9th Annual South Side Pitch
As I circled the room before our ninth South Side Pitch—the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship’s annual contest to identify promising small businesses on Chicago’s South Side—I heard comments like this from every one of our five finalists. Even before we announced the winners and distributed over $25,000 in prizes, our finalists told us that we had changed their lives. While preparing for the big event, which took place October 20, they worked closely with our coaching team, refined their messages, reflected on their entrepreneurial journeys and destinations, built confidence, and practiced, practiced, practiced. Whatever prize they won at the end of the night, they knew that they had already hit the jackpot.
Of course, there’s more to life than practice! And every one of our finalists put on a marvelous performance in a three-minute presentation. The businesses on stage included a record store, a company that makes hand-crocheted fashion, a branding consultant, a restaurant that has developed vegan dishes with traditional Mexican flavors, and a brewer. They showed their passion, their purpose, and their perspicacity. And they demonstrated the vitality and importance of entrepreneurship on Chicago’s South Side.
Watch the livestream of South Side Pitch!
But the challenge was not over when the three-minute pitches were finished. The finalists also fielded tough questions from an excellent panel of judges. Those judges included LaForce Baker, an entrepreneur himself and a former client of the Clinic. Now a vice president of community impact at World Business Chicago, he knows what entrepreneurs need to tackle to make their mark in our city. Justin Douglas came over from the business school at the University of Chicago where he assists student entrepreneurs with ventures designed to have a social impact. Brooke Fallon—who knows the South Side Pitch inside-out, because she helped plan the very first one when she worked at the Clinic—joined us from Trust Ventures. Lastly, Richard Jones joined us from our generous sponsor United Airlines. Richard hears business pitches every day, and he brought his insight as a buyer to bear.
As always, the judges and audience (in person and online) had a tough time ranking the finalists based on the criteria of impact, creativity, vision, South Side connection, and showmanship. In the end, Moor’s Brewing Company was the victor. Its pitch, delivered by Damon Patton, truly encapsulated the entrepreneurial spirit of South Side Pitch. Damon started his pitch by pointing out that the company launched on Juneteenth in 2020, which became a national holiday to celebrate liberty and the freedom to work for yourself: “Now this isn’t just about selling beer for us. It’s about representation. . . . And it is rooted in independence—financial independence especially—from the very foundation of our birthday.”
Beth Kregor is director of the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship.
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