UPDATED: More than 50 businesses participate in Thursday’s second annual Small Business Festival | Mid-Missouri News

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Chamber of Commerce hosted its second annual Small Business Festival on Thursday.

Several hundred people attended the event which offered food, live music and other family activities.

“Small business is really the lifeblood of Columbia,” said Heather Hargrove, business development manager for Liberty Family Medicine. “We’re very lucky to have a number of small businesses in the community that offer 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 part of the committee planning this event. Liberty Family Medicine had a booth at the event. She says for her small business, it’s an opportunity to teach people that there’s more to medical care than meets the eye.

“It gives us the 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,” said Hargrove. “It also gives us the 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 of 17 new small businesses featured from the previous year.

“COVID has hit our small businesses very hard,” said Columbia Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick. “It was a struggle to get through those years, and it was a struggle to recover. I think that’s why we’re seeing an increase in kiosks this year, because that’s another avenue our small businesses can take advantage of to make sure they’re getting the word out there.”

Small businesses make up 82% to 85% of Columbia’s businesses, depending on the chamber. The chamber qualifies small businesses differently from the federal level, which says a small business is one with less than 500 full-time employees. In Colombia, a small business is considered a business with less than 25 full-time employees.

“If we were to qualify it the same as the federal level, it would be almost every business in Colombia,” McCormick said. “And for many other communities, it would also be the overwhelming majority of their businesses.”

Hargrove said it was an opportunity for community members to broaden their horizons when it comes to 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. “We tend to have the same routine and travel to the same part of town. ‘I live here’, ‘I shop here’, ‘My kids go to school here’, that sort of thing. broadens your understanding and knowledge of the wealth of small business here in Colombia.”

It was also an opportunity for small business owners to connect with each other. Sally Fowler, owner of a therapy dog ​​training business, attended the event and spoke to another pet business about working together.

“They’re really nice people and they were able to give me some insight into maybe working with them with my dog ​​training business.”

McCormick also highlighted the importance of small businesses in the Columbia community and encouraged community members to find out what’s out there.

“Anything you might need, any service or any good 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 that our local small businesses bring to our community and the resulting economic impact is astronomical in many ways.

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