The smell of cotton candy wafted across rows of colorful tents and brightly dressed tables at the second annual Small Business Festival Thursday afternoon at Clary-Shy Park.
The event, hosted by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, featured more than 50 small businesses promoting a wide variety of goods and services, from cotton candy to health care.
“This is a really different event for the Chamber,” said Lisa Driskel Hawxby, co-chair of the Chamber’s Small Business Committee. “Most chamber events are inter-chamber business events and this is really a community engagement event where we really intend to bring out the whole community.”
The free festival included live music, food trucks, a beverage garden and a variety of events for kids and families. The Small Business Festival was made possible by a number of sponsors including Hawthorn Bank and Liberty Family Medicine.
The number of businesses present has increased compared to last year. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce defines a small business as having 25 or fewer full-time employees, and Driskel Hawxby said small businesses make up the majority of the chamber’s membership.
Cruz Chavez, owner of Sawdust Studios in Columbia, sat next to a table full of cutting boards and chatted with other business owners and event attendees. Chavez said the close-knit nature of Columbia’s small business community has been invaluable since he opened his woodworking shop in 2020.
“When I first started, immediately other business owners reached out and became kind of mentors, which I didn’t expect,” Chavez said. “I feel like they’ve gone out of their way to make sure I’m doing well and making decisions that will help me grow.”
Other vendors echoed Chavez’s sentiment, citing the collaborative community as one of the best parts of owning a business in the city. Samantha Boisclair, owner of party supply store Party Perfectly, hosted a table featuring a variety of party decorations.
“Columbia has a very collaborative spirit,” Bosclair said. “There is no competition, it’s all about succeeding and growing together as a whole community.”
In addition to rows of vendor tables, three food trucks and a fire engine were parked outside the pavilion. A face painting booth was set up and kids ate free shaved ice and candy. Shela Mullins was picking up her daughter from volleyball when they drove by the festival and decided to stop by. Mullins said what drew her to the event was also what she likes about the city’s small business community.
“I like it because there’s not just something for adults, there’s usually whole families that can join in,” Mullins said. “I love that Columbia is really family oriented.”
Driskel Hawxby said Columbia residents and business owners alike make the small business community what it is.
“I think usually people who come to college towns have an affection, an affinity, a curiosity to come meet new people and do things,” Driskel Hawxby said. “I think the small business community here understands that when they help each other, they can harness that power, that power of community to do really great things.”
Source : www.columbiamissourian.com