City Leaders Hope Jump-Start Business Competition Will Spawn Economic Growth

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If you want to start a business in Eau Claire, there's a competition to help you get up and running.

And city leaders hope the contest could mean economic growth for the area.

Brewing up a cup of joe is Melanie Johanssen's cup of tea.

After moving back to Western Wisconsin from Germany and moving her Web design company into the space at 420 Washington Street, Melanie Johanssen says she was inspired.

"I felt that it needed to be a coffee shop," Johanssen said. "lt just kind of had that feel to it."

And just like that, the idea for Cafe 420 was born.

"We put in bamboo flooring and kind of made it feel like a home-y feel," Johanssen said.

And city leaders liked the feeling an internet cafe could bring to the area, enough to name Melanie the winner of the Jump-Start Downtown Business Competition a year-and-a-half ago.

That meant a $2,000 grant to help Melanie get her cafe and coffee house off the ground and pay for the unanticipated expenses.

"We were using fuses before," Johanssen said. "We weren't anticipating to have to replace them."

For the third year, Downtown Eau Claire, Inc. is holding its Jump-Start Competition to help a budding entrepreneur like Melanie start a business in Eau Claire.

But helping entrepreneurs hit the ground running is only one reason why the competition exists. City leaders say it'll help spawn economic growth in the downtown area.

"We're always trying to fill up available downtown space," said Tiffany Richter of Downtown Eau Claire, Inc. "The more we can promote the city, and the more businesses that are down there, the more people will come and use the services at those businesses."

Five other businesses, including this dance studio have started in Eau Claire thanks in part to winning the competition.

Owners submit a detailed business plan with marketing strategies,
financial projections and a timeline to the grand opening. Downtown Eau Claire Inc. then selects the city's newest business.

And this year, that business will receive a $5,000 grant to dance their way into success.

"They're going good," Johanssen said. "There's a lot of changes you go through when you start a business."

Downtown Eau Claire Inc. is accepting applications for the Jump-Start Downtown Business Competition through May 31. Information is available at:

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