Columbia Welcomes All Types of Business

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COLUMBIA - Going into the entrepreneurial business can be a daunting task. As many Columbia business owners said, though, Columbia is a city that rewards these type of endeavors.

Bob Wood is one of these local business owners, as he runs Dawson's Shoe Repair. Shoe repair has been in his family for almost 100 years.

"I'm a third generation shoe repairman," Wood said. "My dad and my grandfather were both shoe repairmen."

When Wood's father, Estle Wood, decided he wanted a change of scenery for his family, it wasn't an easy decision to make.

"My dad came to Columbia in 1956 with three sons, a wife and three dollars in his pockets," Wood said. "And convinced a gentleman by the name of L.D. Johnson, who owned Dawson Shoe Repair at the time, to take a risk with him."

Wood was a child when his family made the transition to Columbia. He said he loved being around his father at work and helping in whatever way possible.

"I was raised in one of those families when it came down for allowance, I was shown what a broom and shovel could do," Wood said. "After school, they would come get me and I would come up here and I would sweep floors for a grand total of 50 cents a week. Big money back then."

Bob continued working for his dad as he grew up and his responsibilities continued to grow as well. When his dad retired in 1990, he became the sole owner of Dawson Shoe Repair.

"As I went to the store, I just thought that of I can come in and work, then I won't have to see my dad work so hard," Wood said. "Little did I realize that someday my grandfather would pass away, my dad would pass away and all that workload would come onto me."

Wood's store is still up and running today, and Wood said Columbia's diverse but loyal client base is a major reason he's been able to sustain his father's success.

"Even though it's over 100,000 people, it's still got a small town atmosphere," Wood said. "As far as I'm concerned, I don't know any place in the world where you can find a town like Columbia."

Mike Brooks is the president of Regional Economic Development, Inc. - REDI. He said what makes Wood's business work, though, is not necessarily what makes others successful.

"Columbia's economy is certainly unique and different because of the diversity of our employment base," Brooks said.

A much different Columbia company that opened up recently is Cracked Up Mobile. This is a store people can go to for many technological service, such as repair of mobile devices, buy and selling of devices or purchasing cellular service. The store's owner, Aaron Shepherd, started fixing phones as more of a hobby when he was younger.

"Early on, I just did stuff for friends, family and then it just gradually took off from there," Shepherd said. "I was based out of home for six months before I opened this store."

Today, he's the sole owner and operator of a business that opened up only five months ago. Shepherd said even though it was tough during the beginning, things have really picked up due to the University of Missouri starting its spring semester.

"When college students left and with other people going on vacation, it was tight, things were tough. And literally the week school started back up, business quadrupled."

Shepherd has plans to expand by 2019 and become a national franchise. Wherever Shepherd's business ends up in the future, he says none of what he has in the present would even be possible if not for one key factor.

"If I weren't in Columbia, I don't think all I'd be in the position I am," Shepherd said. "I might still be based out of home or not being able to do it full time."

REDI's Brooks said he understands the importance of location for these two owners.

"It really is a wonderfully diverse economy," Brooks said. "As the importance of entrepreneurship is understood, that is a potential driver to other individuals who are thinking about that as an avenue for business development."

Brooks also said the diversity of Columbia's employment base allows businesses to not just find customers but also find the right staff.