The scent of cotton candy wafted through the rows of colorful stalls and brightly dressed tables at the second annual Small Business Festival Thursday afternoon at Clary-Shy Park.
The event, organized by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, featured more than 50 small businesses promoting a wide variety of goods and services, from cotton candy to healthcare.
“This is a really different event for the House,” said Lisa Driskel Hawxby, co-chair of the House Small Business Committee. “Most chamber events are chamber business events for chamber business, and this is actually a community engagement event where we really aim to bring the whole community out.”
The free festival included live music, food trucks, a drinks garden and a variety of events for kids and families. The Small Business Festival was made possible by several sponsors, including Hawthorn Bank and Liberty Family Medicine.
The number of companies present 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 that small businesses make up the majority of chamber members.
Cruz Chavez, owner of Sawdust Studios in Columbia, stood by a table piled high with cutting boards and chatted with fellow entrepreneurs and event attendees. Chavez said the close-knit nature of Colombia’s small business community has been invaluable since he opened his woodworking shop in 2020.
“When I started, other entrepreneurs immediately got in touch and became mentors, which I didn’t expect,” Chávez said. “I feel like they put in the effort to make sure I’m doing well and I’m making decisions that will help me grow.”
Other vendors echoed Chávez’ sentiment, citing the collaborative community as one of the best parts of having 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 great spirit of collaboration,” said Bosclair. “There is no competition, it’s about succeeding and growing together as a whole community.”
In addition to the rows of vendor tables, three food trucks and a fire truck were parked outside the pavilion. A face-painting booth was set up and the kids munched on shaved ice and free candy. Shela Mullins was picking up her daughter from volleyball when they passed the festival and decided to stop. Mullins said what attracted 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 are usually whole families who can come and participate,” said Mullins. “I like that Columbia is really family oriented.”
Driskel Hawxby said that Columbia residents and entrepreneurs make the small business community what it is.
“I think normally people who come to college towns have an affection, an affinity, a curiosity to meet new people and do things,” said Driskel Hawxby. “I think the small business community here understands that when they help each other, they can leverage that power, that power of the community to do really great things.”
Source : www.columbiamissourian.com