Near West Side Partners names Rev-Up MKE finalists

Small businesses will compete in pitch competition

Lisa McKay, owner of Lisa Kaye Catering.

Near West Side Partners Inc. has announced seven finalists in its third annual Rev-Up MKE small business competition.

Lisa McKay won the 2017 Rev-Up MKE competition.

The contest is targeted to entrepreneurs who plan to expand or start a business in the Near West Side neighborhood. The finalists will compete in a live pitch event on Sept. 25 at the Rave/Eagles Ballroom, with the winner receiving $10,000 and $25,000 of in-kind services, as well as advertising from NWSP. All seven finalists will receive one-on-one mentoring from the 707 Hub at Marquette University and pitch practice sessions with the NWSP anchor companies, Aurora Health Care, Harley-Davidson Inc., Marquette University, MillerCoors and Potawatomi Business Development Corp.

The finalists are:

  • BarbHER-Shop, Lakendra Brooks and Lashawna Thomas: Mobile salon providing haircuts, massages and other treatments;
  • Community Kitchen, Alex Anderson: Anchor kitchen and winter retail location for food trucks and carts;
  • Gearhead Fashion, Paula Hare: Unique clothing and accessories made from vintage fabric and curated garments;
  • KalyANa Organics, Susie Roberts: Organic, gluten-free baked good mixes;
  • Razed & Found, Travis Blomberg: A division of WasteCap Resource Solutions Inc. that created a DIY makerspace;
  • Triciclo Peru MKE, Amy Narr and Mario Diaz Herrera: Peruvian empanadas;
  • Worldview Art Center, Erik Eide: Planned artist workshop and gallery.

There were 35 applicants to the competition this year, and the finalists were selected by the NWSP’s commercial corridor working team, its “Promoting Assets, Reducing Crime” group and the innovation team at Marquette University, said Kelsey Otero, who runs Rev-Up MKE and is associate director of social innovation at Marquette.

“These finalists either have a business plan or a business idea that fills a gap in the Near West Side and/or they had a strong connection to the Near West Side and felt there would be a lot of opportunity for them to come in to a storefront in this area and be successful,” Otero said. “We try every year to make sure the finalists represent a wide variety of business types.”

NWSP declined to disclose the judges for this year’s Live Pitch Event, but Otero said one former winner will be a judge.

This is the third year NWSP has held the Rev-Up MKE competition. Last year, Lisa Kaye Catering LLC and founder Lisa McKay won the contest, and in 2016 Pete Cooney of Pete’s Pops took the top prize. Cooney is in the process of renovating and moving in to a new kitchen at 3801 W. Vliet on the Near West Side.

Lisa Kaye, currently located in a 900-square-foot kitchen at 2460 N. Sixth St., plans to rent a much larger 2,500-square-foot kitchen at 32nd and State as a result of winning the competition, McKay said. She expects the business to move in by March. The company has also hired three Near West Side residents since the 2017 competition.

“We were able to get more business due to winning the competition,” McKay said. “We were able to get more business during the week for corporations.”

Despite the longer timeline for the first two winners to open their Near West Side businesses, Otero said the program has surpassed expectations.

“We were really looking at the start of this to generate some buzz about the Near West Side,” she said. “We wanted to be able to attract a diverse retail base of different types of businesses to the neighborhood and to support innovation and entrepreneurship within Milwaukee. I want everyone that’s going to open up to get up and running as soon as possible, but to do it in a way that works for their business.”

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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