The Rev-Up MKE small business competition provides an opportunity for start-up entrepreneurs to expand or start a business and get the support needed to make it successful in the Near West Side. Applications are due August 5th

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A seminal example of economic development programming, the annual competition attracts new businesses and acts as a catalyst to spark interest and development in the commercial corridors of the Near West Side. At the same time, the competition includes elements of community and resident engagement by encouraging residents to vote for the business models they want to see in their neighborhoods.

As part of the competition, finalists will receive hands-on business training at Marquette University’s 707 Hub in preparation for the live pitch event.  The winner – who will be announced after the live pitches on September 14 – will receive significant resources to support their new venture, which will be located in a Near West Side storefront. 

See past winners and finalists

Save the Date

Rev-Up MKE Small Business Competition


September 14, 2022
The Rave/Eagles Ballroom

On Wednesday, September 14, hear from the finalists, cast your vote for the audience choice winner and enjoy a taste of the Near West Side by sampling food from neighborhood restaurants.

The winner will be announced that evening.

Registration link coming soon.

About the Competition

The Near West Side is open for business!

Grand Prizes

1st place winner will be awarded:

  • $10,000 start up business funding from Town Bank;
  • Over $25,000 in-kind services (architectural renderings, small business consulting, free legal audit and possible representation, communication support); and
  • Advertising and recognition from Near West Side Partners.

2nd place winner will receive $4,000 cash and other in-kind services as needed.

Audience choice winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize.

Judging Criteria

Clearly defined solution, fulfills a customer need, has a resonance and desirability, changes or significantly improves an existing process or fills a gap in current Near West Side offerings.
Clearly identified customer, size of customer base, scalability in both geography and reach, in-depth competitive analysis.
Relative domain and industry experience, business track record, education, etc.
Clearly defined vision and objectives, roadmap for implementation, and perceived strategic advantage. Business will be viable.
Clearly demonstrates what effect will the award funding have, how will it be used to help develop the neighborhood, and a desire to locate and operate in the Near West Side.

Acknowledgements for Finalists and Winners:

  • Finalists must be present and pitch on stage at the live event.
  • Winners will be named on the night of the live pitch event; checks will be mailed out to the winners within a few weeks following the live pitch event.  
  • If the first-place winner does not move into a space in the Near West Side, the prize money must be returned.  
  • Near West Side Partners and Rev-Up MKE organizers will work with businesses to identify a correct storefront space for the business following the live pitch event. The first place winner must be making active steps to identify a space in the year following the competition. 
  • All selected finalists must attend workshops and mentorship meetings prior to the live pitch event. 

Selection Process 

The Near West Side will review applications and select finalists for the competition by mid-August. 

Finalists will participate in training, support and mentoring programs leading up to the live event. This is intended to help finalists get the business support necessary to be successful and prepare for the pitch. There will be workshops and pitch practice sessions scheduled.


  • Must be 18 years or older.
  • Participants must be actively involved in the business that is being proposed.
  • The business owner must also be responsible for creating the business plan.
  • Must be willing to sign a minimum of a 2 year lease.
  • Participants must be Southeastern Wisconsin residents and start their business in the Near West Side.
  • Business must be a start-up or expanding business.
  • Business must contribute to the development and growth of a healthier Near West Side neighborhood; businesses such as cash for gold companies, liquor stores, payday loan agencies, pawn shops, tobacco shops and gun stores are not eligible for entry.
  • Business must be approved for operation.
  • Businesses that have already committed to the Near West Side but were not eligible to compete in Rev-Up MKE due to no competition in 2020 or 2021 are eligible to apply for the 2022 competition.


If you have any questions, contact Kelsey Otero at or 414-288-4990.

Past Winners Include


A Goodman’s Desserts

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KalyANa Organics

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Lisa Kaye Catering

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Pete’s Pops

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All past Rev-Up MKE participants are detailed below.

2019 Finalists

2018 Finalists

2017 Finalists

2016 Finalists

Rev-Up Sponsors

Questions? Feedback? Ideas?

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