Dr. Jill Biden talks with three local female business owners about challenges they’ve faced because of the pandemic

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – On Wednesday Dr. Jill Biden took some time to meet with Western Wisconsinites.

Dr. Biden and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) held a public online event with a panel of three area female business owners.

Uptowne Cafe and Bakery owner Adrian Lipscombe, former executive director of GROW La Crosse Jamie O’Neill, and Tangled Up in Hue owner Erin Klaus all shared the challenges they’ve faced because of the pandemic.

Their discussions touched on economic recovery in our communities, health care, and education.

Dr. Biden also talked about the campaign and what Joe Biden will do to help people get back on their feet.

“He’s going to make sure that small businesses, particularly those owned by women and people of color, have the capital, technical assistance, mentorship, and support that they need to thrive,” she said.

Lipscombe was able to give Dr. Biden and viewers a tour of her restaurant and the changes she’s made to safely serve customers.

Like many restaurant owners, food shortages became a problem.

But she found a solution.

“We are a farm-to-table restaurant… COVID has really shown us the food supply chain is in trouble. What we ended up doing was going very hyper-local from the standpoint that we work within our town. Now our coffee beans don’t come from Milwaukee, they come from La Crosse,” Lipscombe said.

O’Neill said the pandemic put a wrench in everything she’s worked for over the last few years.

“Prior to COVID, being a mom and being an executive director was attainable. So I actually ran for county board here in our town and now I’m a county board supervisor,” she said.

But due to the challenges COVID-19 threw at her and her family, O’Neill decided it was time to resign from her executive director position.

Up in Eau Claire, Klaus had to close her doors on March 17th and stayed closed until May 20th.

She was proactive about applying for grants and confident that her business would get some financial relief.

“I applied for and looked into every possible grant and federal loan that was out there. At first, I had confidence that if I just did the right things and applied the right way I would be eligible for help. I clearly fit the description. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the reality, that’s what we were hearing on TV,” Klaus said.

She was finally able to secure a loan and hire back her staff, but that didn’t take away the constant worrying about the future.

“I’d go to bed but couldn’t sleep, many sleepless nights. Lots of stress. I’d wake up in the morning just to see what’s next. What’s happening next? Where are we today? To be honest that really hasn’t stopped.”

Klaus said what she really needed was a strong leader on the national level to give her guidance.

“I felt like I was on my own.”

Before the event ended Dr. Biden shared one last message.

“So much is on the line in this election, but I honestly hope that I can offer all three women business owners hope. Because this is the chaos of Donald Trump’s America.”