Recruiting and hiring staff, cancelled events and adapting available resources to COVID-19 services are among the pain points local small businesses still feel 20 months into the global pandemic.

Those views were shared Tuesday by attendees at the monthly Northeast Connection and Small Business Breakout meeting sponsored by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. About two dozen people representing area small businesses, banking, insurance, real estate, government and education participated in the virtual meeting to provide feedback on their needs and how the chamber can help them succeed.

Networking with other small business — both education on how to do it effectively and opportunities for it — led the list of ideas attendees had for chamber programs. Meeting moderator Jared Clary of Splash Omnimedia encouraged participants to get actively involved in the chamber to find more networking connections.

“The chamber membership is like a gym membership — you don’t just join and you’re automatically in shape,” Clary said. “You have to show up and put in the time.”

He encouraged small business leaders to “sample everything,” including committees, issues forums, military affairs, after-hours events, and special programs such as Leadership Columbia or the Minority Business Accelerator program. “Find the best fit for you in the overall chamber puzzle,” he said.

If “pivot” is the primary word of pandemic survival, “hybrid” might be number two. Attendees said they prefer to meet others in person by a two-to-one margin, but also like the convenience of virtual meetings — meaning a hybrid where both options are offered is likely to continue as a way of doing business for the foreseeable future.

The Northeast Connection and Small Business Breakout group meets the third Tuesday of every month to network, share ideas and offer encouragement for greater success. Participation is free and open to anyone. Learn more about free online sessions for small businesspeople and other services on the chamber’s website.

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