2021 South Side Pitch Winners

1st Place – Sista Afya Community Mental Wellness

I started Sista Afya Community Mental Wellness because of my own experience of being a mental illness survivor. While I was in recovery, I did not see any spaces for Black women that focused on mental wellness and community. Once I became well and finished my graduate studies in Social Work, I decided to create Sista Afya Community Mental Wellness as a part of the solution to make mental wellness care simple, accessible and centered around the experiences of Black women. Something that I needed and so many Black women need.

We’ve been a part of the Southside from the beginning from having pop-up events at South side businesses, having a small office in South Shore, and now a larger office that can be the top destination for Black women to receive quality care while disrupting inequity in the mental wellness field. We are one of the few businesses that have an explicit focus on community mental wellness care that makes Black women a top priority in healing. We provide jobs to Black therapists and social workers who have a passion for serving the Black community. Most importantly Black women say that through Sista Afya they have a space just for them, they feel seen, heard, and accepted; which helps them to heal, grow, and thrive.

2nd Place – PiggyBack Network

For a little over three years, I have been hard at work designing and developing complicated technical details for PiggyBack. The software engineering side of me is proud of that. For the past 18 months, I’ve been wearing the parenting hat. The features for PiggyBack related to the community impact are by far the proudest pieces of the platform thus far. Youth transportation is not a new industry. Services exist all over the place where families can pay premium prices for reliable service. Families can also opt for a no-name private van’s free/reduced fares but potentially sacrifice safety and reliability. Other families decide not to send their children to a better school or extracurricular activity because transportation isn’t possible. I believe PiggyBack indeed provides a safe, reliable, and affordable option for all families. The vision to connect parents online to find each other has blossomed into a post-Covid rejuvenation of the youth activity industry. There is a transportation crisis impacting the park districts, daycares, sports leagues, visual arts facilities, and schools. Even when the dollars are available, access to a suitable form of transportation is frequently a hurdle. PiggyBack is already filling the need of many South Side residents and those around the city. PiggyBack offers youth facilities to sign up as Community Partners. For every PiggyBack ride that starts or terminates with our partner facilities, we will donate a share of the profits from those rides to that facility. As a result, the families utilizing PiggyBack re-invest in their schools and after-school activities while catching a break on their daily driving grind.

3rd Place – D. Jones Construction

Early on in my career in the construction industry, I noticed I was reaching a glass ceiling and saw limited to no room for upward mobility. Knowing I had so much more to offer the industry but just needed the opportunity to really showcase my talents, I saw a way by creating my own path and started D. Jones Construction. Not only has this granted me the opportunities I always knew were there, but it has granted those who look like me the opportunity to join our team and this forever growing industry. D. Jones Construction is transforming once forgotten about communities by partnering with non-profit organizations and minority small business owners to build out their spaces and renovate distress homes. Restoring hazardous properties on the South Side of Chicago gives us the opportunity to shine light on something that was once forgotten about.

2020 South Side Pitch Winners

1st Place – The Black Mall

Cassiopeia and Dre co-founded The Black Mall (TBM), an online directory of Black-owned businesses, in 2011 when they realized it was hard to find Black-owned restaurants. TBM is an aggregator of Black-owned businesses that offers product distribution and bookable services for entrepreneurs via their online multi-vendor directory, brick-and-mortar retail/fulfillment center, and digital marketing plan. They make it easy to Build & Buy Black!

They have partnered with over 250 businesses to redirect and recycle over $800,000 towards black business via their Ujamaa Marketplaces, Black Biz Cash Mobs, and retail outlets.

2nd Place – New Magnolia Garden Center

Letia created New Magnolia Garden Center to connect people back to nature.

Her team runs a U-pick farm and garden center that is located on the South Side of Chicago. At the farm, customers are allowed to tour the heirloom gardens and select the vegetables they desire to take home.

