Category Archives: [by kate]

Interviews by Kate; edits by both of us.

women’s dream conference + the people’s music school’s anniversary

The Women's Dream Conference

The speakers at the Women’s Dream Conference

Two Fridays ago, I was lucky enough to be able to go to the 3rd annual Women’s Dream Conference—an inspiring and eye-opening event by local Chicago celeb Andrea Metcalf. A huge thank you goes out to Shruthi Reddy of Reddy Set Yoga! for inviting me. I already can’t wait for next year.

The day began with Andrea’s keynote. She related her trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro to starting a business, with many setbacks on her way up the mountain—including when she threw up in her goggles, and it immediately froze, rendering them useless. She was forced to blindly continue the trek through the snow for the rest of the journey. Unexpected moments like this can easily be compared to the harrowing, bumpy path toward starting your own business, Andrea says. When they finally reached the peak and were going to take a picture, a man from another group stripped down to his skivvies and leapt into the frame. “So the view from the top of the mountain may not always look how you imagined either,” Andrea dryly remarked.

Undies aside, my favorite message was Andrea’s advice on how to get what you want in life: Be direct. Once, when she wanted a certain position at a TV station, she called up the guy in charge and literally said, “I’m a health and wellness expert, and you should give me a job.” Her point was that if you know what you’re talking about and know what you want, you have to ask for it. By the way: She was hired.

Women’s Dream Panel No. 1: Wellness

The Women's Dream Conference Health and Wellness Panel

The health and wellness panel

The first panel was about health, wellness and balance. The theme that emerged was around the benefits of meditating, something I’ve been really interested in learning lately. But I was surprised to hear that it was something almost all of these women practice. Panelist Kathy Hart (of Eric and Kathy from 101.9 the Mix) was the first to stress the importance of making time for yourself to meditate or relax or do yoga or reset however you need—no excuses.

I like to think of it as the ‘putting your mask on first’ mentality—you can’t be your best self for others if you don’t take care of yourself first. (Where have we heard this before? Oh yes, almost all of our Panachies! But we digress.)

Women’s Dream Panel No. 2: Wealth

Panel No. 2 was about building wealth. Two points especially stuck with me:

  1. Financial advisor Mohini McCormick from Calamos Wealth Management talked about the emotional connection to money—and that it’s important not to make financial decisions when emotions are high. She says when you work with a financial planner or advisor, you put together a plan. Many of her clients will come to her and say, ‘Oh no, the economy is doing this! Shouldn’t we respond this way with my money?’ Her response is usually no, we have a plan to cover these sorts of things—let’s stick to it.
  2. “You can have it all, just not all at once.” Another panelist shared this sentiment, which was very heartening—and makes me even more excited for the future.

Women’s Dream Panel No. 3: Branding

The final panel discussion focused on personal branding. Sue Koch, social media consultant and owner of Soaring Solutions, told us that your brand is made up of 10 percent what you actually do, 30 percent how good you are at what you do, and 60 percent what people think of you—illustrating that it’s just as important for your bottom line to think about your brand as it is to perfect your offer.

Later on in the discussion, Micae Brown, host of The Micae Brown Report, created one of the most powerful moments in the room. She talked about how imperative it is for women to support each other. She acknowledged that there are times when your first instinct is competition, and thoughts like “There isn’t room for the both of us to succeed” permeate the brain—but that’s just not reality. This world is a big place, and there’s a space for each of us in it. If we spend more time helping each other and lifting each other up, we will accomplish a lot more.

The day was full of powerful reminders, and I couldn’t get over how many supportive women we are surrounded by each day whether we know it or not. My favorite part of the conference was the conversations: honest, earnest and full of real emotion. It was fantastic to be in a room full of women who just want to help each other live the best lives they can.

Anniversary Party Time!

Jazz Ensemble, People's Music School

The kids’ jazz ensemble

Later that night, I attended The People’s Music School 40th Anniversary event—and it was spectacular. As a quick reminder, this is the only tuition-free music school in the country, and kids and their families camp outside for days every year before registration to gain a coveted spot. Growing up as a band kid, I understand the value of music education, and I was grateful to be a part of an event that helps kids learn music skills and gain self-confidence in the process. They ended up raising over $230,000 that night!

The young musicians of The People’s Music School kicked off the evening with an impressive jazz ensemble, and that’s when my nostalgia really kicked in—I used to play the flute. Later on, a young girl belted out “Tonight” from West Side Story while President and Artistic Director Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa herself played the piano. Right after that, Jennifer accompanied a young boy on “Wipe Out” on the drums, blowing the audience away.

