Tag Archives: entrepreneur

happy 10th anniversary, motion pr!

Things were a little different 10 years ago.

It was 2006, and…

George W. Bush was president.

The RAZR was still the world’s best-selling phone, and the iPhone was just a twinkle in Apple’s eye.

Pluto ruined childhood mnemonic devices everywhere and lost its status as a planet.

Twitter came chirping into our lives—and we had only just been invited to Facebook!

Crash won best motion picture—and if you haven’t seen it, Netflix has it on DVD.

Steve Irwin, the “Crocodile Hunter,” sadly died on the job from being stung in the chest by a stingray.

The Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews—a major win for Chicago.

The TSA banned liquids and gels from air travel—a major loss for just about everyone who flies. Not that we don’t appreciate the extra safety I suppose.

Alysse and I started our senior year in high school—a year before we met at Drake. We still loved Seventeen magazine, not even imagining that we’d someday have friends who worked there.

And Kimberly Eberl started her PR company, Motion PR, 10 years ago to this day. As one of the first to join our Panache family back in 2013, at the time I interviewed her, she had 6 employees; now, she has 19! And of course, a brand new office to accommodate everyone. In honor of her 10th year in business, we asked for Kimberly’s top 10 lessons learned.

People with Panache: Kimberly, what is your secret sauce for success? How did you make it 10 years and going strong? Continue reading

meet imani: chicago designer, photographer, artist

50 Shots, Imani Amos, People with Panache

Imani is holding the flyer for her “50 Shots” project. She says, “The project really isn’t about me. It’s more about pride and these men who are doing great things as a part of our community.”

I could eat Mexican food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So I like to think of myself as a taco connoisseur. Recently I may have met my match: Imani Amos. When I met up with her to talk about her recent, stunning, timely and captivating art photography project, “50 Shots,” we ended up spending the last 20-ish minutes talking tacos. Thanks to her, I have a list of new places to try in Chicago!

Imani is currently at the tail end of earning her graphic design degree at the Illinois Institute of Art. She also teaches West African dance and has been performing since she was five years old. On the side, she is also a freelance model, but she wants to move more toward the other side of the camera—directing the shoots rather than being in them. She has a VERY cool Instagram. And although she bills herself as a graphic designer (not a photographer), she recently created a photography art project called “50 Shots: Humanizing America’s Most Hunted” that depicts the mug shots of 50 black men and five things about them that you might not know by looks alone. The outcome is powerful, compelling and so relevant to today.

People with Panache: Imani, your “50 Shots” show is eye-opening and beautiful. Where did you get the idea?

Imani Amos: I have a notebook where I just jot down ideas. About 3 or 4 years ago, I had this idea to take a mug shot of a few of my black male friends. I thought about how my friends who I knew very well could easily be pulled over and taken to jail. So I thought it would be funny if I took a mug shot of them and wrote down what they actually do. Continue reading

meet beth: milwaukee river adventurer

Beth Handle at MKC

“Once you get someone on the river, they just stop thinking about whatever they were worrying about,” Beth says.

I spend most of my days in the Milwaukee Environmental Consortium. Yeah, it’s still the fluorescent-lighted cubeland so many of us try to avoid, but Victory Garden Initiative (where I work) is situated in the middle of Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Milwaukee Water Commons, Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and a bunch more—all small groups making a big difference for southeastern Wisconsin’s environmental movement. The MEC houses all of us.

Just imagine a group of like-minded people all working on behalf of something you really, really love. Yeah. The MEC is the best.

Through this wonderful office of earth-loving people, I heard about Beth Handle, owner of Milwaukee Kayak Company. She worked with the county parks, did graphic design and, right before launching Milwaukee Kayak Co., she was marketing manager for outdoor adventure company Laacke and Joy’s for six years. Beth organized kayaking events, worked with community organizations and writers, and got people to experience Milwaukee’s rivers. Like many people, she always thought: Wouldn’t it be cool to open my own little business like this someday? She launched MKC in May 2013 and will start her third season in a month: Friday, May 22!
Continue reading

meet aviva: chicago reproductive therapist and counselor

Aviva Cohen, The Blossom Method, PWP

Aviva works two days a week at the hospital with women who have had a loss at some point during pregnancy or who are terminating a pregnancy for medical reasons—just because she loves being there, the environment, the people.

“I didn’t always aim to open a center, but it became clear that this was something that was very necessary. Now, all of my dreams truly have come true, and I feel like I get to come to work and love what I do.” Continue reading

meet liz: chicago custom men’s jeans company CEO

Liz Kammel, peoplewithpanache.com

“The best part is getting to know the customers and meeting them face to face,” Liz says. “We have well over 2,000 customers now who we’ve met. A lot of them are absolutely amazing. They’ve told all their friends about us. And if we make a mistake, they’re flexible with that too and work with us. The people are the best part.”

“I love math, and I love clothing. They go together really well,” says Liz Kammel, ZipFit CEO. I know–what? I promise this will make sense in a few sentences.

ZipFit is a mens-only custom-fit jeans company. Now strictly e-commerce, Liz and her team make sure every pair of jeans they send to their customers fits like a glove. We met at Water Tower Place to talk about what it’s like to start a company, be a math nerd and do cool things such as write for Forbes.

People with Panache: How did you come up with the idea for ZipFit?

Liz Kammel: I was carpooling with a bunch of guys from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business who all hated shopping—shocker—and we were discussing startup ideas.

We probably went through like 20 or 30, and we landed on the idea of ZipFit, which is mathematically finding you the best fit. I had built a similar tool when I was a consultant, so I understood the structure of it, and I’d worked in retail—my first job was at the Gap selling jeans. So I knew how to sell and I knew what variables went into fit and what determined whether or not something fit well. After that, it was marrying those two things. So I did write the first algorithm. But I’m not as advanced as I should be, which is why we have a Chief Technology Officer. He took it to the next level.

