On October 11, the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship hosted the 5th Annual South Side Pitch event to highlight some of the most innovative entrepreneurs from Chicago’s South Side. Of more than 700 applicants over the past five years, just 26 have been invited to pitch at the competition.
This year, Melody Roberts of Liv Labs earned first place. Liv Labs invented a small and easy-to-use device that promises to help the 23 million American women who struggle with incontinence. The $5,000 cash prize will help her navigate her business through early regulatory requirements. Mariah and Mecca Johnson, founders of the startup Kozy, took second place for their platform connecting renters to landlords who contribute to savings accounts on behalf of their tenants as a means of incentivizing retention and on-time rental payments. Third place went to The Bougie Melon, whose founder Johnathan Carthon wants to “re-brand and elevate” the watermelon to appeal to trendy, up-market consumers.
Finalists from past years also continue to display the entrepreneurial promise of Chicago’s South Side. Rumi Spice, a 2016 finalist and veteran-owned company that sources saffron from Afghanistan, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank and struck a deal with Mark Cuban. 2015 finalist Wheelz on Time, a company that helps individuals finance new tires rather than purchase used and potentially dangerous ones, has helped more than 1,000 people purchase safe, reliable tires. 2014 finalist Nature’s Little Recyclers, a worm farm and composting business, is now partnered with the Chicago Marathon to compost all of its organic waste—more than 10 tons each year!
Entrepreneurship is all about problem solving. Each year, South Side Pitch shines a light on the South Side’s most promising problem solvers. It’s an honor to work with these businesses to refine their pitches and to jumpstart their success.
The IJ Clinic provides free legal assistance to low-income entrepreneurs. Year after year, this competition provides a fantastic opportunity to meet more of those we seek to serve, to learn about the red tape that they’re up against, and—thanks to your support—to help them break through it and succeed.