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 businesses are truly the lifeblood of Columbia,” said Heather Hargrove, Liberty Family Medicine business development manager. “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, 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 had a booth at the event. She says that for her small business, this is an opportunity to teach people that there is more out there than they think when it comes to medical care.
“It gives us an opportunity to talk about direct 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 an opportunity 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 on the 17 new small businesses that were featured compared to last year.
“Covid has hit our small businesses very hard,” said Columbia Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick. “It’s been a struggle to get through these years, and it’s been a struggle to recover. I think that’s why we’re seeing an increase in the number of booths 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 percent to 85 percent of Columbia’s businesses, according to the chamber. The chamber defines small businesses differently than the federal level, which says a small business is one with fewer than 500 full-time employees. In Columbia, a small business is defined as a business with fewer than 25 full-time employees.
“If we labeled it the same as the federal level, that would be almost every business in Columbia,” McCormick said. “And for many other communities, that would be the vast majority of their businesses as well.”
Hargrove said it was an opportunity for community members to broaden 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 might not have a brick and mortar location,” Hargrove said. “We tend to get into the same routine and travel to the same area of town. “I live here”, “I shop here”, “My children go to school here”, things like that. broadens your understanding and knowledge of the wealth of small businesses here in Columbia.”
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 spoke with another pet business about the partnership.
“They are really friendly people and were able to give me more information about working with them on 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 might need, any service or any good can be taken care of here locally, especially with our small businesses,” McCormick said. “If you look at small business as an industry, it creates more jobs than any other industry. The importance our small, local businesses bring to our community and the economic impact it has is astronomical in many ways.”