Students enter for chance to have their own business
Eau Claire citizens and students alike have the opportunity to win $5,000 for an innovative business idea they plan to execute, thanks to a local non-profit organization that awards start-up money to Eau Claire entrepreneurs every year.
Downtown Eau Claire, Inc., a non-profit organization promoting the development of business, housing and cultural resources and activities downtown, is holding its fourth Jumpstart Downtown competition. Dagmar Beckel, the business assistance specialist for Downtown Eau Claire, Inc., said the competition is open to anyone over 18 years of age who has an idea for a new downtown business and submits a business plan on how he or she plans to accomplish it.
“If you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do, it’s a good learning process for anybody,” said Bernd Johannsen, co-owner of Café 420, 420 Washington St., which won $2,000 in the 2006 competition.
Besides the $5,000 first prize, this year the judges will choose a runner-up who has an innovative idea but not a strong business plan, Beckel said. That person will earn a $1,000 scholarship into the entrepreneurial program at the university.
“We really wanted to be able to offer something to someone who didn’t have a good business plan but had a good idea,” Beckel said. “We wanted to give them the training to really pursue it.”
Johannsen said his wife attended business classes prior to opening the couple’s downtown café, which functions mainly as a Christian outreach center. He said it is important for a potential plan to be not just a “wild idea” in hopes of gaining some free money, but that it be fully researched before submission.
Beckel also cited the wide variety of businesses that have opened with the help of the Jumpstart program.
“We’re not industry specific,” Beckel said. “We’re looking for more diversity downtown.”
Beckel said the organization is especially looking for college students to bring more fresh ideas by applying to the program.
“It ends up being lots of clichés,” Beckel said, citing repeated requests from restaurant hopefuls. “We’re looking for the university students to bring in the innovations and ideas.”