Semifinalists chosen in SIUE East St. Louis Café of Champions Challenge 

Five St. Clair County and East St. Louis area caterers and “foodpreneurs” have been selected to move into the second round of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s inaugural East St. Louis food industry business plan competition.

Numerous entrepreneurs expressed interest in the local competition, according to Jo Ann Di Maggio May, challenge coordinator and director of the Illinois SBDC for the Metro East at SIUE, and Ali Vlahos, SIUE Learning Resource Center program coordinator. Ten individuals completed the entry process and five were invited to participate in the next round.

“We’re extremely pleased with the level of interest in our first East St. Louis Café of Champions Challenge,” Di Maggio May said. “There has been a robust outpouring of enthusiasm about the Challenge from applicants, community leaders and our small business development partners.

“Although only 5 semifinalists remain eligible for the $4,500 in cash prizes, we encourage everyone that considered or entered the Challenge to access the SBDC’s wide menu of resources and expertise.”

The 2021 East St. Louis Café of Champions Challenge semifinalists include:

DJ’s Catering (Cahokia)
Miss Jays Cafeteria (Cahokia)
Queen Hattie’s (East St. Louis)
Susie Q’s Catering (Swansea)
The Crab Trap (Cahokia)
Round two of the Challenge will require semifinalists to create a condensed business plan, develop financial projections, and clearly define reasons how their business concept will be successful. The Illinois SBDC for the Metro East at SIUE will offer guidance and support to semifinalists via workshops throughout May 2021.

Competitors have until Tuesday, May 18 to submit their business plans and financial statements. Judges will select three finalists, who will then present a taste testing pitch starting on Saturday, June 5 through Monday, June 7 to a select panel of judges. The winners will be announced on Thursday, June 10.

First place will win $2,000, second place will receive $1,500 and third place earns $1,000.  Prize money is thanks to the generosity of the National Development Council, First Bank and the East St. Louis Center Foundation. The first-place winner also receives 12 months of rent and utility free space.

The Illinois SBDC for the Metro East assists start-up ventures, as well as existing businesses headquartered in the nine-county region of Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe and Randolph. It is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and SIUE as a service to Illinois small businesses.

By aiding entrepreneurs and companies in defining their path to success, the SBDC network positively impacts the Metro East by strengthening the business community, creating and retaining new jobs and encouraging new investment. It enhances the region’s economic interests by providing one-stop assistance to individuals by means of counseling, training, research and advocacy for new ventures and existing small businesses. When appropriate, the SBDC strives to affiliate its ties to the region to support the goals and objectives of both the SIUE School of Business and the University at large.

To learn about the SBDC, contact the Illinois SBDC for the Metro East at SIUE at (618) 650-2929.

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