The Chippewa Valley is home to a variety of small and large businesses. This diverse group of establishments ranges from restaurants, bars, and diners, to boutiques and gift shops. Many of these businesses are owned or operated by women from all different backgrounds. On September 22nd, the United States recognizes American Business Women’s day as an official holiday. September 22nd marks the 1949 founding date of the American Business Women’s Association, a council that was created with the mission to “bring together businesswomen of diverse occupations and to provide opportunities for them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership; education, networking support and national recognition.” To honor and celebrate the 78 million women in the workforce and the 12.3 million women who own their own businesses, Visit Eau Claire wanted to spotlight a few local businesswomen in the Chippewa Valley!

Carrie Cha - Thai Orchid

How did you get the idea for Thai Orchid?
Cha: "The restaurant space has been in our family for a while and was originally called "Pad Thai", so I can't take the original idea credit," Cha said. One of my mom's brothers owns Egg Roll Plus and the other owns Rice Palace, so out of the handful of Southeast Asian restaurants in Eau Claire, they are mostly family tied."

What motivates you to do the work you do?
Cha: 
"It's always been about family. Even when one family member is struggling, we are always there to pick each other up. It's always been a dream of my parents to run a restaurant and they couldn't really do that due to medical reasons, but I always wanted to help them make their dreams come true."

What does being a businesswoman mean to you?
Cha: 
"There are challenges within my own culture because it's primarily the male role that gets a lot of respect. Even with me being the owner of the restaurant, people would either go to my dad or my husband for instructions," Cha said. "The fact that I can be a Hmong woman and set an example for other Hmong women, it's just great to inspire other female entrepreneurs."

What is your favorite part about running a business?
Cha: 
"It's just great to be in a position where I can help other people and because I'm in my position, I feel like I have a voice in the Hmong community. It takes Hmong businesses to help speak up for our community and women to speak up for other women."

Kristen Schnack - The French Press

How did you get the idea for The French Press?
Schnack: 
 “I’ve worked in the restaurant business for most of my life and I have always loved to cook and bake. I’ve always had a passion to start my own small cafe and to cook and feed people,” Schnack said. “As I was trying to decide what to do with my life as my kids were grown, that’s when I really decided to do something like this.”

What motivates you to do the work you do?
Schnack:
"It's not the food so much as it's the people. I really enjoy working with the younger staff we have as well as the customers that come in and getting to know them. A lot of them are from the neighborhood, and they are a lot of repeat customers we get to spend a lot of time with and get to know each other, and that's what motivates me."

What does being a businesswoman mean to you?
Schnack: 
"Whether you're a female or a male, you should always go for it and try something. If you fail, you fail. You'll never know if you don't at least try, but you will regret it if you don't at least try. Hopefully, I can be a role model to young people that want to do the same thing."

What is your favorite thing about running a business?
Schnack: 
"There is some flexibility in hours, and that goes both ways because sometimes you have no choice but to work," Schnack said. "But the part I really like is the creativity. You're really allowed to try some things and take more risks than if you were working for someone else."

Erin Klaus - Tangled Up In Hue

How did you get the idea for Tangled Up In Hue?
Klaus: 
"A lot of the ideas and concepts came to me while I was going to college in Tucson, Arizona, where local art is everywhere and so many businesses boasted art from various local artists," Klaus said. "I used to work at a kiosk where we made handmade jewelry and the owner wanted to sell the business. I decided to jump on that and basically ended up partnering with the owner from that business and developing the concept of Tangled Up In Hue."

What motivates you to do the work you do?
Klaus: 
"The first 10 years of us being open, we paid out more than a million dollars to local artists and that is so inspiring to know that that money stays in our community, but also it helps these people be able to pursue their passions. "So, my favorite part is seeing how art speaks to people and how a community can come together around it."

What does being a businesswoman mean to you?
Klaus: 
"We have a very feminist operation where we share in the successes and even the profits that come with the business. It's inspiring and I can see the mentorship that happens with having females in these mentorship positions. We've had multiple employees grow up here and go on to do amazing things and they come back and tell us that working at Tangled has helped them break through some barriers."

What's your favorite part about running your own business?
Klaus: "We have the opportunity to create our reality. All the decisions we make and all the hard work we put in is reflected right back into my personal life so, there is a lot of fulfillment that comes with running a successful business and contributing to the community in a positive way."

Sarah Johnson - Odd Humyns

How did you come up with the idea of Odd Humyns?
Johnson: “Odd Humyns started as a design business but from there it graduated into being an actual retail space. It started off as just art supplies and now we have all kinds of stuff,” Johnson said. “Our owner, Serena, always wanted to create a space that they didn’t have when they were a teenager, so just having a space that was a little funky, queer-friendly, and inclusive was a priority.”

What motivates you to do the work you do?
Johnson: “It’s such a motivation to have connections with people and having a really inclusive space and a space that’s safe for everybody. We are just motivated by having an experience that’s different from others,” Johnson said. “We both are compelled by the idea of people coming in and liking the space and finding stuff and having products that are made by people that are underrepresented.”

What does being a businesswoman mean to you?
Johnson: “I just love our space, I love the environment and I feel really energized by being in this kind of space and I wanted to have a community impact and have a voice in the community,” Johnson said. “I want creativity to be at the forefront of my professional career.”

What is your favorite thing about running a business?
Johnson: “There are so many things with running a business that you can’t predict, but Serena and I feel really lucky because we have each other,” Johnson said. “Serena and I are best friends and we are always having the best time at work. We feel really lucky because challenges feel lesser when you are passionate about what you are doing.”

Rebecca Flynn - Sweet Driver Chocolates

How did you get the idea for Sweet Driver Chocolates?
Flynn: “I used to own Obsession Chocolates, which has been closed down for almost 10 years. After they tore down the building for the confluence center, it was almost 5 years since I touched chocolate again. I started making chocolate again with my friend and we started selling it to Just Local food, and I rented a kitchen at Banbury to accommodate these creations. Eventually, we moved to Artisan Forge Studios and started Sweet Driver, and in these last 3 years we have grown tremendously.”

What motivates you to do the work you do?
Flynn: “The smiles when somebody eats something I make. When you eat our chocolate or some of our gelato or pastries, it’s the look that makes it worth it,” Flynn said. “Chocolate is one of those things that you can use to celebrate anything or cheer you up when you are sad.”

What does being a businesswoman mean to you?
Flynn: “I’ve had a career of being the only woman in certain areas and it seems to be a habit of mine. I used to run an aviation software company, and I was the only woman there for many years. I’m comfortable with myself and what I can do. I like managing people and it just comes naturally to me.”

What is your favorite thing about running a business?
Flynn: “Watching it grow and it becoming something to serve the community. I enjoy bringing the community together. I love watching people come into the restaurant and interact here. It’s taking something out of nothing and it making it grow. It’s almost as good as motherhood.”

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