Lisa Kaye Catering wins Rev-Up MKE

Near West Side awards $10,000 to small business [PHOTO GALLERY]

Lisa McKay, owner of Lisa Kaye Catering.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:05 pm

Lisa Kaye Catering LLC took the top prize of $10,000 at Near West Side Partners’ Rev-Up MKE small business competition Wednesday night.


Owner Lisa McKay founded the catering company in 2007, and it has grown to cater to events of all types and sizes, including weddings and corporate events. Lisa Kaye is known for its smoked beef brisket and cheesy potatoes, but also makes a variety of ethnic foods to match themes, she said.

“Every event that we had, I always wanted it to be memorable and impressive,” McKay said. “We wanted high standards. That’s why we’re still in business.”

McKay and five other finalists pitched their businesses and their plans for the winnings to a panel of judges from established Near West Side businesses at The Rave in the neighborhood. The competition aims to help entrepreneurs expand or start a business on the Near West Side.

The judges raved about the appetizers Lisa Kaye employees served them, but wanted to know whether $150,000 in revenue was keeping the business profitable and whether the company could maintain the food quality as it expanded. Evidently, they liked McKay’s answers.

“Winning this competition, it would help us establish a commercial kitchen, it would help us create jobs right here on the Near West Side, it would help us succeed,” McKay said. “Once we expand, we are going to need additional staff, as well as additional wait staff.”

Lisa Kaye currently has four chefs, just one of whom is full-time. McKay showed the judges a picture of the Near West Side building in which she hoped to open her kitchen.

“My husband and I were exploring some buildings in the city and the building we saw was in the Near West Side,” she said. “We wanted to be a pillar in the Near West Side and we had chosen that even before the competition began.”

Lisa Kaye also won the WaterStone Bank Audience Choice award in the Rev-Up competition, so she received an additional $1,000. She also will receive $25,000 of in-kind services, such as architectural renderings, small business consulting, legal audit and communication support.

“Lisa Kaye Catering will now join the ranks of some of the world’s greatest start-ups located in the Near West Side, including iconic brands like Harley-Davidson and MillerCoors,” said Keith Stanley, executive director of NWSP. “We’re excited Lisa will bring her catering services to our neighborhood.”

The runner-up was lifetime Cold Spring Park resident Annalies Tilley-Grantz, owner of Hands in Harmony Piano Studio. She received a $4,000 prize.

Tilley-Grantz, who currently teaches 75 students but has a 32-student waitlist, was seeking funds to develop a storefront and music hub in a warehouse space on the Near West Side, where she could install multiple soundproofed practice rooms, augment her lessons with retail space for accessory and music book sales, and provide ample parking for families.

“We’ve already made an impact, but if we could do that for 300 kids, 500 kids or 1,000 kids, that is the level of change that I’d like to see,” Tilley-Grantz said.

Also pitching at the event were finalists Latrece Nelson of hair salon House of Weaving, Brooke McNeill of food and beverage co-working space Punch Bowl Collective, Joe Erato of financial technology app Denari and Shannon Fasola Mattox of Orange Butterfly Personal Concierge Services.

All six finalists were matched with a Near West Side corporate partner for hands-on business training, technical assistance and mentorship. Aurora Health Care, Harley-Davidson Inc., Marquette University, MillerCoors and Potawatomi Business Development Corp. assisted the entrepreneurs.

The judges were: Paul Jones, vice president of strategy and sustainability and chief legal officer at Harley-Davidson; Doug Gordon, chief executive officer of WaterStone Bank; Ebony Ssali, owner of Ssali Media Group; and Ray Seaver, founder and CEO of Zizzl.

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