Besides the music, a theme of the night was captured by a father of three children who attend the school. He said: “What makes this music school special is the experience you have with these great people. The idea of having my children around good people is what we want and what we need so that one day, they can become good people.” This sentiment was echoed throughout the night.

Smashing Pumpkins

40 students performing “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin

The event culminated in one epic performance: honoree Jimmy Chamberlin, the Smashing Pumpkins’ drummer, joined an ensemble of 40 students. They played their own rendition of “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins—the event’s namesake song. Jennifer told me the theme was “Tonight, So Bright” (a lyric in the song) because they want to focus on the present.

“We’ve had 40 years of this great history, but we don’t want to be lost in the ‘before,’” she says. “The future isn’t fully formed yet, so it’s almost limitless—just like our kids. They’re not fully formed adults yet, and the work they’re doing now is planting the seed for them to become leaders and socially responsible, contributing members of society, as well as innovators, dreamers, executors.”

Whether we’re talking with women dreamers of today or the children that will create our tomorrows, that is something we can all believe in.

[Conference photos by Kate. Music school event photos courtesy of The People’s Music School.]

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meet jennifer: empowering children through music in chicago

Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa, People's Music School, People with Panache

Jennifer is a mother of 2 children: a 7-year-old violinist and a 6-year-old cellist. “This is very strategic because I’m a pianist,” she says, “so now I have my trio.”

First, I have to get this out: CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN! CUBS WIIIIIN!

After 108 years of disappointment, Cubs fans everywhere are overwhelmed with emotion at the World Series win on Wednesday night. I’ve been a Cubs fan for the past 11 years that I’ve been living in Chicago, and the electricity in the last few weeks has been really fun to witness. I’m not the first to say it, but my absolute favorite part of the whole thing is all of the people who got to experience this with or for their grandparents, who have waited MUCH longer than everyone else. Hey Chicago, what do you say? Cubs won the World Series (yester)day!

Now, Alysse and I want to say thank you for your patience. We’re back! After a couple-week hiatus due to grad school and weddings and work, we’re so ready to bring you more stories of women in our cities who are making their passions reality, single-mindedly pursuing their dreams, and paving their paths toward the lives they want to live. We’ve really missed you! Continue reading

meet nicole: chicago restaurateur and catering expert

This weekend is 2016 Wedding No. 10—my cousin Josh and his lovely fiancé Katherine. Their reception will be held in the Drake Hotel—very fancy and very classic “Chicago.” I am sure the food will be decadent, but truthfully I’m most excited to see the inside of the Drake. I’ve been living downtown for going on 5 years and I’ve never set foot inside the iconic hotel—though I’ve often gazed at it nestled between the other skyscrapers while lying in the sand on Oak Street beach. I’ve always loved it because it reminds me simultaneously of my hometown, Chicago, and my alma mater, Drake University, although the two share nothing but the name.

Alysse and I have also been talking a ton about her wedding plans for next year. *Happy dance!* For her venue, she has decided on a gorgeous outdoor affair under a big tent on rolling hills in Milwaukee’s Grant Park, made even more deliciously fun with her favorite foods grown by some of her favorite people, plus flower crowns and vegetable bouquets. The vision in my head in picturesquely Alysse. And I can’t wait.

Naturally, all of this wedding attending and planning has me thinking about the possibilities for my own someday, so what better person to interview during my “year of weddings” than Nicole Outrequin Quaisser—co-owner of LM Restaurant Group. Besides owning restaurants such as Troquet and Brasserie by LM with her husband, Nicole also runs a catering business and manages event spaces such as Lacuna Lofts, a trendy venue in Pilsen that is a wedding favorite—and I can see why! Everywhere you look, there is a unique piece of art or perfectly placed detail to appreciate. No surface is off limits—even some of the doors are adorned with works of art.

The icing on the wedding cake: Nicole is from Germany but launched her catering career here in Chicago—at none other than the Drake Hotel.

Nicole O Q, LM Restaurant, People with Panache

On apprenticeships: “It’s a different approach in Germany. You work for 3 months and you go to school for 3 months. You actually get to work every single department at the hotel and get to know everything from the ground up. You learn everything else at school, but when you’re done, you’ve actually done it already, you haven’t just learned it in theory.”

