The smell of cotton candy wafted through 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 variety of goods and services, from cotton candy to health care.
“This is a very different event for the chamber,” said Lisa Driskel Hawxby, co-chair of the Chamber’s Small Business Committee. “A lot of chamber events are chamber-to-chamber business events, and this is really a community engagement event where we want to get the whole community out.”
The free festival includes live music, food trucks, a drink park and a variety of events for kids and families. The Small Business Festival is made possible by several sponsors, including Hawthorn Bank and Liberty Family Medicine.
The number of businesses attending increased from last year. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce defines small businesses as those with 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, stood next to a table piled high with cutting boards and chatted with business owners and other event attendees. Chavez said Columbia’s small business community has been invaluable since he opened his lumber store in 2020.
“When I first started, immediately other business owners reached out and kind of became mentors, which was totally unexpected,” said Chavez. “I feel like I’ve gone out of my way to make sure I’m doing well and that I’m making decisions that will help me grow.”
Other vendors echoed Chavez’s sentiments, citing the collaborative community as one of the best parts about owning a business in the city. Samantha Boisclair, owner of party supply store Party Perfectly, hosted a table displaying a variety of party decorations.
“Columbia has a wonderful spirit of collaboration,” Bosclair said. “There’s no competition, it’s all about success and growing together as a community.”
In addition to rows of vendor tables, three food trucks and a fire truck were parked outside the pavilion. A face-painting booth has been set up and children munched on shaved-ice and free candy. Shela Mullins picked her daughter up from volleyball when they were driving through the festival and decided to stop by. Mullins said what drew him to the event is also what he likes about the city’s small business community.
“I like it because it’s not just for adults, but the whole family can usually come and join in,” Mullins said. “I like that Columbia is really family-oriented.”
Driskel Hawxby said Columbia residents and business owners alike are creating a small business community.
“I think usually people who come to university towns have a love, an affinity, a curiosity to come and meet new people and do things,” said Driskel Hawxby. “I think the small business community here realizes that when they help each other, they can use that power, the power of community to do really great things.”
Source : www.columbiamissourian.com