Imagine you’re a small business owner and your business just went up 37% — without making a single sales pitch.

That was the result for one local business that partnered with Richland School District Two, according to Martha Jones, the district’s ​executive director of strategic partnerships.

“Other people see a business supporting the kids and then want to support that business,” Jones told attendees at Tuesday’s Northeast Connection and Small Business Breakout meeting hosted by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

The meeting focused on the value of networking — the most highly valued benefit chamber members say they get from their involvement with the organization. Several dozen small businesspeople from diverse fields including publishing, digital media, insurance, higher education, health care, printing, government and real estate attended the online session held via Zoom.

“This forum is spectacular,” said Dave McDowell, owner of Apple Spice corporate catering. “Our business is all about making relationships. It’s our primary way of getting new customers.”

Meeting facilitator Jared Clary of Splash Omnimedia advised attendees to work on their “elevator pitch” rather than a sales pitch. “You need to be able to explain your business, what you do, and how you can add value in a way other people understand,” Clary said.

At least two meeting attendees put the a device to work in real time. Heather Leigh, an end-of-life and grief recovery specialist, recognized Julie Patterson with the Wildewood Downs senior living community on the Zoom screen.

“There’s a natural transition from what she does to what I do,” Leigh said. “I got in the chat window and we set a date to meet later this week.”

The business disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has made connecting with others more important than ever, she added. “It’s still imperative we get together because business is still happening.”

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