New Magnolia also provides landscaping services for homeowners that are interested in themed gardens. Some of the themed gardens that they offer are herb gardens, medicinal gardens, vegetable gardens, meditation gardens, and native gardens.

3rd Place – The Lemonade Land

The Lemonade Land is a local vendor market in South Shore. The market is comprised of micro and small Black-owned businesses from the South Side of Chicago. The mission is simple: to assist the Black community in generating wealth while keeping that money inside the community.

The Lemonade Land has taken a barren parcel of land and created a powerful impact in a short amount of time. Using the space to bring together neighbors, small and micro Black-owned businesses, the district police and firefighters, to conduct economic exchange in a safe and efficient manner during the height of a pandemic.

Since working with South Side Pitch, the team has formed a business directory which can be found at https://www.thelemonadeland.com/vendor-directory and features over 80 Black-owned businesses from primarily the South Side of Chicago.

2019 South Side Pitch Winners

1st Place – Dinobi Detergent

Dinobi Detergent offers 100% plant-based laundry detergent for both sensitive and non-sensitive skin. Dinobi was started by Augie and Sylvia Emuwa.

This journey started seven years ago when their firstborn needed a diaper change. When the diaper was removed, their babies legs were wrinkled and discolored from the harsh chemicals used to keep wetness from the baby’s skin. At that moment, Sylvia began cloth diapering but found that her babies still had rashes every now and then that didn’t make sense. One day, she simply turned over the bottle of detergent she was using, thought about all the other natural concoctions she’d made over the years to combat diaper rash, smell, etc., and realized that this could be harnessed into a detergent that would combat stains and odor, yet be gentle enough to use everyday. Augie and Sylvia created a mission to provide a plant based detergent for babies that encourages cloth diapering by being gentle, effective, and a one stop shop for bouncing ammonia while maintaining the integrity of the diaper and babies’ precious skin. That mission has since evolved into something greater. Dinobi Detergent aims to accommodate anyone and everyone with precious skin who may not be able to use everyday products or who want to live a greener lifestyle without breaking the bank. Join the Dinobi journey and laundry with us!

2nd Place – Wash on Wheels

Wash on Wheels is a full service, mobile, waterless car wash. This company was founded by a husband and wife team, Joshua Williams and Pattilyn Beals. Joshua and Pattilyn share four children and they both have a deep connection to the South Side of Chicago.

Joshua was born and raised on the south side, and attended Whitney M. Young high school where he excelled in athletics. He went on to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago where he continued his athletic career and studied communications. After college, he began a career in education, serving as a dean of students and school leader on the elementary and high school level for over 15 years.

Pattilyn was born and bred in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. After completing high school at Kenwood Academy she went on to Harold Washington and completed her undergraduate degree in film/video at Columbia College. Soon realizing the film industry is to unpredictable, she has found gratification in helping small black businesses grow and thrive as a manager at a non-profit organization.

3rd Place – Strength Together

Strength Togeter is a mental health app that uses a machine learning AI to triage and traffic high school students to their counselors.

Emmanuel Thompson and Judai Smith created this app to help address the mental health issues that exist among students. High school students use this app on their school devices, and the app’s AI reaches out to them to start a conversation. Through the students’ conversation with the AI, a profile is developed on the students and whatever is communicated on the app will be given to their school counselor. The counselor has a chance to review a summary of the information and can have a meeting with the student to discuss what was communicated on the app. The app pushes a notification to have a daily follow up with the student to talk about their day, any issues that may be burdening them, and update the profile for their counselor to better assist them.

2018 South Side Pitch Winners

1st Place – Liv Labs

Liv Labs is developing a pelvic floor fitness kit for new mothers, athletes, and older women with situational incontinence. Unlike the alternatives, Liv’s product will be accessible to women from all walks of life, including the uninsured. Melody Roberts is the co-founder and CEO of Liv Labs, and she applied for the 2018 South Side Pitch competition after being inspired by past competitions. She used her one-year membership at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to refine her device prototype and build connections with other entrepreneurs.