People with Panache: How did you get into the restaurant and catering business? Continue reading

meet nicole: leading ms. tech to support women startups

Nicole Yeary, Ms. Tech, People with Panache

“But I think there’s a real critical piece to all of this,” Nicole says. “It’s not just me—there’s a team of people who help to make all this happen. That’s why I think Chicago has the largest number of female founders—because we’re so willing to help each other.”

“I didn’t know what I wanted to be; I always knew the woman I wanted to become.”

Diane Von Furstenberg’s words perfectly illustrate Nicole Yeary’s career path—and this quote happens to be one of her favorites.

Nicole, founder of Ms. Tech, lives by the philosophy: ‘Do today with what you have.’ I so appreciate Nicole challenging us to remember to use the resources we have access to right now and do the best we can do. One day at a time, it adds up.

Ms. Tech ties together women, business and technology from within 1871 in Chicago, the largest tech innovation hub in the country. Chicago is the world’s capital of female founders—30 percent of Chicago’s startups are founded by women, compared to the 18 percent national average—and Nicole has now entered those ranks. Continue reading

meet marta: using art to save chicago’s strays

Marta Kenar, MCP Rescue and Outreach, People with Panache

Marta’s best advice: “Just keep going forward, and work hard for what you believe in. It seems so cliché, but I’ve been doing it, and it’s working, and it feels amazing.”

The summer before 6th grade, I got bit by a cocker spaniel. I saw him wandering around our cul de sac and thought he must be lost. I remembered that when you meet a dog for the first time, you’re supposed to build trust by letting it sniff your hand. At 11 years old, I was feeling brave and worried for the curly haired pup, so I knelt down and extended my right hand. It turns out that dog wasn’t interested in sniffing and took a big ol’ bite instead. I had to have surgery, wore a sling for the first few weeks of junior high, and still have a huge scar on my hand to this day.

My relationship to animals definitely changed after that. Instead of the curious innocence and blind infatuation of a child every time they see a cute, furry being, I became more cautious; I needed to trust the animal before I could fully love it.

It’s not that I stopped loving animals—there are some I love very much, including childhood pets—it’s just that now the danger of a strange beast that communicates purely in loud noise and quick movement is always in my subconscious. And the proof of the danger is permanently on my right hand.

On the other hand, I do believe that some people truly have a gift for understanding another species. Marta Kenar is one of those people. From my stepmom Karen who is obsessed with animals and has allowed every kind of pet you can imagine into our home (dogs, cats, rabbits, fish, turtle, snake, various rodents) to my best friend and PWP co-founder Alysse who truly cares about the wellbeing of every living thing on earth from butterflies to exotic wild animals to her very own new brood of chickens, you’d think I wouldn’t know anyone who could love animals more than them. But Marta may be the exception. As founder of MCP Rescue and Outreach, Marta hopes to instill compassion for animals, involve as many people as possible in rescuing dogs, and use art and music to bring youth into her mission. Continue reading

meet jamie: chicago entrepreneur taking the pet world online

Jamie Migdal, FetchFind, People with Panache

“I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur until FetchFind,” Jamie says. “I was a business owner, but I never had business plans, financial modeling or a marketing strategy. For me, I was like let’s just do this because it feels right—and it is right.” Now Jamie has more in place, but she’s still led by her love of people and animals.

For as long as I can remember, my dad’s house has been a revolving door of pets. My stepmom loves rescuing, and my brothers love encouraging her. Throughout my lifetime, we’ve had 4 dogs, 9 cats, 1 snake, 2 rabbits, 1 turtle and a bunch of fish in the backyard pond. The best one is obviously our orange tabby, Lucy, who I picked out when I was 14. And it’s well known to all of her furry (and scaly) companions that she’s the queen bee!

So when someone says they love animals, I know exactly what they mean. Jamie Migdal, lover of animals and founder of FetchFind, came up with a way to take working with animals to the digital space.

Instead of the typical route—vet or animal shelter—Jamie was looking for more connection between people and their pets. And boy did she create it. Continue reading

meet anne: juicing for wellness in chicago

Anne Owen, Owen + Alchemy, People with Panache

“Being the person I want to be and being surrounded by people I find inspiring and creative fulfills me,” Anne says.

For the past three years, I’ve been on a health journey to try to figure out why the foods I love so much suddenly stopped loving me back. It’s like a classic text message break up: quick, painful, out of nowhere.

This March I finally did an elimination diet and discovered my biggest problem is gluten—luckily for me, it’s the trendiest of food intolerances. I also discovered I just don’t eat enough vegetables every day. I had no idea (a) how many veggies you’re supposed to eat, and (b) how few I was actually consuming. So my favorite way to get all those good for you greens became through homemade green smoothies. You can consume a couple servings of greens in one sitting, and with just a little apple or lemon, it tastes great, too. My latest favorite combo: spinach, kale, pineapple and cilantro.

