Andrew Wimer
Andrew Wimer · October 20, 2023

CHICAGO—Last night, the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship (IJ Clinic)’s 10th Annual South Side Pitch declared R City Kitchen the winner with the help of a live audience. R City Kitchen took first place among the five finalists from the more than 100 businesses that applied.

R City Kitchen was founded by Rodney Trussell, a graduate of Chicago State University in Hotel and Restaurant Management. After growing up and working on Chicago’s South Side, he knew there wasn’t a shared-use commercial kitchen in the community. In spring of 2023, Rodney opened R City Kitchen, which he hopes can be a springboard for chefs, caterers, bakers, and others in the industry who are looking to grow their business. He plans to use the $12,000 top prize to hire a kitchen manager and expand the number of customers he can serve. Rodney also won two additional prizes bringing his total to $15,500.

“I’m overjoyed, to say the least,” said Rodney. “To win it all—three prizes—its unbelievable. I’m going to use the prize money to hire a kitchen manager to grow R City Kitchen so that we can help more people in the community.”

“Tonight was a wonderful celebration of ten years supporting innovators and small businesses on the South Side,” said Beth Kregor, director of the IJ Clinic. “This community has such a wealth of talent and wows us every year. Everyone in the room felt inspired to turn their dreams into reality.”

Each one of the finalists gave a powerful pitch detailing the track record of their business and their vision for further impact as they grow. Our audience is now motivated to invest in the South Side economy in all sorts of ways, and, if history repeats itself, some audience members may become finalists next year. At the IJ Clinic, we are reinvigorated to identify and knock down the barriers that unnecessarily block the dreams of entrepreneurs like these finalists.”

In addition to the grand prize, this year’s South Side Pitch awarded cash prizes to all the participants.

2nd Place: JustUS Junkie $9,000

3rd Place: BeautySKU $5,000

4th Place: Stoviink Creatives $2,500

5th Place: Englewood Branded $1,000

R City Kitchen took home the $1,000 community favorite award determined by audience voting and also won a special $2,500 award from the University of Chicago Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation for its work in the community to bring about positive social change.

The pitches by the finalists were made to four esteemed judges: Eva Brown, Vice President and Program Officer in Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Justin Douglas, Assistant Director for Social Entrepreneurship at University of Chicago Booth School of Business; Tessa Flippin, Founding and Managing Partner at VC Capitalize; and Richard Jones, Supplier Diversity Business Manager at United Airlines. Prior to the event, finalists met with experienced business coaches to prepare and sharpen their pitches.

The 2019 winners, Augustine and Sylvia Emuwa of Dinobi Detergent, welcomed the contestants. The husband and wife team talked about “dirty laundry,” their struggles and hard work behind the scenes that led to their business success.

The IJ Clinic, based at the University of Chicago Law School, empowers Chicago’s low-income entrepreneurs through free legal services, resources, and advocacy. This year’s contest was sponsored by United Airlines, the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement, and the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation.