South Side small businesses compete in Polsky Exchange contest

By TIA CAROL JONES
Contributing Writer

South Side Pitch, a competition that gives local entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase their businesses for cash prizes, will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the second floor of the Polsky Exchange, 1452 E. 53rd St., this Thursday, Oct. 11, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Stacy Massey, assistant director of operations and outreach for the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship with the University of Chicago Law School, said the competition began in 2014. It grew out of the Institute’s work with small businesses.

“We’ve always known there were phenomenal entrepreneurs on the South Side,” she said.

Massey said more than 100 applications were submitted and from that 25 submitted videos. Five finalists were chosen after a watch party.

“It’s an innovation competition,” she said. “Are you solving an old problem in a new way?”

Massey said one finalist, the Real Black Card, www.therealblackcard.com, created by Quinn Bryant is doing that. While living in New York City, Bryant had the idea of marketing black-owned businesses on playing cards. Once she moved back to Chicago, she turned the idea into a business that sells a pack of 52 coupons to black-owned businesses. Ten cities across the country have packs of cards.

“This is Quinn Bryant’s way of addressing an old problem. It’s an inventive way of really inspiring economic development on the South Side,” said Massey.

Kimberley Mbayiwa, a native of Zimbabwe, wanted to connect creative talent from Africa to people in this country, so she created the website Rica Africa, www.ricafrica.com, where craftspeople on the continent can sell their wares in the United States. She wanted to strengthen her online presence, so she decided to participate in South Side Pitch.

“It’s a great opportunity to showcase what I’m doing and take the business to the next level and access the resources that I need,” said Mbayiwa, who launched the business in June.

The first place winner will receive $5,000 and a one-year coworking membership to the Polsky Exchange. Second place will receive $4,000 and a one-year coworking membership. Third place will receive a $2,000 and a one-year coworking membership.

Massey said last year’s winner, Back of the Yards Coffee, 2059 W. 47th St., has expanded to include roasting. Another contestant, Justice of the Pies, now sells at Whole Foods.

“In doing South Side Pitch, we get to meet interesting clients,” Massey said.

Bryant said the competition is good for business.

“It’s a great way to drive traffic into those businesses,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to help these businesses grow.”

herald@hpherald.com