Deadline nears for business pitches

By JESSICA KIM COHEN
Herald Intern

Organizers are gearing up for their first ever entrepreneurial pitch competition, dubbed “South Side Pitch,” which will take place Oct. 1 in the Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE) Sky Deck, on the 11th floor of 5235 S. Harper Court. All interested entrepreneurs are asked to submit their applications by Monday, Aug. 18.

South Side Pitch is a collaboration between the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship (IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship) at the University of Chicago (U. of C.) Law School, CIE, the U. of C. Office of Business Diversity and the South East Chicago Commission. The event was conceived by the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship – a branch of a national nonprofit, the Institute for Justice – which aims to promote inner-city entrepreneurship in Chicago by advocating for small businesses and providing free legal services, educational programming and resources, according to Brooke Fallon, Office and Community Relations Manager at the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship.

Fallon emphasized the event’s focus on the South Side: this includes those living on the South Side, those hoping to open businesses on the South Side and those planning to hire employees on the South Side.

“There’s so much talk in Chicago about the city kind of finding its place as a hub for startups,” Fallon said. “We thought an event like South Side Pitch could be a cool way to highlight things that are going on here on the South Side that sometimes don’t get enough attention.”

At the event, five finalists – to be announced Sept. 15 – will present their pitches to an audience and panel of judges, including BLUE 1647 CEO Emile Cambry, CIE Executive Director John Flavin, Chicago Urban League Director of Entrepreneurship Selena Sizemore and BNY Mellon Managing Director and Hyde Park Angels Membership Chair Tony Wilkins.

Fallon hopes the event will bring exposure to startups and encourage connections to possible mentors and funding – although the judges are not actual investors, South Side Pitch will allow entrepreneurs an opportunity to practice pitching and to receive feedback.

“It’s preparing them for the real day, which is to present to an investor, to present to a customer and to present to the marketplace,” Flavin said, noting his experience as a venture capitalist. “You’re constantly conveying your idea and convincing people that your idea is an important one.”

The top three participants, ranked by the judges, will each receive a cash prize and mentoring session. Fallon said they are hoping to secure more sponsorship for prize packages – however, at time of publication, first place is planned to receive $1,000, a 3-year license to Microsoft services and a 3-month membership to BLUE 1647 incubator space; second place will receive $300 and third place will receive $200.

Those interested must submit an application to southsidepitch.com/apply by Monday, Aug. 18.