COLUMBIA – The Columbia Chamber of Commerce hosted its second annual Small Business Festival on Thursday.
Several hundred people attended the event with food, live music and other family-friendly activities.
“Small businesses are truly the soul of Columbia,” said Heather Hargrove, business development manager for Liberty Family Medicine. “We’re lucky enough to have some small businesses in the community that offer a variety of services and have a lot of talent, and maybe not everyone knows about it.”
In addition to his work for Liberty Family Medicine, Hargrove served on the committee responsible for planning this event. Liberty Family Medicine had a booth at the event. She says this is an opportunity for her small business to teach people that there is more than what 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 than the traditional model,” Hargrove said. “It also gives us an opportunity to support other small business owners in the city, and we fully believe in that, in that community.”
Fifty-seven local small businesses had booths at the event, an improvement of 17 new small businesses from the previous year.
“COVID has hit our small businesses very hard,” said Matt McCormick, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. “It’s been a struggle to get through those years, and it’s been a struggle to recover. I think that’s why we’re seeing an increase in booth numbers this year, because it’s another opportunity where our little companies can take advantage of to make sure they get the word out there.”
Small businesses make up 82% to 85% of Columbia’s businesses, according to the chamber. The chamber qualifies small businesses differently than the federal level, which says a small business is a company 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 qualified it the same way as the federal level, that would be almost every single company in Columbia,” McCormick said. “And for many other communities, that would be the vast majority of their businesses as well.”