Near West Side Partners: “Rev-Up MKE” finalists will compete to bring new businesses to the Near West Side

MILWAUKEE – Near West Side Partners, Inc. (NWSP) today announced five finalists selected as part of the fifth Rev-Up MKE small business competition. The program’s goal is to provide an opportunity for the winner – and as many finalists as possible – to expand or start a business in the Near West Side and receive the support necessary to be successful. 

“The Near West Side has long been home to incredible start-ups,” said Keith Stanley, executive director of NWSP. “Based on the great ideas and high-quality applications we received for the return of Rev-Up MKE this year, it is clear that there continue to be motivated small business owners that want to call the Near West Side home. We are excited to hear the pitches at the fifth Rev-Up MKE competition on September 14, and I encourage the Milwaukee community to attend that event and vote for their favorite business idea.”

A panel of judges selected finalists based on the strength of the applications and the quality of the business ideas. Each finalist will receive business training and support in the weeks ahead as they prepare to pitch their vision to a live audience at the Rave on September 14.

“The Near West Side is ready to welcome another generation of entrepreneurs to our growing neighborhood, bringing new jobs and vibrancy to our commercial corridors,” said Stanley. “So far, past winners have shown their commitment to the Near West Side by opening new storefronts, investing in up-and-coming commercial corridors, and hiring employees who are also residents of our community.” 

New this year to Rev-Up MKE is banking partner Town Bank, who will provide seed funds for the winning venture and is sponsoring the Rev-Up MKE reception.

“We are thrilled to be supporting Near West Side Partners and local entrepreneurs as a partner for Rev-Up MKE,” said Jay Mack President & CEO, Town Bank and Wintrust Wisconsin Market Head. “As an active small business lender in Milwaukee with two locations in the Near West Side, we understand the importance of entrepreneurship to grow and develop communities and look forward to helping propel a new business to success.”

“Marquette’s innovation team is proud to be working with Near West Side Partners, Harley-Davidson and Town Bank to support these up-and-coming entrepreneurs,” said Kelsey Otero, director of innovation at Marquette University and project lead for the Rev-Up MKE competition. “It is a privilege to provide mentorship and support to the budding business owners who will soon present their business ideas to Rev-Up MKE judges and members of the Near West Side community.”


The five selected finalists include: 

Gray Jett Cafe | Shana Gray and Andren Jett

Gray Jett Café is a vegan cuisine café focused on providing healthy, nutritious foods. Healthy doesn’t have to be boring, it could be accomplished with some amazing tasting food! 

Jvst Beauty | Briana McQuay

Jvst Beauty is a black-woman owned beauty supply store with products for hair, skin, and nail care.

The Pop Up | Mario Diaz Herrera

The Pop Up will be a platform that helps entrepreneurs to make sales from day one and provides them with a professional kitchen base to cook their products. 

Pressed Café | Shayvon McCullum

Pressed Café is a collaborative coffee hub that provides youth employment opportunities and an 18-month apprenticeship program called Fueled Impact.

Vertical Essence Dance Company | Candanisha Bishop

Vertical Essence Dance Company is a youth organization that uses dance to engage youth in a positive manner.


The program will culminate with a “Live Pitch Event” on September 14, hosted at the Rave/Eagles Ballroom where each finalist will present before a panel of judges. The winner – who will be announced that evening – will receive significant resources to support their new venture, which will be located in a Near West Side storefront, including:

  • $10,000 cash gift;
  • $25,000 in in-kind services (architectural renderings, small business consulting, free legal audit and communication support); and
  • Advertising and recognition from Near West Side Partners.

Additional details about the finalists and the live-pitch event are available on the NWSP website here


Near West Side Partners, Inc. is a non-profit organization with a mission to revitalize and sustain the Near West Side as a thriving business and residential corridor, through collaborative efforts to promote commercial corridor development, improved housing, unified neighborhood identity and branding, and greater safety for residents and businesses.  Near West Side Partners, Inc. is an organization of businesses and civic leaders from throughout the Near West Side, including the organization’s five anchor institutions – Aurora Health Care, Harley-Davidson, Marquette University, MolsonCoors and Potawatomi Business Development Corp.