This year’s winner of the Rev-Up MKE small business competition is CeLani Skin & Wellness, a spa and wellness center pitched by Brittney Rodriguez.
It is a business that focuses on addressing mental health disparities through healing and holistic practices.
After being embraced by loved ones when her name was announced, Rodriguez accepted the giant check last week for the $10,000 cash prize with help from her two daughters.
Rodriguez was one of five finalists who presented a business idea for Milwaukee’s Near West Side before a panel of judges and audience on Wednesday during the sixth “Shark Tank”-style live pitch event at The Rave/Eagles Club.
CeLani Skin & Wellness will offer wellness methods that promote mental and physical health at affordable rates for working-class individuals on the Near West Side.
Winning Rev-Up MKE “means everything. CeLani Skin & Wellness is really my heart, and I can’t wait to expand my business,” Rodriguez said in a news release.
Ambrosia Cafe, a brunch café with international-inspired dishes pitched by Jameelah Love,received $4,000 in start-up funds as the 2023 Rev-Up MKE runner-up winner.
Love said she felt the amount of preparation she put into her pitch paid off and that participating in the event boosted her motivation to launch her business.
Audience members voted on their favorite idea and selected Culinary Education Program, a program presented by Lisa McKay to train youth in culinary skills, as theTown Bank Audience Choice winner.The program was awarded a $1,000 cash prize.
Sodexo, a food and facilities firm, awarded $1,000 to each of the food-oriented finalists:
- Backyard Flava
- Culinary Education Program
- Ambrosia Café
The person who pitched Backyard Flava was Dexter Williams.
During her pitch, Rodriguez talked about her experiences seeking wellness services and plans to collaborate with other community organizations to provide education about mental health and wellness options.
“Small businesses make up our neighborhood of neighborhoods, and we are excited to welcome a holistic, woman-focused and woman-run spa to our community,” said Lindsey St. Arnold Bell, executive director of Near West Side Partners, which hosts Rev-UP MKE with the help of sponsoring businesses.
Rodriguez will also receive over $25,000 in in-kind services to assist expanding the business and advertising.
The event kicked off with free food and beverages from local businesses and a performance from students of Vertical Essence Dance Company, Rev-Up’s 2022 winner.
The panel of judges included Marylou Schirpke, senior vice president, Wintrust Commercial Banking at Town Bank; TrueMan McGee, founder and owner of Funky Fresh Spring Rolls; Eryn Horton, senior studio engineer, Harley-Davidson; and Celia Benton, economic development director, Milwaukee County.
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Meredith Melland is the neighborhoods reporter for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. Report for America plays no role in editorial decisions in the NNS newsroom.