Shared Kitchen Cooks Up Big Win at IJ’s South Side Pitch

Beth Kregor
Beth Kregor  ·  November 1, 2023

This spring, we met Rodney Trussell through IJ’s Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago. Rodney owns R City Kitchen, a brand-new shared commercial kitchen where small entrepreneurs can rent space by the hour in a struggling neighborhood at the heart of Chicago’s South Side. 

Fast forward to October 19, and Rodney is at the center of a cheering crowd, tearfully overwhelmed by winning all three top prizes at the 10th annual South Side Pitch—a Shark Tank-style event where local entrepreneurs can showcase their plans to grow their businesses. Rodney wowed the audience and the panel of judges with his passion, showmanship, and dedication. 

Close behind him were other impressive finalists: an experienced defense attorney who designed an educational board game about police encounters, a tech entrepreneur with a mobile app for consumers of beauty products for women of color, a team that makes self-care products, and the owner of a clothing line. 

Together, the finalists won $31,000 in prizes. But they gained much more than prize money. These budding business owners received input from experienced coaches. They spent time honing their messages about what makes their businesses unique, drawing from their origin stories and visions for the future. These experiences will pay interest forever. 

And the audience is forever changed, too, by the energy and inspiration it witnessed. We were all left with a deep faith that an individual can channel experiences and expertise and even hardship into a beautiful small-business building block for the community. 

The next day, I received an email from Rodney that echoed many messages from victorious IJ clients: “Thank you for believing in me, my dream, my community. Words cannot express … I’m forever grateful!” 

We send Rodney our thanks right back for giving us so much to believe in!

Beth Kregor is the director of IJ’s Clinic on Entrepreneurship.

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