With the 2019 RISE: The Challenge (formerly known as The Start Something Challenge) now open, we caught up with last year’s champions, including Lisi Vasquez, owner of Midnight Market. Last year, Lisi took home the $5,000 Community sector prize, and since then she and her team haven’t stopped.
Why did you start your business? What was your passion?
I started Midnight Market because I saw a need in my community. At the time, I was running my catering operation with hopes of breaking into the food festival scene as a way to make extra money and gain exposure. I wasn’t super happy with the state of things, so Perla and I joined forces and started our event. Our combined passions have always been hosting. If you boil it down, we both love to host and created an environment that gives people an escape from the day to day. Plus we are both huge Foodpreneurs and wanted to give our chef friends access to the community in a unique way. We created something we’d want to attend with our friends, and everyone else ended up feeling the same way!
Where is your business now? Any new updates?
We hosted three events in NYC in 2018 and launched our new branding in 2019 to celebrate our return to the Harborside Atrium in Jersey City for the full 2019 year. The events run every month on the Second Friday. The Spring Season just concluded, and we’ll be on break until our return for the Fall Season on September 13.
How has the Start Something Challenge (Now RISE) helped your business? (What did you learn? How did you use the grant?)
We used the grant as a down payment on a venue in Brooklyn. With that money, we hosted a wildly successful event that generated enough capital to bring us into the next, and so on. It was extremely helpful. RISE has helped our business tremendously. Additional monies are always welcomed, but it’s more than that. We learned to hone in the business pitch, gained valuable connections.
What was your most memorable experience from the Start Something Challenge?
Being part of a community of people that understand the hustle is the most memorable experience. Money is necessary, but there’s nothing more valuable than building up a solid network of like-minded business owners. That’s priceless.
Would you encourage other entrepreneurs to participate? Why?
Most definitely! It forces you to get out of your comfort zone and assess what’s going on with your business at the present time. It also requires you to think long term. As small business owners, it’s easy to get caught up in the small details and forget about the end game and what that looks like. RISE requires you to rise to the occasion, critically think about your business, and take a hard look at the viability of your current state of operation. It’s an invaluable practice, even if you don’t walk away with a grant. You’ll be in a better position for having participated.