Near West Side Partners, Inc.
Press Release

Vertical Essence Dance Company Wins “Rev-Up MKE”

NWSP announces winner of small business competition, which will open soon in the Near West Side

By - Sep 14th, 2022 08:41 pm

MILWAUKEE – Near West Side Partners (NWSP) is thrilled to announce Vertical Essence Dance Company has been named the winner of the Rev-Up MKE small business competition. The winner was announced on Wednesday, September 14, 2022, at the conclusion of a “Shark Tank”-style live pitch event in which all five finalists presented before a panel of judges and the public at The Rave/Eagles Club.

“Vertical Essence Dance Company will now join the ranks of some of the world’s greatest start-ups located in the Near West Side – startups that are now recognized iconic brands like Harley-Davidson and Molson Coors,” said Keith Stanley, Executive Director of NWSP. “After a two year hiatus from the competition, we’re excited for Vertical Essence Dance Company to bring more than just dance and performance to area residents and employees in our neighborhood of neighborhoods.”

Vertical Essence Dance Company is a youth organization that uses dance to engage youth in a positive manner. The resources received from Rev-Up MKE will support the business’ move to the Near West Side and enable it to accommodate more dancers, classes and other services.

“Winning Rev-Up MKE will allow me to turn my vision into a reality thanks to the support I will receive from Near West Side Partners,” said Candanisha Bishop, owner of Vertical Essence Dance Company. “I look forward to working with this fantastic organization.”

A number of other awards were given out to finalists and other participants:

  • Jvst Beauty was named as the runner up and recipient of $4,000 in start-up funds;
  • Vertical Essence Dance Company was also named the “Town Bank Audience Choice” winner and will receive an additional $1,000 to support their growth; and
  • Gray Jett Cafe, The Pop Up , and Pressed Café were each granted $1,000, provided by Sodexo Marquette.

All three participants in the Featured Business portion of the event went home with a cash prize, as determined by audience votes. Vibez Creative Arts Space took home $3,000, Atomix Logistics received $2,500, and Fruition MKE received $2,000.

“The return of Rev-Up MKE is pivotal to the small business community in Milwaukee,” said Jay Mack, President and CEO of Town Bank. “After many businesses across the country struggled and were forced to close due to the pandemic, programs like Rev-Up MKE provide a renewed sense of hope for the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

As part of the evening, guests enjoyed the Taste of the Near West Side, which included complimentary food samples and drinks from Near West Side businesses, including Five O’Clock Steakhouse, MillerCoors, Lisa Kaye Catering, Daddy’s Soul Food and Grille, Triciclo Peru, A Goodman’s Desserts, The Pink Bakery, Sodexo, and Pete’s Pop’s.

Background on Competition
Leading up to this announcement, all five finalists have been participating in hands-on business training, with technical assistance and mentorship from Marquette’s 707 Hub.

“We were thrilled to have such a great group of finalists, who have done tremendous work to prepare for the live-pitch event,” said Kelsey Otero, director of innovation, 707 Hub, at Marquette University and project lead for the Rev-Up MKE competition. “We know that each and every one of our finalists would be a great addition to the Near West Side and wish all of them great success.”

Vertical Essence Dance Company will receive significant resources to support its venture, which will be located in a Near West Side storefront, including:

  • $10,000 start up business funding from Town Bank;
  • Over $25,000 in in-kind services (architectural renderings, support on rent payments, small business consulting, free legal audit and communication support); and
  • Advertising and recognition from Near West Side Partners.

Judges from the event included:

  • Celia Benton, Economic Development Program Officer, LISC;
  • Chris Nelson, Director of Customer Experiences, Harley-Davidson;
  • Alan Goodman, A Goodman’s Desserts, Winner of Rev-Up MKE 2019;
  • Near West Side youth resident; and
  • Wesley Ricchio, Group Senior Vice President – Community/Business Banking, Town Bank.

“The Near West Side has been home to some of Milwaukee’s greatest entrepreneurs – from William Harley and Arthur Davidson to Fredrick Miller,” said Otero. “We are proud to welcome and support the next generation of entrepreneurs in the Near West Side.”

For more information about the competition and photos from the event, visit us online at:

Near West Side Partners, Inc. (NWSP) is a non-profit organization with a mission to revitalize and sustain the Near West Side as a thriving business and residential corridor, through collaborative efforts to promote commercial corridor development, improved housing, unified neighborhood identity and branding, and greater safety for residents and businesses. NWSP was founded through the support of business and civic leaders, including the organization’s five anchor institutions – Advocate Aurora Health, Harley-Davidson, Marquette University, MolsonCoors and Potawatomi Business Development Corp.

NOTE: This press release was submitted to Urban Milwaukee and was not written by an Urban Milwaukee writer. It has not been verified for its accuracy or completeness.

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