EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A local organization is helping underserved populations to not only launch a new business, but help them thrive.
Since 2001, the Women's Business Center has helped start more than 1,000 local businesses in Western Wisconsin. Eighty percent of those were still in business after the first three years and they hope those numbers are just the beginning.
If you go into Thai Orchid during lunch time, it can be very busy. Owner Carrie Cha is usually running around helping in the kitchen or at check-out. Cha is one of the success stories from the Women’s Business Center. “I needed someone that was local and to be able to help me through the process,” said Carrie Cha, the owner of Thai Orchid.
So she turned to Western Dairyland's Women's Business Center. "It was really easy, I was nervous at first because I didn't have anything ready but Jacob really took me through the whole process step by step and that's what I needed, I needed to have someone guide me through the process,” Cha added.
She is one of nearly one thousand people that started with one-on-one counseling to make their dream a reality. "A lot of what we do is support and encouragement but we try to be realistic with them about what the needs are within our community,” said Karman Briggs, the director of the Women’s Business Center.
They have a goal to help the underserved, such as women, minority populations, clients with disabilities, veterans and those from low income households. "I think it adds to the stability of the community overall, not everybody is in a situation where they can easily work for somebody else,” Briggs said.
Just like Carrie who takes off every day at 3 p.m. to be with her kids, one of the perks of being the owner. But being in charge isn’t always easy. "It's been tough but rewarding all at the same time so on days when you want to give up next day you give up and it's a whole new day,” Cha said.
Even though the women's business center helped her get started, she still has their support one year after opening. "Since we have been in business they have been supporting me just coming here for lunch every day or ordering for big events that they have as well,” Cha said.
She is going full circle from accepting help at the center to helping her customers. "They depend on us every day,” Cha added. But she knows she can always call the Women’s Business Center as she continues to grow her business.
The Women's Business Center is also hosting a conference in Eau Claire on Thursday, May 16 to help empower women to start, improve or expand their business. To sign up for the conference click here.
If you are interested in the services at the Women’s Business Center click here.