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'The Eau Claire Muse' podcast established to connect UW-Eau Claire with Chippewa Valley entrepreneurs

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: The second guest of "The Eau Claire Muse" podcast was Diane Wolfe of Erbert & Gerbert's in Eau Claire. So far, guests have been remote while COB interns Alexa Cupery and Ben Weller have worked in the Ivy Media podcast studio in downtown Eau Claire. (Photo by Shane Opatz)

College students often look for inspiration to help get them through, to give them that boost they need to remain focused on their goals. But Blugolds also want to be the inspiration for others, which is the story behind a new campus podcast called "The Eau Claire Muse."

An intern project for entrepreneurship program students Ben Weller and Alexa Cupery, the podcast was established to better connect the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to the community of entrepreneurs in the Chippewa Valley.

Ann Rupnow

Ann Rupnow, entrepreneurship and economic development coordinator, College of Business

“This idea began as a way to raise visibility of the entrepreneurship program within the community and also help foster business avenues to keep Blugold graduates in the Eau Claire area developing their entrepreneurial dreams,” says podcast advisor Ann Rupnow, entrepreneurship and economic development coordinator for the College of Business.

“Now, with all the positive recent press and national ranking attention on Eau Claire, it’s become more of a mission to bring student voices to the overall conversation of creating the Eau Claire of the future we all want to see.”

Cupery and Weller were hired as the entrepreneur program interns in the fall of 2020 after the concept of a podcast was underway but not fully defined.

Alexa Cupery

Alexa Cupery, who will graduate in December, plans to own and operate a strategic marketing consulting agency and hopes to stay connected to campus and the entrepreneur program in the future. (Photo by Shane Opatz)

“Ben and I started by working to synthesize all the ideas that had come from brainstorming between Ann and the previous intern — we just did a lot of listening at first,” says Cupery, a Waupun native and senior business management major with an entrepreneurship emphasis. “That first meeting was a bit overwhelming to be honest.”

Weller, a junior from Wausau, also is a management major with an entrepreneurship emphasis and has greatly enjoyed the process of launching "The Eau Claire Muse" from its inception.

“We’ve had the opportunity to create this from the foundation and make it the kind of podcast the three of us wanted it to be,” Weller says. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

It’s all in the name

Rupnow and the two interns agree that once a name was chosen for the podcast, the pieces started falling into place in terms of mission.

“From an artistic standpoint, a muse is that someone or something that inspires you, that helps you create,” Cupery says. “We want to be that muse for our community, to help inspire part of the vision to create the business future that Eau Claire wants to have.”

The broadcast, which has produced three episodes to date, has crafted an official mission statement which reads, in part: “Through stimulating conversations with our guests, we will thoughtfully consider Eau Claire and inspire the community to create a shared desirable future, leveraging our strong entrepreneurial environment.”

The second objective the team had to meet was firmly establishing the target audience for these conversations. Rupnow explains that a realistic mindset about student bandwidth helped to shift the primary focus from a student audience to a primarily community-centered listenership.

“The fact is that students are flooded with podcasts, so as we got more realistic with our goal, we turned the focus to the Eau Claire entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Rupnow says. “We decided that the best way to help students and the entrepreneurship program is to build these conversations in such a way that they help the area business community not be stagnant.”

Learning the ropes, starting the conversations

Ben Waller in Ivy studio

Junior Ben Weller is an entrepreneurship major who aspires to put his business skills to work in a high-paced field like investment real estate. (Photo by Shane Opatz)

Considering that none of the three principals in this team had any previous podcast or other broadcasting experience, the learning curve has been steep, but things have progressed quickly as the first semester of shows winds down.

The shows are recorded at Ivy Media in downtown Eau Claire, a shared collaborative space for creative productions in media of various types, including a well-equipped podcast studio.

“Creating a podcast was a little harder than I originally thought,” Weller admits. “We spent a lot of time preparing before we even recorded our first episode. It took a little longer than we planned but we wanted to make sure we could produce a quality first episode.”

Indeed, with Chancellor James Schmidt as the first guest, the pressure was on to conquer the jitters and master the technology from the start. In a conversation that held tightly to a script of questions, Weller, Cupery, Rupnow and Schmidt discussed the Eau Claire campus and broader community, the business community and how UW-Eau Claire and Blugold students fit into that system, both now and in an ideal future.

As Schmidt remarked in the podcast, one of the real draws he saw while visiting Eau Claire was the strong role the university plays in area business and the ways that bond can grow in the future.  

“What I found in Eau Claire is that the business community and the broader civic community truly see UW-Eau Claire as a game-changer,” Schmidt said. “Not only in educating future leaders and workers in area business, but by becoming a force for positive change within the community.”

"The Eau Claire Muse" podcast seeks to help ignite that very force for change.

Engaging with area business leaders

With three episodes under their belt, Weller and Cupery say they are much more comfortable with both the technology and the interview format, which they say is gradually moving away from scripts and toward more organic conversations.

“We have worked with Kyle Lehman at Ivy in mastering the system,” Cupery says. “Ben and I can now fully operate the sound board and do all the audio adjusting during the podcast, leaving minimal post-edit work to be done.”

“We’re getting exponentially better with each episode,” Weller says. “The third one went really well. I’m really excited to watch how this goes in the future — we’re going to keep producing higher quality podcasts.”

“We are planning to include a set of basic forward-thinking questions in every interview,” Rupnow says. “Something asking our guests to imagine and describe the Eau Claire they see five or 10 years down the road. Beyond that, the idea is to let the conversations develop in more of a free-flowing style typical of the podcast genre.”

As a guest for the second Muse episode, Diane Wolfe of Erbert & Gerbert’s Franchise Systems was pleased to take part in the conversation and bring her experienced entrepreneurial voice to the community dialogue.

“I think 'The Eau Claire Muse' podcast is a wonderful instrument to add to this community’s ecosystem,” Wolfe says. “When I moved here in 2004, I was impressed with the entrepreneurial history, success and continued momentum within the Chippewa Valley. I was happy to be a part of this new collaboration with Ann Rupnow, her interns Alexa and Ben, and Ivy Media.”

The first two podcast episodes can be found at "The Eau Claire Muse" website and on Spotify or Youtube — subscribe here. The third episode will be posted soon on the website and linked from the podcast Facebook page.  

For more information about "The Eau Claire Muse" or guest questions, contact Ann Rupnow at rupnowac@uwec.edu.