Rev Up MKE Picks Winning Entrepreneurs
KalyANa Organics bakery wins first place, Triciclo Peru empanadas is second.
For the third year, the local non-profit Near West Side Partners held its annual Rev Up MKE event, bringing together a group of entrepreneurs and business innovators to pitch their ideas for the chance to win a grant to help develop their idea. It was held at The Rave/Eagles club, where finalists in the competition each took their turn on stage, presented their business ideas to a panel of judges and audience, and answered questions about how their respective businesses could succeed and benefit the community.
Travis Blomberg of Razed & Found, a division of the non-profit group, WasteCap Resource Solution, was the first to take the stage. He discussed the company’s vision to take salvaged building materials and sell them for reuse in new construction, while creating an incubator from unused workshop space where people would be taught to reuse the salvaged materials.
Susie Roberts next came up. She enthusiastically presented her ideas of moving her baking company, KalyANa Organics, to Milwaukee from Dousmen. Her gluten-free baked goods and mixes are currently sold in Woodman’s stores as well as at Outpost Natural Foods in town, but her goal is to bring the operation itself into the city. She noted a significant increase in company profits — 34 percent — in the past year and anticipates a continued increase in revenue through social media advertising and by expanding sales through Amazon and ultimately Whole Foods.
The third presenter, Alex Anderson, energetically proposed his idea to give food truck and cart vendors a space that gives them better visibility and a home during the colder months that typically see a drop in sales. His company, Westside Food Connection, would find a home on the near West Side, and thereby provide food vendors with kitchens and space to cook all year and increase their networks through greater exposure and interaction with one another.
After a short fashion show presenting some of her work, Paula Hare came up to the stage to discuss her hopes of expanding her clothing design business, Gearhead Fashion, and locating it in a professional space outside her home. She hopes to increase the amount of products manufactured while maintaining unique designs.
Lakendra Brooks and Lashawna Thomas stepped up to showcase their idea for a mobile hair salon, a market they see springing up across the country, but not in Milwaukee. Their business idea entails a mobile barber shop and salon that caters to men, women and children, and which would drive to various locations for the customers’ convenience.
Lastly, Amy Narr and Mario Diaz Herrera offered the judges both their ideas and their empanadas. They own a food cart, Triciclo Peru, that sells freshly made Peruvian empanadas inspired by Herrera’s culture and heritage. The couple hopes to turn their food cart into a café to serve their fare, with space to begin production on a frozen line of empanadas to sell and expand on their current catering business.
After these passionate pitches concluded, the judges took a brief intermission to deliberate on who would win first place, and who would come in second.
Triciclo Peru was announced the second-place winner, which landed Narr and Herrera $4,000 in cash to help transform their cart into a café. In addition, they were also voted winner of the audience choice award, giving them another $1,000 cash.
KalyANa Organics was announced the first-place winner, giving Roberts $10,000 cash and more than $25,000 of in-kind services.