2nd Place – Kozy

Kozy is a property management platform that helps renters earn monthly cash back when they do two things: rent through their network of properties and pay their rent on time. The Kozy promise is to create connections, opportunity, and stability for both the owner and the renter. For both founders, Mariah and Mecca, growing up in the South Side allowed them to better understand the gaps in the rental market and provide viable solutions to address affordability and low home ownership rates.

3rd Place – Bougie Melon

Bougie Melon is a brand of designer drinks, sweets, and novelties for fruit-loving foodies. This business makes, markets, and sells products by taking ordinary lemonade, watermelon, and traditional banana pudding and making it “anything but ordinary.” Johnathan C. Carthon is the founder of Bougie Melon and he is a serial entrepreneur who shows his commitment to his community by using his business to help at-risk youth generate income and learn marketing skills so they can become future business owners and community leaders in the South Side.

2017 South Side Pitch Winners

1st Place – KaZoom Kids Books

KaZoom Kids Books, a subscription-based, interactive, multicultural children’s book company, was founded by Donna Beasley in 2015. Donna created this company in order to address a lack of multicultural children’s books in the current market. After winning the South Side Pitch,  Donna used the prize money to increase marketing and development of the KaZoom Kids iStoryBooks mobile application and to commission new books. You can now find Kazoom Kids Books  in the App Store and Google Play under iStoryBooks.  Since winning South Side Pitch, KaZoom has grown from having a library of 8 books to now a library of 12 books (and growing) available on both their app and website. Interested in checking them out?  Potential customers have the opportunity to read two books for free!

According to Donna Beasley “The most important thing for an entrepreneur presenting their pitch is to practice, practice, and practice until your comfortable with the material you are presenting.”

2nd Place – Back of the Yards Coffee

Back of the Yards Coffee, a local coffee shop and roastery, was founded by Jesse Iñiguez and Mayra Hernandez in 2016.  Jesse and Mayra, long time friends and Back of the Yards neighborhood locals, were both unsatisfied with working for others and consequently decided to follow their passion for coffee and open up their own business.  In following their coffee dreams, they created a business that not only roasts beans and serves coffee, but is highly focused on the community and the neighborhood they inhabitat. All products that Back of the Yards Coffee uses, from pastries to coffee syrups, are made locally. Since their time on South Side Pitch, they have secured a $50,000 loan, they are meeting with and pitching to investors, and they used South Side Pitch funds, in part, to buy an old firehouse in Back of the Yards as their headquarters for the roastery operation. Their goal in the future is to get their roasted coffee beans into retail and open more coffee shops in neighborhoods on the South Side. If you are on the South Side and need a caffeine fix, check out Back of the Yards Coffee.

Advice from Jesse “Take chances and do not be afraid to be unique, for  if there is a will there  is always  a way. That said, you need to make smart decisions that meet demand and are based on research.”

3rd Place – Re:Work Training

re:work training is a company that recruits people with limited education, trains them on how to sell software, and then places them in well-playing software sales roles – free of charge. After working in the software industry, founder Harrison Horan saw many well paying entry-level jobs with potential for growth left open. He saw this as an opportunity to develop a pipeline of talented software sales people and to help solve the lack of financial freedom among low income people in the United States. In order to solve this problem, Harrison created re:work training. He is passionate about seeing hard working people achieve their potential. His goal is to continue to aid his community members in finding well paying jobs in growth industries. He wants to see his business spread across Chicago, the United States, and even the world.  After competing on South Side Pitch, he used his new funds to continue to grow re:work’s exposure and hire Shelton Banks, a South Side native, as the CEO of the company. re:work training is excited to be celebrating turning 2 in 2018!

Advice from Harrison Horan “Leading up to delivering your pitch practice. I practiced giving my pitch over 300 times before stepping onto the stage at South Side Pitch.”