Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecakes Brought the Ingredients for Victory to LEAP’s July 9 Hatching

Authentic Cheesecake Startup Takes Home Top Prize at Recent Business Pitch Competition

Marcus Leslie of Mr. Leslie's Cheesecake

Six Lansing-based entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas at LEAP’s July 9 virtual Hatching event, building on the theme of resilience for this year’s series of monthly events.

This month’s ideas included a 3D printed mask-making service, clothing as conversation in support of returning citizens, an air bag backpack to protect children from abduction, a career service to connect young women with the jobs of their dreams and a celebration of motherhood and strength.

The ingredients were just right for Marcus Leslie, whose pitch for Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecakes took home top prize at the July 9 event. Leslie’s love for baking began in childhood and grew into a regular hobby, with friends and family coming to expect his delicious baked goods at every event.

In his pitch, he described the “dinner that changed his life,” when the party host pulled a cheesecake out of the oven. Until that point, Leslie had only experienced no-bake cheesecake out of a box or cheesecake from a restaurant and had never considered that true cheesecake was a baked and chilled dessert.

After his experience at the dinner party, Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecakes was born from a desire to introduce the Lansing region to true, not-from-a-box cheesecake.

“What makes me unique compared to other local bakeries is the myriad flavors I incorporate, inside and out,” Leslie said during his pitch. “I love food, I love desserts, so I love to infuse my favorite desserts like apple pie peach cobbler and strawberry shortcake into my cheesecakes.”

Currently, Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecakes are sold directly to customers, but his goal is to eventually expand to local stores so anyone can pick up a cheesecake when they’re in the mood for an authentic cheesecake experience. He also plans to use his business success to show Lansing’s young people, especially minorities, how they can successfully start and grow a business.

Leslie plans to use the $2,000 prize to develop packaging, improve product presentation and seek out partnerships to begin making his way into local stores like Horrock’s.

July’s judging panel included Ashlee Willis of Michigan Premier Events, Delta Township trustee Fonda Brewer, Tammy Walker of the Eaton Rapids Area District Library, former LEAP board member and retired CEO of Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital (now Sparrow Eaton Hospital) Matt Rush and Courtney Overbey from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the venture sponsor for the first four 2020 Hatching events.

The Hatching is a business pitch competition produced by LEAP. This year, LEAP has partnered with the Fledge, a one-of-a-kind space that promotes radical inclusion and provides a pathway to remove barriers in entrepreneurship, in our efforts to attract all ethnicities, cultures and gender. This year’s virtual series provides one winning entrepreneur from each event with $2,000 in cash support, as well as connection to valuable business services. The 2020 Hatching series revolves around a central theme of resilience with the potential for specific sub-themes for each monthly event, which shifted to a virtual model in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are proud to continue to offer this outlet for entrepreneurial support virtually.. In the spirit of this year’s theme of resilience, entrepreneurs, judges and staff have all done a great job pivoting to the new digital environment,” said Anum Mughal, manager of new ventures at LEAP. “We are also pleased to partner with the Fledge to continue our commitment to inclusion and equity in entrepreneurship, as well as through intentional community outreach like this month’s collaboration with the Eaton Rapids Area District Library.”

People interested in participating and pitching at LEAP’s Virtual Hatching competition can submit their ideas to www.thehatching.org. Submissions for the Aug. 13 event are being accepted through Thursday, Aug. 7.

About LEAP
The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) is a coalition of area leaders partnering to build a stronger community for all–working every day to grow, retain and attract business to the Lansing region.

About The Hatching
The Hatching is a regularly occurring business pitch competition founded by LEAP, established as part of a community wide effort to support local entrepreneurs. Participants submit business and product ideas through the Hatching’s online portal, where the public subsequently votes forward the ideas that will be pitched in front of a live audience and panel of judges.