The 2023 Small Business of the Year finalists fill big needs in Columbia.
They may be small, but these Small Business of the Year award finalists are making a big impact on the city of Columbia. For more than 50 years, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce has honored small businesses that have demonstrated innovation, community involvement, and financial success.
In order to apply, businesses must be members of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, employ fewer than 25 full-time employees, and have been in business since January 1, 2021. Historically the applicant pool is filled with a range of impressive businesses, and this year’s pool was no different.
The nominees, and this year’s winner, Achieve Balance Chiropractic, were honored during an awards ceremony on May 4 at Elk Park Event Center.
Achieve Balance Chiropractic
When she opened Achieve Balance Chiropractic in 2008, Arminta Phelps knew she wanted to be the leader of her own company, and she had a crystal clear vision of the way her practice would treat, support, and connect with patients.
“I had a specific mission in mind for my office to be able to share with the world,” Arminta says. “My goal was to help as many people as we can with an open heart and with my hands.”
Thousands of patients have come through the doors of Achieve Balance over the years, giving Arminta the opportunity to create strong relationships while providing the chiropractic care that supports patients on their journey to health.
“We believe that if you support the natural ability for the body to heal, it will heal on its own,” Arminta says. “My job is to support that, to be a sounding board for patients, and to be truly, authentically there for them. We want to see Columbia be the healthiest community, naturally, from the inside out. Not managing sickness, but taking control of their health because they want to and because they feel empowered to do so.”
While Arminta and her team at Achieve Balance have the formal training and education to care for patients, she’s also keenly aware that connection and trust are the building blocks of any meaningful relationship.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Arminta says. “One of the biggest things is building authentic relationships that last a long time.”
Arminta says she is “over the moon with gratitude” for being recognized as the Small Business of the Year, and she is elated, if not slightly overwhelmed, to be recognized for doing work that fills her with so much passion.
“Getting massive recognition for living out your purpose and your mission is above and beyond,” Arminta says. “It’s the cherry on top.”
Cooper’s Ridge Event Venue
After officially opening its doors to 6,400-square-feet of wedding and event space on 38 acres of picturesque land just outside Columbia in 2018, Cooper’s Ridge Event Venue had just celebrated its one-year anniversary when COVID hit. It was certainly an unexpected turn of events after co-owners Sean McCollegan and Brandi Huebner invested two years of time and money into renovations on the former furniture factory.
While other event venues didn’t fare as well, it’s no accident that three years later, Cooper’s Ridge is thriving. By shifting event dates, carefully monitoring state and county health guidelines, and proactively and consistently communicating with clients, Brandi says Cooper’s Ridge was able to weather the storm.
“We made adjustments and found a way to make it through,” Brandi says. “Since opening our doors almost five years ago, Cooper’s Ridge has seen over 150 weddings and nearly 120 corporate and private events, and we host monthly dinner pairings that are open to the public. It has been our mission to provide a beautiful, transformative space for our community to enjoy while providing top-notch service to our clients.”
The path has been a bit rocky, but the team at Cooper’s Ridge has consistently risen to the occasion, pivoting when necessary, and never straying from its commitment to fulfilling clients’ visions and expectations.
“The first five years of owning a business are the real make-it-or-break-it years,” Brandi says. “We not only made it, but we made it through a worldwide pandemic. Five years in and we get to share this incredible honor with four other amazing businesses. We are grateful to be a finalist.”
The Missouri Symphony
Through a series of orchestra concerts, a summer music festival, and music education, The Missouri Symphony (MOSY) has been on a mission to make symphonic music accessible to Columbia for more than 50 years. MOSY’s contributions to elevating professional musicians and nurturing the next generation of young musicians have made it a treasured community resource, and that’s not a job the organization takes lightly.
Despite its continued success, today’s Missouri Symphony looks different than when it was founded in 1970.
“The Missouri Symphony of today is much more connected across a broad spectrum of Columbia,” says Trent Rash, MOSY executive director. “We are reaching people of different ages more than ever before. A concert has to be more than a concert, it has to be a whole experience, and we are striving to create those experiences for people.”
When COVID required innovation, MOSY pivoted from in-person concerts and created a free, online concert series that is still accessible on YouTube today. The organization also created Mister MOSY, a web series for children that teaches them how to use music as a tool to name and process their feelings.
More recently, MOSY has connected with downtown businesses to present happy hour concerts, treating restaurant patrons to chamber music as they enjoy beverages and food.
“These new programs have helped people see us in a different way than us just having concerts,” Trent says. “We’ve been on a mission to realign ourselves with what we do and why we do it. Receiving this honor is a validation that the work we are doing is meaningful and is helping us connect with our community.”
Pixel Jam Digital
As one of only four women to graduate from her computer science program, Erica Martin has experienced first-hand the lack of female representation in the computer programming field.
After working in corporate America upon graduation, she officially launched Pixel Jam Digital, a web design and development company in 2018.
“As supportive as most people are of hiring an all-female web development team, we continue to find our knowledge and skills questioned by colleagues,” Erica says.
That hasn’t stopped Erica and her team from helping small businesses create a web presence. And, it has even inspired them to connect with young women and support their interest in the fields of science and engineering.
“As we continue to build our niche in a traditionally male-dominated field, we hope to introduce young women to the awesome world of engineering by partnering with like-minded organizations, such as the Columbia STEM Alliance, and sponsoring STEM-related activities,” she says.
Pixel Jam is committed to facilitating positive change in the community. As recent presenters at the Missouri Assistive Technology Power Up conference, the Pixel Jam team educated business owners on integrating adaptive technologies that make their websites more inclusive.
Her small team remains focused on providing top-notch service to clients as they continue to forge their place in the tech world, and Erica says she is humbled to receive recognition for what they’ve accomplished.
ACA Business Club
There are plenty of reasons someone might be interested in joining ACA Business Club, while some members are drawn by the desire to establish or grow their business, others are attracted to ACA Business Club’s space. Some join for the events, and some for the community.
“ACA Business Club is a social and business club focused on giving professionally-minded people a different choice when selecting where and how they want to connect with others,” says Lili Vianello, who, along with husband John Shrum, is the club’s co-general manager. “Our goal is to allow people to have a non-threatening way to connect and develop quality relationships with no performance requirements.”
After officially launching in August 2019, ACA Business Club, a part of the American Club Association network, celebrated the opening of its clubhouse, at 204 Peach Way Suite A, in early March 2020. By March 15, the club was forced to close due to COVID. Thanks to a robust offering of virtual engagement opportunities, the club continued to grow and thrive, and members were able to continue to take advantage of the co-working spaces within the club.
Today, 110 members enjoy building new relationships, participating in personal and professional development, and taking advantage of the marketing opportunities provided by the invitation-only group.
“As a finalist, it feels as if we’ve already won,” Lili says. “I’m so happy for the recognition our members are receiving for the engagement and enthusiasm they bring to the club. They are what makes ACA Business Club special.”