Our Participants

Meet the 2022 Cohort:

Genesis Bencivenga Sr.

Principal and Chief Executive Officer at Lorenzo’s Delectables

Lorenzo’s Frozen Pudding. The company was born on the South Side of Chicago by the #GirlDad team of Lorenzo and Genesis Bencivenga. The father-daughter duo launched the business to create an income option for upward financial mobility. They started by selling their pudding on the street. Lorenzo’s Frozen Pudding is available at local retailers, Jewel Osco and Mariano’s.

Yazmin Curtis

Founder and CEO of Two Fish Crab Shack

As a Southside native and a Bronzeville resident, Yasmin opened the Crab Shack to provide one of the first high quality dining experiences in the area. Her menu offers seafood options such as whole lobster and tails, snow crab legs, shrimp, catfish, and perch. All seafood items can be paired with Two Fish Crab Shack’s selection of unique sauces such as 3 The Chi-Way, Garlic Butter, Lemon Pepper, Cajun, and Jerk. Yasmin has expanded Two Fish Crab Shack’s offerings  to packaged goods, including their popular, Two Fish To-Go bags.

Terri Evans

Owner of Windy City Ribs & Whiskey

As the great-granddaughter of a whiskey entrepreneur, Terri founded Windy City Ribs & Whiskey to create a special dining experience, rich in its Chicago heritage. The restaurant is equally committed to volunteering, donating money, and – specifically in Chicago – developing partnerships with Urban Gardening Programs and High Roads Kitchen to address food insecurities throughout Chicago. Terri has advocated for restaurant workers’ rights and has committed to abolishing the subminimum wage by 2025.

Pamela A. Jones

President and Chief Executive Officer of International House of Sauces & Seasonings

IHSS Inc., DBA Charboy’s originated in 2008 with the concept of providing customers with healthier condiment options to their favorite foods. International House of Sauces and Seasonings is a veteran-owned business and is certified as a Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE).

Joslyn Kelly

Founder of J’s Breakfast Club

Joslyn founded the Gary-based restaurant on a mission to serve her community. J’s Breakfast Club has become a trusted staple in her community, and is among the few sit-down, dine-in establishments in the City of Gary. Joslyn and J’s breakfast club received the 2020 Shift Entrepreneurship Grant courtesy of the NAACP and Shark Tank’s Daymond John, among a host of other accolades for their service to the community.

Regine T. Rousseau

Founder and CEO of Shall We Wine

An acclaimed wine & spirits personality and lifestyle adviser, Regine founded the virtual event company to celebrate and demystify wine, inspiring great drinkers everywhere. By offering corporate events and memberships to a community of wine and spirits lovers, Shall We Wine makes premier, international brands more accessible to Chicago-area consumers.

Takia Smith

Owner, and Founder of Smart Smoothie

Takia founded the Gary, Indiana-based retailer to promote health awareness in her community. Smart Smoothie has grown into a hometown staple and opened its storefront location in the recently remodeled Gary Hudson Campbell Fitness Center. Takia seeks to continue expanding the menu to wellness beverages and items to curb unhealthy lifestyles in the surrounding community.

She currently resides in  Bronzeville and owns and operates her business in the neighborhood, with her daughter Kristian.

Michelle Wainwright

Founder and CEO of Cute as a Cupcake

Michelle founded the cupcakery to offer premier baking services to the area. In addition to offering baking goods through retail, the company also specializes in corporate events.  Michelle and her company are also alumni of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Chicago cohort.


Meet the 2021 Cohort:

Robin Beaman

Robin E. Beaman is a recognized leader in the fields of corporate relations, media relations and advertising. She is the president of Beaman Incorporated, an award-winning communications and advertising agency that has yielded tremendous dividends and successful wins for major organizations and Fortune 500 companies including Nielsen, Coca Cola, British Petroleum, Allstate, Illinois Department of Transportation, Revlon and HBO.

Robin received her Bachelor of Arts from the School of Communications at Howard University and her MS from the Kogod School of Business at American University. She is also the graduate of the Executive Professional Service Firm Program at Harvard University.

