Rows of colorful tents and brightly dressed tables wafted the smell of marshmallows at the second annual Small Business Festival in Clary-Shy Park on Thursday afternoon.
Hosted by the Colombian Chamber of Commerce, the event showcased more than 50 small businesses promoting goods and services ranging from marshmallows to healthcare.
“This is a very different event for the Chamber,” said Lisa Driskel Hawxby, co-chair of the Chamber’s Small Business Committee. “Most chamber of commerce events are chamber-to-chamber events, and it’s really a community engagement event where we intend to really bring the whole community out.”
The free festival includes live music, food trucks, a drink garden and a variety of activities for kids and families. The Small Business Festival is made possible by a number of sponsors, including Hawthorn Bank and Liberty Family Medicine.
The number of companies attending the meeting has increased compared to last year. The Colombian 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 Colombia, stood at a table full of chopping boards, chatting with other business owners and event attendees. Chavez said the strong connections in Colombia’s small business community have been invaluable since opening the woodworking shop in 2020.
“When I first started, other business owners immediately reached out and became mentors, which I totally didn’t expect,” Chavez said. “I feel like they’ve gone out of their way to make sure I’m doing well and I’m making decisions that will help me grow.”
Other vendors echoed Chavez’s sentiments, saying collaborative communities are one of the best parts of owning a business in a city. Samantha Boisclair, owner of party supply store Party Perfectly, hosts a table displaying various party decorations.
“Colombia has a very good spirit of cooperation,” Bosclair said. “There is no competition; it’s all about being successful and growing together as a whole community.”
In addition to the rows of stalls, three dining cars 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. As they drove past the festival, Shela Mullins was picking up her daughter for a volleyball game and decided to stop by. Mullins said what drew her to the event was also her love of the small business community in town.
“I love it because not only is there something for adults, but usually the whole family can come and participate,” Mullins said. “I like that Colombia is really family-oriented.”
Driskel Hawxby said Colombian residents and business owners alike make small business communities a reality.
“I think people who come to college towns generally come with affection, affinity and curiosity, and a willingness to come 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 use that power, this community power, to do really great things.”