ONLY ON SUNRISE: Time to 'Jump-start' business in downtown Eau Claire

(WEAU) - Applications are officially out for this year's ‘Jumpstart Downtown' competition. It’s where business owners propose a plan to a group of panelists on why they deserve a spot in downtown Eau Claire.

It’s provided by Downtown Eau Claire Inc. -- and the winner gets a special prize to help their business take off.

"I started this studio because I love kids and I just really had a vision of sharing my passion and joy of dance with them,” says Alicia Knopps, Owner of Diamond School of Dance.

Like any business, all it takes is a dream and in the beginning the idea of owning a dance studio was just a dream for Alicia Knopps. That is until her dream became a reality.

She says, "Dance has taught me everything in my life about work ethic about becoming the best that you can be. I really wanted to share that with kids. I feel like it's really important."

After hearing about 'Jumpstart Downtown,' she looked into how to take her studio out of the Eau Claire Athletic Club and put it downtown.

"We made a business plan, presented presentations to amazing leaders in our community that are well respected and know what it takes to make a successful business,” explains Knopps.

She isn't the only one making that "jump".

"We started this program in 2005, so over the last 8 years we've worked with 43 different businesses and over half of those are still in business,” says Mike Schatz, Economic Development Administrator.

So, what's the reward if you win? The grand prize winner gets a $5,000 start-up capital, thanks to sponsors with downtown Eau Claire Inc.

"We have a panel of judges that have expertise in reviewing business plans and those volunteers are very valuable to us as they review the business plans,” says Schatz.

Alicia was the lucky winner just a few short years ago.

"Right away we went into remodeling our 4,000 square foot studio and so wanted more dance floors, mirrors, painting, you know chairs seating for the kids, ballet bars,” says Knopps.

"The trend nationwide is for people and businesses to be downtown where the action is. They want to be where they can walk and have a lot of opportunities, recreation, culturally all in one place,” says Schatz.

"I would have never known as a girl going into this when I was younger, starting you know with 25 kids and then it going to 50. I remember thinking if I could just get to 100 students how exciting that will be. Here we are with 400 kids. It's amazing to see how far it's come and I really believe a lot of it is due to Jumpstart Downtown Eau Claire and their belief in me,” says Knopps.

If you're a business owner looking to move to downtown Eau Claire, the application deadline is June 13th.

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