Welcome to CoMo – The Connection Exchange welcomes new residents

The Connection Exchange welcomes new Columbia, MO residents

Residents of Columbia, MO (commonly referred to as COMO), enjoy the wide variety of parks, trails, events, shops, restaurants, education, culture and so much more that the city has to offer. And new residents are very quickly introduced to everything COMO has to offer when they arrive. The Connection Exchange is here to facilitate that introduction!

The Connection Exchange is a FREE welcome service for new Columbia residents that helps them get connected to all things COMO. Our Community Connectors facilitate in-person welcome visits to greet new residents and deliver a gift bag to them filled with goodies from local businesses and organizations.

One item included in the gift bag is a map that points out popular destinations in COMO. New residents can follow the map and visit each destination to help them feel more connected to their new city. (See photos below!)

Have you moved to Columbia within the last 6 months? Schedule your free welcome visit here!


What I learned from my appearance on Franchise Hot Seat

Check out the article that was recently published on The Missouri Business Alert about the experience Jennifer Schenck (Co-Founder/Co-Owner) experienced. We were chosen out of tons of national applicants to appear as one of 7 businesses in Season 2 of the Franchise Hot Seat hosted by the PBA Titus Center for Franchising, a “web series that gives rising franchisors the chance to seek the mentorship, advice or financial support of established leaders of the franchise community”.

Franchise Hot Seat S.2 Ep.2 The Connection Exchange

Jennifer Schenck Receives 2020 Debin Benish Outstanding Businesswoman Award


Jennifer Schenck Receives 2020 Debin Benish Outstanding Businesswoman Award

COLUMBIA, MO:  Jennifer Schenck, Co-Founder of The Connection Exchange, has been awarded the 16th Annual Debin Benish Outstanding Businesswoman Award on behalf of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Women’s Network and Delta Systems Group. The award was presented at the Chamber’s Annual Membership Awards Celebration on November 19, 2020 at The Blue Note.

The Debin Benish Outstanding Businesswoman Award honors Schenck and also the inspiration of the award, the late Debin Benish. Benish founded Delta Systems and believed in the importance of small business. The award honors a Columbia businesswoman who demonstrates success in business, exhibits leadership in supporting small business, volunteers in the community and creates positive change, and mentors other businesswomen.

Schenck grew up in the Dallas, TX area, then attended William Jewell College in Liberty, MO earning a BA in International Business and Spanish. She started her career at IBM Dallas in the Global Marketing and Sales division, but shortly after became an entrepreneur. Schenck started a children’s bedding and accessory boutique that transitioned into a line of wholesale furniture and bedding, and also co-owned an ice cream franchise in Dallas. After moving to Missouri, she worked in marketing and operations before co-founding The Connection Exchange with Cara Owings.

The Connection Exchange is a welcome service that connects new businesses and residents with resources, products and services needed to excel within a new community. “Her business epitomizes leadership in supporting small business and business owners by welcoming them to our community and connecting them with resources to succeed. The city of Columbia becomes a community because of Jennifer’s passion and dedication to connecting people,” said Michele Curry, Treasury Management Officer at Commerce Bank and chair of Women’s Network. Curry nominated Schenck for the award and described her as an “entrepreneur at heart”. Michele Batye, owner of Dave Griggs Flooring America and Chamber of Commerce board member presented the award.

Schenck is also a business coach and advisor at the Missouri Women’s Business Center, an organizing member of 1 Million Cups Columbia, a past Women’s Network Steering Committee member, an active member and past President of P.E.O. Chapter GO (Boonville) and a founding member of the local Delta Zeta alumnae chapter.

Create Better Communities Through Better Connections – Black Lives Matter

A message from The Connection Exchange founders.

The Connection Exchange has always and will continue to stand with the Black community. It has always been and remains our mission and vision to create better communities through better connections. Community collaboration and unity is at the heart of this mission. And that means for all people of all backgrounds and ethnicities. We have served thousands of entrepreneurs across the state of Missouri including black entrepreneurs who we acknowledge have faced unequal treatment and increased barriers to small business ownership. But it is no longer enough to support and connect quietly. We want to join in on this movement of change, lift our voices in support, and lend our connections, social reach and knowledge to our Black business colleagues.

We have been inspired by the movement of Black Lives Matter and we have been listening and learning. Together, we have decided that saying “Black Lives Matter” is just the first small step, but committing to organizational change is our true desire.

 So yes, Black lives matter. Black businesses matter. And here is how we plan to make progress on those words:

  • We will start by purposely reaching out to black entrepreneurs with the intent of having conversations about how we can better connect them to resources, networking opportunities and business services that are meaningful and valuable to them.
  • We commit to intentionally reaching new black business owners through more diverse advertisements and community partners so we can serve them as they start their businesses.
  • We will share on our social media the stories of Black business owners in our community on social media and other communications in honor of Juneteenth and beyond.
  • We commit to bring on a more diverse community of members so that our resource connections can better serve people of color.
  • We intentionally will make a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion – at ALL levels. And that includes within our own team.
  • We will also continue to learn, ask the hard questions of ourselves and seek to be involved in our communities’ initiatives to do the same. And we invite your accountability and participation in our journey.


