A “showcase of talent” was on display Thursday in celebration of Columbia’s small business community, said Chad Massman, Columbia Chamber of Commerce membership director.

The second annual CoMo Soul Small Business Festival was held at the MU Health Care Pavilion in Clary-Shy Park, featuring a wide variety of 70 local businesses.

“This is a great way to celebrate the backbone of Columbia,” Massman said. “There are a lot of smaller businesses that don’t have the means to do the big marketing plans. This will give everyone an opportunity to come and really see them and maybe discover something new.”

The event included at-home businesses and those with brick-and-mortar locations.

“During the pandemic, we saw such huge growth in small business that this (was) just another opportunity for them to show the community, ‘Hey, we’re here,'” Massman said.

In fact, the largest percentage of the business community in Columbia is small business, said Michele Batye, Columbia chamber chair, who was representing Dave Grigg’s Flooring America on Thursday. The percentage is just over 80%, added Heather Hargrove, business development manager of Liberty Family Medicine, an event co-sponsor.

“We wanted to be here in fellowship with (other small businesses),” Hargrove said. “Specifically with Liberty, we’re a membership-based direct primary care clinic. We hope to continue to share that word about what we can offer in full-service primary care.”

While the chamber has held similar events to the festival in the past, they were not exactly what the chamber had envisioned, Massman said.

“We wanted to make this a more fun, family-friendly event to get the community out to really get to take advantage of seeing (many) of our small businesses in one location,” he said.

The family-friendly aspects featured live music at the pavilion, vehicles from the Columbia fire and police departments, yard games hosted by local BSA scouts, face painting, and balloon artists.

While the festival gave a chance for small businesses to connect with the community, it gave the businesses a chance to network and connect with one another as well, Massman said.

“Chamber 101 or economics 101, to grow business you have to connect business,” he said, adding the chamber also is looking toward business development, much like the work of Regional Economic Development Inc., Missouri Women’s Business Center or the Missouri Small Business Development Center.

“We have a workforce development side here at the chamber we have just started up about a year ago,” Massman said. “It gives us a chance to collaborate and educate businesses of what opportunities are out there.”

Marika Estrapala, of Sawdust Studios, and Barbie Banks, co-custodian of Ragtag Film Society, were excited about the chance to promote their respective businesses and to meet and connect with other small businesses, including those that are new.

“This is just a good way to get our business out there. Some people know about us, some people don’t. (It’s good) to see what other businesses are out here that maybe don’t have a store front,” Estrapala said. “I did walk around and see who was here.”

It was fun to see what was new for the second annual event, Banks said.

“There are quite a few new businesses to me. There was the cotton candy place, The Spot, which is in Fulton, and then we had a really good conversation with Accounting Plus, too,” she said.

Events like the small business festival are amazing to have, said Nickie Davis, Downtown Community Improvement District executive director.

“Small businesses need to know other small business owners. They need to be able to connect with the community in a way that is sometimes outside of the stores. This is wonderful. It’s nice to have this kind of community excitement around small business,” she said.

Charles Dunlap covers local government, community stories and other general subjects for the Tribune. You can reach him at [email protected] or @CD_CDT on Twitter. Please consider subscribing to support vital local journalism.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Small business festival lets Columbia ‘discover something new’