The finalists include:
- Drift LLC, Rachel Hawken: a New Zealand style food and beverage business that serves savory hand-pies, desserts, salads, and offers a full service espresso bar.
- A GoodMan’s Desserts, Alan Goodman: Goodman’s Desserts creates scratch-baked desserts, including their signature bread pudding, butter cookies and lemon pound cake.
- INPOWER, Aziz Abdulah, Asada Njuguna, Emani Taylor and Raven Washington: The company leverages a global network of freelancers and gig providers to help with outsourcing needs, particularly related to logo and branding, graphic design, writing and marketing.
- Esure Transit LLC, Emonie Patton: A non-emergency medical transportation company that offers rides to help improve patient access to care.
- The Farmer’s Kitchen, Tabatha and Justin De Leon: An affordable and healthy farm-to-table diner that specializes in breakfast and lunch. Food will be sourced directly from their own farm for a unique dining experience.
The contest is targeted to entrepreneurs who plan to expand or start a business in the Near West Side neighborhood.
Finalists are selected by a panel of judges based on their applications and the quality of their business ideas. All five will receive business training and consulting support over the next few weeks, and will make a live pitch to a panel of judges on Sept. 24 at the Rave/Eagle’s Ballroom.
The winner will receive resources to support their new venture, which will be located in a Near West Side storefront. The winner’s prize includes $10,000, $25,000 of in-kind services, and marketing from Near West Side Partners.
New this year, the program will offer increased mentoring support from the Near West Side anchor institutions (Advocate Aurora, Harley-Davidson, Marquette University, MillerCoors and Potawatomi Business Development Corp.) and engagement opportunities with Near West Side stakeholders and local government officials.
“The Near West Side has long been home to incredible start-ups – companies that started small and are now the iconic brands we know as Harley-Davidson and MillerCoors,” said Keith Stanley, executive director of NWSP. “Based on the great ideas and high-quality applications we received again this year, it is clear that there continues to be motivated small business owners in the Near West Side.”
“The Near West Side is ready to welcome another generation of entrepreneurs to our growing neighborhood, bringing new jobs and vibrancy to our commercial corridors,” Stanley said. “So far, past winners have showed their commitment to the Near West Side by opening new storefronts and hiring employees who are also residents of our community.”