Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce celebrates National Small Business Week
The city of Columbia and Greater Columbia Chamber kicked off National Small Business Week on Tuesday honoring what many call the backbone of the community.
“I believe that small businesses are the fabric of our community here in the Midlands,” said Chamber Chairman Holt Chetwood.
Chetwood recognized the benefits of small businesses in employing thousands of people and supporting infrastructure and schools through paying taxes. He also acknowledged their contribution to nonprofits and charities through generous donations and philanthropy.
“It’s a great opportunity to celebrate all the work that small businesses do here in Columbia,” he said.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and Richland County Council Chairman Norman Jackson gave the chamber proclamations in support of National Small Business Week.
The chamber’s involvement in National Small Business Week began several years ago when Lee Catoe, the chamber’s vice president of community affairs and special assistant to the CEO, was brought on to increase minority and small business membership.
Catoe asked former president and CEO Ike McLeese to have the chamber celebrate small business week to reach out to local owners.
“We needed to let them know we’re here and we’re here for them,” he said.
Catoe then reached out to the city to host the first National Small Business Week proclamation two years ago. He later spoke to county leaders to develop a partnership since most small businesses are in Richland county.
Catoe said he has seen minority and small business participation at the chamber increase within the past three years. Social networking opportunities and workshops on women in business and social media have helped small business owners build their presence in the community, Catoe said.
Sylvia Hanna, a longtime member of the chamber and owner of a State Farm Insurance agency with her husband, said small businesses offer as much opportunity as corporations while still maintaining strong ties to the community.
“We have a sense of caring for our employees and the community,” she said. “We do very well with what we do.”
Hanna, who is also president of the Decker Boulevard Association, said the most successful businesses are those that network and develop relationships with those in the community they serve.
“People do business with people they like,” she said.
Catoe said the chamber will offer several events throughout the week, including a workshop on how small firms can earn contracts with the city and county. He encouraged small businesses to partner up with the Chamber and take advantage of the resources and tools the pro-business organization offers.
“Come and be a part of the mainstream,” he said. “If you’re not a part of the mainstream, you’re left behind.”