Near West Side Partners names finalists in small business competition

Competition modeled after the reality TV show "Shark Tank"

Eight small businesses have been selected as finalists in a competition put on by Near West Side Partners, Inc. for $10,000 in cash and $25,000 worth of in-kind services.

The competition, called Rev-Up MKE, is modeled after the reality TV show “Shark Tank” and was created to revitalize commercial corridors on Milwaukee’s near west side.

In-kind services include architectural services, support on rent payments, business consulting, a free legal audit and communication support.

The finalists are:

  • Bucks Burgerdogs & BBQ, a food truck with a wood-fired, open-flame grill run by Valerie Kennedy.
  • Funky Fresh Spring Rolls, a mobile food vendor and manufacturer that offers unique and non–traditional spring rolls made with local ingredients run by Trueman McGee.
  • Green Source Juice Bar and Café, which sells organic foods, run by Marshall Harley.
  • MilWaz Collective, a cooperative that connects local artists and screen printers through a common space for them to work and sell their products run by Leilani Lopez-Blasini, Milagros Cuevas, Ruben Lopez, Erika Martinez, and Rachaad Howard.
  • Pete’s Pops, a Milwaukee company that offers fresh fruit and cream popsicles, or paletas, in unique flavor combinations run by Pete Cooney.
  • Sew Alive, a retailer that specializes in selling leather products for personal and home decor and also offers workshops for young people run by Pamela Graham.
  • That Salsa Lady (TSL), a family-owned incubator kitchen with a shared restaurant and retail space run by Angela Moragne.
  • WasteCap Resource Solutions and Milwaukee Community Service Corps., two local nonprofits who have forged a partnership to build custom furniture from salvaged materials from foreclosed Milwaukee homes run by Joe Liebau.

Near West Side Partners is a nonprofit led by representatives from Aurora Health Care, Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Marquette University, MillerCoors LLC and Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. The area it serves includes the Avenues West, Cold Spring Park, Concordia, Martin Drive, Merrill Park, Miller Valley and Piggsville neighborhoods.

All eight finalists will receive hands-on business training that includes technical assistance and mentoring from multiple organizations in Milwaukee, such as BizStarts, Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, Marquette Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic and the Harley-Davidson Young Professionals group.

Near West Side Partners Executive Director Keith Stanley speaks at Aurora Sinai Medical Center on Tuesday, March 23.
Near West Side Partners Executive Director Keith Stanley speaks at Aurora Sinai Medical Center on Tuesday, March 23.

The finalists will participate in a “live-pitch” event at The Rave and Eagle’s Ballroom on Sept. 27 where they will present their business plan before a panel of judges and an audience. The winner will be announced that evening.

“We are excited to begin the next phase of the competition – working with each of these eight finalists to help refine their business model and prepare for the live-pitch event,” said Near West Side Partners executive director Keith Stanley. “We hope that the support from this process, as well as the resources provided to the final winner, will become a catalyst for renewed entrepreneurial endeavors in the Near West Side.”

The $10,000 cash prize will provided by WaterStone Bank.

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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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