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Eau Claire claims spot on list of best places to start a small business

Eau Claire (WQOW) – A new report has named Eau Claire one of the best small cities in the country to start a small business.

So, News 18 spoke with a local economist and coffee shop owner to find out if the city really is a place for small businesses to bloom.

The Goat Coffee House on Water Street opened its doors 15 years ago.

“To tell you the truth, it was very stressful for the first few years, just with me and my wife and we had a couple new kids, but with the help of the community, family and friends, we were able to push through and get to where we are today,” said Ryan Bembnister, co-owner of the coffee house.

Bembnister and his wife created their business in Eau Claire, because the close-knit community helps them create strong connections with their customers.

“That goes a really long way, knowing everybody that comes into your shop, and know that the owner takes pride in it and being here every day,” Bembnister said.

Location matters too.

“It’s a great community to be involved in, with the university and you got the hospitals going in and you got the stuff going on downtown,” Bembnister added. “Everybody seems to be involved in the community. So, that makes small business really important in the area.”

A new report released by, ranks Eau Claire 31st on its list of the top 50 best small cities in the U.S. to start a small business. Statistics show nearly 1/3 of new businesses exit with the first two years and about half exit within the first five years.

In Eau Claire, businesses are bustling, and Aaron White, the city’s economic development manager, said that’s because of the population size, environment and resources available to help support these ventures.

“This is an environment, a community and an area that provides a lot of great opportunity for folks and provides a lot of support,” White said. “So, I think the chances for success are greater here than in a many other areas.”

Still, it takes hard work.

“Nobody knew who we were,” Bembnister said. “We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We didn’t know the coffee industry itself, but I think we worked hard enough at it, so it was worth it. We’re just happy that people have been supporting us for so long, and we are looking forward to another 15 years.”

If you are interested in starting a small business, contact 715-839-4914 for the Economic Development Office, or email

Shannon Hoyt

Shannon Hoyt started out as an intern in August 2017, moving to a full-time multi-media journalist and weekend anchor before becoming Daybreak anchor and now our 6 and 10 p.m. co-anchor.

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