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Final three chosen in SIUE East St. Louis Café of Champions Challenge 

The final three St. Clair County and East St. Louis area caterers and foodpreneurs have been selected to move into the closing 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, director of the Illinois SBDC for the Metro East at SIUE and Challenge coordinator, and Ali Vlahos, SIUE Learning Resource Center program coordinator.

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

Miss Jays Cafeteria, of Cahokia
Susie Q’s Catering, of Swansea
The Crab Trap, of Cahokia

“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.

“No matter the outcome, we encourage all the contestants that considered or entered the Challenge to access the SBDC’s wide menu of resources and expertise.”

Nine individuals completed the entry process and five were invited to participate in the semifinal round.  The closing round of the Challenge will require the three finalists to present a taste testing pitch on Friday, June 4, Saturday, June 5 and Monday, June 7 to a select panel of judges. The order of the three winning dishes will be announced on June 7 following the pitch presentations.

First place is worth $2,000, second place is $1,500 and third place is $1,000. The competition’s prize money is thanks to the generosity of the National Development Council, First Bank and 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.


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


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