COLUMBIA – The Columbia Chamber of Commerce hosted its second annual Small Business Festival on Thursday.
Several hundred people attended the event, which featured food, live music and other family-friendly activities.
“Small business is truly the soul of Columbia,” said Heather Hargrove, business development manager for Liberty Family Medicine. “We’re very fortunate to have a number of small businesses in the community that provide a variety of services and have a lot of talent that maybe not everyone knows about.”
In addition to working for Liberty Family Medicine, Hargrove was on the committee responsible for planning this event. Liberty Family Medicine had a booth at the event. She says that for her small business, it’s an opportunity to teach people that there’s more to medical care than what they think.
“It gives us an opportunity to talk about direct primary care and let people know that there are other ways to access full primary care in a different setting outside of the traditional model,” Hargrove said. “It also gives us a chance to support other small business entrepreneurs in the city and we fully believe in that, in this community.”
Fifty-seven local small businesses had booths at the event, an improvement from the 17 new small businesses represented over the previous year.
“Covid has hit our small businesses very hard,” said Columbia Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick. “It was hard to survive those years and it was hard to recover. I think that’s why we’re seeing an increase in booth numbers this year, because it’s another avenue that our small businesses can take advantage of to make sure they get the word out there.”
Small businesses make up 82% to 85% of businesses in Colombia, according to the chamber. The chamber qualifies small businesses differently than the federal level, which says a small business is one with fewer than 500 full-time employees. In Colombia, a small business qualifies as a business with fewer than 25 full-time employees.
“If we were to qualify it the same way as the federal level, it would be almost every single business in Columbia,” McCormick said. “And for many other communities, that would be the vast majority of their business as well.”
Hargrove said it’s an opportunity for community members to expand their horizons when it comes to purchasing goods and services.
“There are a lot of businesses in town that people don’t know exist because they may not have a physical location,” Hargrove said. “We tend to get into the same routine and travel in the same area of town. “I live here”, “I shop here”, “My children go to school here”, things like that. expands your understanding and knowledge of the wealth of small businesses here in Colombia.”
It was also an opportunity for small business owners to connect with each other. Sally Fowler, who owns a therapy dog training business, attended the event and is talking to other pet businesses about working together.
“They’re really friendly people and they were able to give me a little more insight into the collaboration I could do with them with my dog training business.”
McCormick also emphasized the importance of small businesses in the Columbia community and encouraged community members to discover what’s out there.
“Anything you could need, any service or commodity, can be taken care of right here locally, especially with our small businesses,” McCormick said. “If you look at small business as an industry, it creates more jobs than almost any other industry. The importance our small, local businesses bring to our community and the economic impact it has is astronomical in so many ways.”