Cara Owings and Jennifer Schenck, The Connection Exchange


Virtual Meeting Services

We’ve been seeing a lot of people requesting information on virtual meeting platform options. We don’t have vast experience in this area but can offer what information we do have. Please remember to try different options out before your big meeting. Schedule a meeting with a friend or co-worker to test. Also, know that each individual attending your meeting might have internet issues that cause disruptions but that doesn’t always mean the platform you are using isn’t functioning correctly.

During this time we’ve heard of a lot of bandwidth issues. Many are moving their meetings on to these platforms and they are hitting their limits. Be patient.

Here are some platforms that we are aware of……


Microsoft Teams

Google Hangouts

Free Conference Call

Ring Central


Go To Meeting







Virtual Meeting Etiquette

During this time there will be an increase in the use of virtual meetings. Here are a few reminders as you host or attend these types of meetings.

  1. Check your surroundings. Think about the location in which you are attending your virtual meeting. What is the background people will see? Make sure you don’t have a pile of laundry in the view, kids aren’t running around (if you can help it) and that the lighting is good.
  2. Prepare yourself. Working remotely allows you freedom to dress casual. Just remember that you can possibly be seen from your shoulders up. Don’t have bedhead and prepare your face.  But you sure can keep your pajama pants and slippers on.
  3. Be prepared and keep distractions at bay. Get on to the meeting early. Make sure your screen is ready to go especially if you are presenting items from your screen. Be in a quiet room, silence cell phones and prepare others in the vicinity so they can be quiet – including animals.
  4. Utilize MUTE! Please, please, please, when you are joining a meeting put yourself on mute. Especially if you are joining just to be a part of the call and you are not contributing. If you do speak, when you are finished immediately turn your mute back on. If you are the host of the meeting, use the mute all functionality or mute individuals if they aren’t muting themselves.
  5. Remember this is still a meeting. Please treat this as a meeting. Don’t eat (if you are on video or are asked to participate in the conversation), speak clearly, slow and try not to interrupt. Make eye contact – I know this is weird but it is important. DON’T GO TO THE BATHROOM OR WASH DISHES! Be professional just like if you were in person.

Ultimately….enjoy this time as we utilize modern technology and remember we are blessed to still be conducting business and connecting with others. Stay well!

-Cara Owings, Co-Owner

The Connection Exchange



Referrals – The scoop on local BNI

As you may have noticed, we’ve been talking a little bit about referrals this month on our social media and in our newsletter. The Connection Exchange serves as a sort of referral group all on its own. But we also know it is good to spread the love! Having multiple sources of referrals, leads, etc is good for business. There are several ways to get leads and referrals. You can have internal referral programs, join referral or networking groups, have referral partners, and paid lead generation sources (Connection Exchange). These are all great avenues to grow and get new business. One popular referral group in Columbia (and probably across the nation) is BNI. I reached out to a good friend of mine, Amanda Quick with Nerium International, to get the scoop on local BNI as I know she values her group. For those unfamiliar with BNI this will be good information for you.

Here is the scoop….BNI stands for Business Network International and there are 4 different BNI groups in Columbia, MO. They meet at various times during the week. The motto of BNI is “Giver’s Gain”. If you give you will receive….so give referrals to get them! Amanda shared this with me, “BNI isn’t your typical networking group and it’s definitely not for everyone. We have a weekly structured meeting, expectations of specific activity and we build strong relationships. It’s our personal goal to help each and every member build their business. You get out of it what you put into it…like anything in life. Personally, I have met some amazing people, learned an incredible amount of business and the best thing is the friendships I’ve developed.”

Utilizing different ways to give and receive referrals is good business.



Create a lasting, positive connection

When was the last time you sent a handwritten note?

We found this article, Handwritten Notes Are a Rare Commodity. They’re Also More Important Than Ever. by John Colman on the Harvard Business Review website, and it was worth the read. It really resonated with us and we love these quotes; “…in a world where so much communication is merely utilitarian, these simple acts of investment, remembrance, gratitude, and appreciation can show the people who matter to your life and business that they are important to you.” And… “we can reach out to others in a way that creates a lasting, positive connection.”

Well, we hope that we can encourage you to send at least one over the next couple of weeks. Participate in our connection contest. Check out our Facebook page for details



Perfect your elevator pitch

By Cara Owings, C0-Founder/Owner

How you introduce yourself is important to what happens next in a conversation. Whether you are at an event or starting a conversation with one individual, plan your pitch and perfect it. The point of  your introduction is not to sell your products and service. It is to spark interest in you and what you do.

Create your very best elevator pitch with these three steps.

  1. Explain what problem you solve for your customers.

Don’t worry to much about explaining the details of what products and services you provide. Instead, focus on the problem you solve for your customers. What is the end result for your customers?

  1. Explain your solution to the problem you solve.

Make it clear what you do to solve the problems your customers face. This should give a clear picture of what you do.

  1. Now, give a call to action or ask a question.

Tell them exactly what you want or who you are looking for. Are you there to just connect? Set a coffee meeting to learn more about each other? You are simply looking to continue the conversation to take the action to make it happen.

Hi, I’m _______________________ (your name) with _____________________ (your company). We….now go through #1, 2 and 3.