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 events.
“Small business is truly the soul of Columbia,” said Heather Hargrove, business development manager at Liberty Family Medicine. “We’re very lucky to have a few small businesses with a lot of talent that offer a variety of services in the community, and maybe not everyone knows about them.”
In addition to working for Liberty Family Medicine, Hargrove was on the committee responsible for planning this event. Liberty Family Medicine opened a booth at the event. For his small business, he says, this is an opportunity to teach people that there is more to medical care than they realize.
“This gives us a chance to talk directly about primary care and let people know that there are other ways to access full-service primary care in a different setting outside of the traditional model,” Hargrove said. “It also gives us the chance to support other small business entrepreneurs in the city, and we totally believe that in this community.”
Fifty-seven local small businesses had booths at the event; this is an indicator of the 17 new small businesses coming to the fore compared to the previous year.
“COVID has hit hard for our small businesses,” said Matt McCormick, President of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. Said. “Getting through those years has been a struggle and a struggle to recover. I think we’re seeing an increase in booth numbers this year because that’s another way our small businesses can take advantage. make sure they get the word out there.”
According to the Chamber, small businesses make up 82% to 85% of businesses in Columbia. The Chamber describes small businesses as different from the federal level, which says a small business is one with fewer than 500 full-time employees. A small business in Columbia qualifies as a business with fewer than 25 full-time employees.
“If we were to qualify this as the same as the federal level, that would be pretty much every business in Columbia,” McCormick said. Said. “And for many other communities, that will be the overwhelming majority of their businesses.”
Hargrove said this is an opportunity for community members to broaden their horizons in purchasing goods and services.
“There are many businesses in town that people don’t know exist because they may not have a brick and mortar location,” Hargrove said. Said. “We have a tendency to get into the same routine and travel in the same part of town. ‘I live here’, ‘I shop here’, ‘My kids go to school here’, that sort of thing. It expands your understanding and knowledge of the wealth of small businesses in Columbia.”
It was also an opportunity for small business owners to connect with each other. Sally Fowler, a therapy dog training business, attended the event and spoke with another pet business about working together.
“They are really friendly people and have been able to give me a little more insight into how I can collaborate with them in my dog training business.”
McCormick also highlighted the importance of small businesses in the Columbia community and encouraged community members to explore what was going on there.
“Anything you might need, any service or any goods, can be taken care of locally here, especially with our small businesses,” McCormick said. Said. “If you look at small business as an industry, it creates more jobs than almost any other industry. The importance our small, locally owned businesses bring to our society, and the economic impact of it, is in many ways astronomical.”