By Nyesha Stone
Near West Side which makes up eight neighborhoods: Avenues West, Cold Spring Park, Concordia, Martin Drive, Merrill Park, Miller Valley and The Valley/Piggsville, according to their site has been gaining new successful businesses within the last few years.
Rev-Up MKE is providing individuals with small business the extra push they need—financially—to advance their business goals forward. This past Tuesday, Sept. 25, marked the third annual Rev-up MKE Live Pitch event—Shark Tank style. According to their site, this competition is to give start-up entrepreneurs the support they need to make it successfully in the Near West Side.
Snapshot of the 2018 Rev-Up MKE timeline
June 20: Rev-Up MKE launched the applications
July 25: Applications were no longer being accepted
Aug. 8: Rev-Up MKE announced the seven finalists
Aug. 8-Sept. 25: Rev-Up MKE provided the finalists with mentoring to prepare them for their live pitches
Sept. 25: The seven finalists pitched their plans and winners were chosen
The Live Pitch was held in the Eagles Ballroom at The Rave. Doors opened at 5 p.m. where guest had the chance to indulge in free food and drinks from local vendors such as Five O’Clock Steakhouse, Daddy’s Soul Food and Grille, the 2016 Rev-Up MKE winner, Lisa Kaye Catering and the 2017 Rev-Up MKE winner, MillerCoors. The “Taste of the Near West Side” was sponsored by WaterStone Bank, with the goal of introducing local restaurants to a broader audience to create a domino effect. Free food now could lead to new a paying customer later on.
About 45 minutes later the live pitches began
Host of the event Keith Stanley, executive director of Near West Side Partners Inc., came to the stage with enough energy to fill the room. Stanley excitingly welcomed everyone and quickly got the crowd laughing.
“You get free food and drinks, you can get louder than that,” he said. “Let’s get ready for Rev-Up MKE!” After introducing the judges, he stepped off stage, walked to the front row of the audience and took his seat to enjoy the festivities.
Each pitch began with a short intro video describing who the finalist are. And after the 1 ½ minute-long videos, each finalist came on stage to an audience full of family, friends, community members and supporters cheering them on before they delivered their speeches to the four judges: Doug Gordon, CEO, president & director of WaterStone Financial, Inc.; Daryl Hodnett, director-supplier diversity and inclusion at Advocate Aurora Health; Lisa Mckay, owner of Lisa Kaye Catering and last year’s winner; and Ray Seaver owner of Zizzl. These four judges picked the first-place winner, second place and the audience had their own vote as well. But, before winners were picked the pitches had to be heard.
Razed & Found
Owner Travis Blomberg was the first of the seven finalists aiming to win the grand prize of $10,000. Although Blomberg has been in business on 2123 W. Michigan St. for three years., he’s ready to expand.
Razed & Found is a service that turns waste into resources, such refurbishing cabinets, tables and sinks. Blomberg aimed to use the money to create a DIY (Do It Yourself) space for creatives. He was asked by one of the judges how would this money benefit his current business and Blomberg quickly responded:
“We have this unique opportunity to help and assist in a lot of ways,” he said.
Milwaukee is a city filled with creatives and this space would be utilized to support a need that’s missing in the city, said Blomberg.
Susie Roberts came on stage with more energy than any of the other contestants, including the host. As the owner of this organic, gluten-free baked goods business, who makes take-home packaged mixes for individuals that prefer to bake at home, she too is ready to step up her game.
“When people don’t intentionally follow a gluten-free diet, they enjoy it,” said Roberts about her need and want to create organic goods. In her pitch, she stated that she makes goods that are good for the body.
Roberts 11 mixes are in Woodman’s Market and other locations, but she’s has one major issue. She has to drive 38 miles from her home in Dousman, WI to get her goods to these locations.
“I need a new location and Near West Side you need businesses,” said Roberts. “We are the solutions to each other’s problems.” The money would be used to help her relocate her equipment from home into a storefront in the Near West Side.
Westside Food Connection
A space for food trucks to have a permanent stall to sell their food even during Wisconsin’s harsh winters, is the goal for Alex Anderson. Years ago, Anderson thought of opening a Nacho food truck and after doing research, discovered there’s a lack of stalls and commercial kitchen spaces in Milwaukee.
Anderson said he has a solution to this problem and it can be solved with him winning. He wants to construct a space that would a have 5,000 sq ft. commercial kitchen, stalls for food trucks, a communal area space for community members to come, amongst other amenities.
When asked about his “aggressive” timeline on attaining funding and building the space, Roberts responded with confidence:
“What is aggressive to some,” he said, “Is normal to myself.”
Worldview Art Center
Erik Eide didn’t have the loudest voice, but he was definitely the most prepared. He had all his numbers and data ready to explain and defend why the Worldview Art Center should exist in Milwaukee.
“Everybody has creativity,” said Eide, and this center would be a place for everyone.
Eide envisions the center as a multi-cultural one, one with a gallery, educational facility and a gathering place for the community. The projected hours would be Wed-Sat from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
He proudly announced that the center has recently attained two private donors that committed a combined $7,500 to the center. As a 503c nonprofit, Eide said most of the center’s money would come from donations, so winning this money would be a great way to get started.
She came out like a Rockstar. Paula Hare, owner of Gearhead Fashion, started her pitch off stage, instead she let her models do all the talking (walking). Hare utilized The Rave for its original purpose by turning up the music and throwing a quick fashion show. A diverse line of models took stage wearing Gearhead Fashion, with the audience fully entuned.
Hare stepped on stage, came to the middle, turned around and showed off her customized jacket.
As the leading brand at The Iron Horse Hotel, Hare wants to expand her business by opening up a warehouse to increase manufacturing.
“I need to have a real manufacturing facility,” she said.
A mobile barbershop owned by Black women, that’s what business partners Lakendra Brooks and Lashawna Thomas are aiming for. Brooks said their trying to fill a need in the community. Suburban areas have places such as Great Clips, but what about the inner city, she asked.
The ladies want to buy a school bus, gut the inside, add three booths with amenities, to travel and cut the community’s hair.
“We’ll be able to dedicate our services to all of Near West Side,” said Brooks.
The school bus would come with a ramp, so its accessible for all individuals. Although each woman is already mobile in their own way, coming together to get this bus is something they feel the community needs. To have a base home (bus) for the clients to come to is the mission.
Triciclo Perú MKE
The only place to buy authentic Peruvian empanadas in Milwaukee is Triciclo Perú MKE, according to owners Amy Narr and Mario Diaz Herrera.
Herrera is originally from Peru and that’s where he and Narr met and fell in love. That loved turned into a business that’s bringing more diversity to the city.
Their food cart has been established for one year with 7,048 empanadas sold this summer and a 5/5 rating on Facebook. All of this success is pushing them towards a storefront, which is their purpose of entering the competition.
“We know our product is unique because our customers are telling us,” said Narr. “We need a storefront and our storefront needs a home.”
Out of seven finalists there were only three chances to win. First place winner receives $10,000 for start-up business funding provided by WaterStone Bank, among other services that will advance the entrepreneur forward. Second place winner receives $4,000 in cash, and other services. Lastly, the audience choice receives $1,000 cash prize.
First Place: Susie Roberts owner of KalyANa Organics
Second Place: Amy Narr and Mario Diaz Herrera owners of Triciclo Perú MKE
Audience Choice: Amy Narr and Mario Diaz Herrera owners of Triciclo Perú MKE
For more details of the winners and their prizes visit http://www.nearwestsidemke.org/revupmke