Elsie Cardell

As the former Vice President of L’Oreal USA, responsible for managing the commercial business in the US, Canada & Caribbean, Elsie is one of the most trusted and respected leaders in the multicultural beauty industry, having influenced the sales destiny of national and international hair care brands representing in the hundreds of millions in global sales. She has 30 years of experience in strategic sales leadership with some of the world's leading beauty & multicultural companies.

Results Sales & Marketing LLC, is a premier sales and marketing company that supports small to midsize manufacturers in mass, specialty and salon retailers.  Results is known for consistently delivering YOY double digit sales growth coupled with expanding distribution.

Sheila Coates

Be Your Own Brand (BYOB) is the culmination of Coates’ two decades of experience as a marketing executive specializing in artist development, branding and imaging. During her tenure in the music industry, Coates worked with some of the most recognizable names in the business. Her client list reads like a “Who’s Who” in popular music — Mary J. Blige, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Toni Braxton, Lenny Kravitz, Barry White, Jill Scott, Babyface, Monica, Faith Evans, Angie Stone, Q-Tip, Lalah Hathaway, and many others. She has created images for more than 100 videos, red-carpets events and television programs such as: The GRAMMY® Awards, American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, BET Awards, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Oprah, The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman.

Cecelia Harrison

Cecelia Harrison BS, RHIA, CCA, CRCR is the owner of ReveNewCycle Management and Consulting which was founded in 2016. Cecelia currently teaches Basic CPT Coding at Malcolm X College. In 2019 Ms. Harrison graduated from Chicago State University with her bachelor's degree in Health Information Administration. She has been in the Health Information industry for 20 years. As a former Section 8 recipient Cecelia is thrilled to take her business to the next level so she can hire those within her community. Joining this program will help her in facilitating her training program Blossoming Rose which will add much needed diversity to the Health Information Management field.

Nichole Jackson

Bronzeville Wingz, located in the historic Bronzeville community at 4300 S Michigan Ave., specializes in sauced naked and battered chicken. Owned and operated by Nichole M. Jackson, a Bronzeville native, the restaurant is unlike most specialty chicken restaurants, offering over 30 sauce flavors and preparation choice, making them a fan favorite for most wing lovers.  In addition to chicken, the restaurant offers a small amount of seafood and vegetarian options.

She currently resides in  Bronzeville and owns and operates her business in the neighborhood, with her daughter Kristian.

Larvetta Loftin

L3 Agency is a full-service marketing and communications agency focused on influencer marketing and delivering authentic content for brand engagement. L3 Agency has been responsible for executing award-winning marketing and branding experiential campaigns for Verizon, Bacardi, Toyota, McDonald’s, CVS Pharmacy, ComEd  and The Chicago Community Trust. Larvetta has also built an incredible career as a content creator, brand marketing strategist, authentic speaker, media personality, master networker, community advocate, author, and social entrepreneur. She recently launched her own business web series, on YouTube under LarvettaSpeaks TV  for women of color in Chicago to pitch for access for capital, resources, and expert mentorshipfor Upward Women.

Pam Redwood-Harris

Signature Media Group Speakers (SMG Speakers), is a full service speakers’ bureau that books, brands and manages national speaking talent for special events and has quickly become one of the nation’s leading professional speakers’ bureaus—representing powerful speakers who inspire audiences through their story and impactful message.

Pam has assisted in developing speaking opportunities for the careers of many prominent celebrities, politicians, authors and news journalists, such as multimedia journalist Roland Martin; Daymond John of ABC’s Shark Tank; White House Correspondent & CNN Analyst April Ryan, Ice Cube, former TV Show host Judge Glenda Hatchett and activist and world-renowned poet Nikki Giovanni.

Toi Salter

Toi Salter is a recognized leader in the field of financial and business management. As CEO and Founder of Salter Financial Management LLC, she manages and oversees the day-to-day and long-term financial & business affairs for professional athletes and media personalities.

Ms. Salter, a 20 plus year financial professional, is especially committed to professional athletes after seeing how so many lost their wealth because of improper financial guidance and counsel. Determined not to let this happen on her watch, she landed top picks in the NBA against all odds and incorporated the industry’s most respected wealth institutions and top tier financial professionals as part of her team. This approach has been a winning combination.