I also discovered a new juice brand popping up around Chicago: Owen + Alchemy. Coincidentally, I learned that Owen is Anne Owen, a woman I quasi worked with at Modern Luxury media, my first job out of college. Naturally I had to track her down and find out how she went from being the publisher of Miami magazine to owner of a juice bar. Continue reading

meet kristen: lawyer changing chicago workplaces

Kristen Prinz, People with Panache

On challenges in her career: “One challenge I’ve had is just starting my own firm and becoming a boss. I thought I would be a really good boss when I quit my job and started my own firm, and then after a couple years I realized, I’m probably doing a lot of things wrong.”

“We had a week-and-a-half-long jury trial. The other side had been overly cocky the entire time. I had a dream two weeks before the trial that we were going to get a $10 million jury verdict. So, because of my dream, we changed the entire strategy of what we were presenting to the jury. And then we got the $10 million jury verdict! How funny is that? It wasn’t really a dream—it was a vision.”

They say if you verbalize what you really want, it’s more likely that you’ll take the necessary steps to make it happen. Apparently dreaming works, too!

I met Kristen Prinz at Money Smart Week 2016. She was a panelist for “It’s the Money, Honey!” the equal pay event, and her passion couldn’t be more obvious. Already, I knew she had to be on the blog.

Kristen started her own law firm, The Prinz Law Group, in 2009 to specialize in employment law. Her firm works with both employees and employers—with, not against, one another. For companies, they will prepare handbooks or represent them if an employee is suing them. They only represent individuals if they haven’t also represented their company. Through improving workplaces, Kristen affects people’s day-to-day lives, and she loves it. Continue reading

meet carrie: supporting sick kids in chicago through art

Carrie Spitler, Snow City Arts, People with Panache

Carrie with movie posters made for some of the kids’ films. In addition to executive director of Snow City Arts, Carrie is a community gardener, a beekeeper and a baker!

“Doctors find the illness, we find the artist.”

I’ve watched enough medical shows to feel those pangs in my heart, imagining just how strenuous and sad it must be to have a child—or be a child—experiencing an illness, especially a serious one. Snow City Arts takes an approach that I wouldn’t have expected to help sick kids stay on track with school while getting better: This nonprofit deploys a team of artists at hospitals in Chicago to work with kids on artistic, educational projects while they stay for extended treatment.

I first heard about this beautiful endeavor because of my boyfriend, Jim. Bringing his passion for music to a whole new dimension, he has served on the auxiliary board of Snow City Arts for about a year now. In support, we attended their annual Gallery Night last fall. Originally I partially agreed so I had an excuse to wear a fabulous dress, but once we got there, I was awestruck. Gallery Night showcased all of the artwork that the kids in the hospitals produce, from visual art including painting to 3D art to creative writing, video and music. All by artists under 18 years of age, the work was not only professional, it was impressive and smart, beautiful and funny and creative. I was completely blown away by the level of talent these kids have. We both were. These weren’t just kid “art projects.” Continue reading

meet carolyn: trailblazer in chicago’s financial industry

“Some of the guys thought that because I’m blonde, I was dumb. So they would talk about their trading strategy in front of me. And I would just listen and absorb everything they were saying.”

Carolyn Leonard, DyMynd, People with Panache

Carolyn’s philosophy on investing: “Diversity does go to the bottom line: all diversity – racial, gender, sexuality. If you’re looking to invest in companies that will outperform their peers, look for diversity and depth of experience in the C-suite and the board of directors.”

Way to turn lemons into lemonade and jerks into teachers, Carolyn!

In some ways, Carolyn Leonard’s story isn’t uncommon. She entered a “man’s world” and was treated brazenly unequally—but that’s where any notion of Carolyn being average ends.

Carolyn, 73-year-old entrepreneur and founder of DyMynd, says in America there are 9.2 million women-led companies with an economic impact of $3 trillion. While discrimination like she experienced keeps lingering longer than seems acceptable or necessary, we women can change it—together. And we are.

As one of the oldest entrepreneurs in the country, Carolyn is a real-life testament to facing your fears, taking risks on yourself, and never giving up. From being one of the first women to trade on the Chicago Board of Options Exchange to starting her own business four years ago at age 69, Carolyn’s story tells itself. Continue reading