Kids is the creation of Strauss and Kendell Shaffer, a local Venice mom and dancer, who always dreamed of an affordable neighborhood dance school for children in Venice and partnered with Strauss.

The two are both former students of dance master Luigi in NYC.

The Friday classes are full of spinning and leaping little ones who are often spotted at Abbot’s Pizza or Nice Cream following their classes.

It’s a great way for the children to spend a jazzy Friday afternoon in Venice.

See the flyer below for more information!


Venice Family Clinic receives grant from Health Net Inc.

Health Net Inc. announced Thursday a total of $200,000 in charitable grants to four Los Angeles County federally qualified health centers.

The grant recipients are JWCH Institute Inc., Northeast Valley Health Corp., Valley Community Healthcare and the Venice Family Clinic.

“These charitable grants are intended to meaningfully help expand the reach and capabilities of the health centers, whose patients are primarily covered by the Medi-Cal program,” said Patricia Clarey, chief state health programs officer for Health Net.

“The funding, among other things, will help them expand their physical facilities and invest in new equipment and technology to help them better serve their patients,” she said.

Additionally, Health Net is providing a total of $168,000 in charitable grants to 18 primary care physicians in Los Angeles, Kern, Sacramento, Stanislaus and Tulare counties.

“Each physician will be granted between $2,000 and $15,000 to help make a meaningful patient-experience improvement at the physicians’ offices,” Clarey said. “Examples include the purchase of medical equipment like weight scales, barrier-free exam tables and lifts for special needs or disabled patients.”


Venice afterschool program teens to interview State Senator Ted Lieu today

California State Senator Ted Lieu will be interviewed by Fabrizio Marquez, 16, and Anahi Jimenez, 15, who are both participants in Radio/Podcast Club at Neighborhood Youth Association’s (NYA) afterschool program in Venice.

The interview will be recorded today, Oct. 20, at Senator Lieu’s campaign office in Venice.

The recorded interview will be featured in the first episode of On The Record With Neighborhood Youth Association a radio show created by NYA teens.

The episode will be available for live streaming at 5:30 pm PST on Thursday, Oct. 23, after which the episode will be archived for download from NYA’s website at

Anahi and Fabrizio, along with their fellow Radio/Podcast Club students, came up with the idea to have a political segment on the show which also includes entertainment, local sports, fashion and music.

With their interest in politics and the encouragement of Radio/Podcast Club instructor, Kendell Shaffer, the students contacted the Senator’s office who responded enthusiastically. The radio show is the first of its kind for NYA and it will air live on BlogTalk Radio and be archived for download following the broadcast.

Neighborhood Youth Association (NYA) provides low income and at-risk youth ages 6-18 with targeted, individualized academic support, social skills and leadership development, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning activities, creative writing and arts enrichment, college readiness along with mentoring and scholarships for college undergraduates.

NYA is based in Venice with additional locations in Mar Vista, Mid-City/Koreatown, downtown Los Angeles, and South Los Angeles. NYA boasts a 100 percent on time high school graduation rate with 100 percent of NYA youth going on to college – nearly all are first generation college bound.

Venice chamber of commerce mixer tonight at ecole claire fontaine

Venice Chamber of Commerce will hold their monthly mixer tonight, Tuesday September 23, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm Ecole Claire Fontaine.
The event is held on the 4th Wednesday of every month at various locations within the chamber service area.
Attendees can enjoy a “fun and relaxing evening networking with other active and involved business professionals,” according to the chamber.  “Learn how you can become more engaged in our thriving business community!”
Prospective members may attend their first mixer at a discount rate of $10. Admission is $5 for members, $20 for non-members.
For more details:

Ecole Claire Fontaine is located at 1047 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. Street parking only. Guests are encouraged to carpool, bike or skate.