PWP: You wrote the first algorithm? How did you know how to do that?

LK: I am a math nerd. I love math.

“The hardest thing is probably the first time you tell someone you’re an entrepreneur. Because you’re actually admitting that you’re a little nuts.”

PWP: I’m surprised you came to the idea of better-fitting jeans with a group of guys. I can’t get my guy friends to talk about clothes for more than 10 seconds.

LK: If they have problems with fit they’ll talk about it a lot. Because it’s a big pain point for them and that’s what you’re searching for when you start a business—a big pain point. Men hate shopping…

PWP: …and apparently they also hate ill-fitting jeans!

Liz Kammel, ZipFit, People with Panache

“My favorite thing is getting an email from a customer who just got his jeans and absolutely loves them,” she says while standing with one of her favorite brand of jeans, Joe’s. “That and meeting somebody new who has heard of the company. Those two things feel good.”

LK: And especially the women in their lives hate ill-fitting jeans. So it fits together.

PWP: Funny how that works. Do you have any advice for other startups?

LK: My first advice is just go for it. If you actually believe in something, you have to try, you can’t just talk about it. The hardest thing is probably the first time you tell someone you’re an entrepreneur. Because you’re actually admitting that you’re a little nuts. But take that first step. If you actually believe in it and you think it could happen, you don’t know until you start. You have to dive off the cliff head first.

People always said the hard part of a startup is cash flow, and I really learned what that meant the hard way. It is tough. You can manage your personal finances totally fine but when it comes to business cash flow for a startup, it’s hard. It’s really hard. You’ve got a lot of things you’ll juggle, and you put yourself last.

PWP: I know you had a couple of pop-up shops in Chicago to get things going. But now that you’ve switched to e-commerce only, what sets ZipFit apart? And why the decision to do only e-commerce?

LK: One of the biggest things that differentiates us is we do alterations on the jeans before we ship them out. You don’t see that from a lot of the mass retailers. Also, I think a blessing of being in an early stage startup company is that you can react quickly to the market. And more of the market is moving online than is going to a physical store, so instead of waiting for that to slowly die out we moved fast and moved into e-commerce. That doesn’t mean we won’t have challenges with it of course, every company will, but I think it’s a bigger opportunity for us.

Follow Your Heart with Liz, peoplewithpanache.com

On writing a column for Forbes: “It’s a great place to talk about the ups and the downs of entrepreneurship and to share stories so people can relate as they’re going through good times and bad. One of the Forbes editors got a pair of jeans, too, which he looks awesome in.”

PWP: How do you think not having a storefront will affect business?

LK: The difference between an e-commerce store and a brick-and-mortar store is that with e-commerce you pay per click for people to find you online. In a brick-and-mortar store you pay for the traffic there, so you pay for the location, for people to walk by. It’s still very similar. You’re just paying for different traffic.

PWP: What’s in the future for ZipFit?

LK: I do look forward to fitting women one day, so that is part of the game plan. But the future is also that anything you buy from us head to toe fits perfectly. So you can buy a suit, a dress, jeans, a casual shirt, and it will fit. It’s like your own personalized shopper, everything works. If you can do that head to toe, it’s a beautiful thing. That’s what math does for you. All kids should study math.

Liz Kammel on People with Panache

Here comes Liz! I attempted to take an artsy photo of her and the waterfall escalator after our chat… I don’t know if the photo is cool, but she looks cute! She was saying, “I probably want to have a few more businesses after this one. And some day I want to teach entrepreneurship. But I have a while before that happens.”

PWP: What’s it like being in business for yourself?

LK: It’s wonderful. I’m very hard on myself and probably harder on myself than any boss has ever been on me.

You have to be motivated, or no one working for you will be motivated. And as a woman there are ups and there are downs. The perk and challenge is that you stand out in the room because you’re usually the only woman, and there are definitely sexist people out there. So you just have to sort of brush it off and ignore them. There are a lot of them. I love being a woman, so I’m not upset with it.

I understand the numbers behind it, that there is a small percentage of women CEOs. But at the same time you can change that by becoming one.

PWP: Is this your dream job?

LK: Yes. I’ve always wanted to create something and make an impact, and I feel like I’m doing that. It’s not just create a company and create some jobs, which is a wonderful thing to do, but helping people find clothes that fit so they feel good about themselves.

To spread the ZipFit love around, anyone who refers a customer who buys jeans gets a pair of Saxx boxers, which Liz raves over. Refer five people who buy, and you get a free pair of jeans!

Maybe Alysse and I will have to start referring people and hand out our hard-earned boxers to guys who need to “stay out of trouble.” (Watch the video and you’ll get it.)

[Photos by Kate. Featured image sent in from ZipFit.]

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meet liz: des moines art adviser

Liz Lidgett on People with Panache

Liz is president of Art Noir, a 400-plus person organization that raises money (to make sure admission is free to everyone every day) and throws events for the Des Moines Art Center—“events you wouldn’t be able to go to anywhere else,” Liz says.

“We loved L.A. and had a great time, but we knew we could affect change in a more impactful way in Des Moines at such a young age.”

Liz Lidgett, 28, entrepreneur and general make-it-happen person, just described why we love the Midwest so very much. Continue reading

meet elysia: detroit ceramic artist and entrepreneur

Elysia Vandenbussche on People with Panache

Wise Elysia words: “Everyone loves to start stuff, it’s so exciting. It’s kind of like speed dating. Follow-through takes the real commitment.”

“This is good, but you can do better.”

Elysia Vandenbussche, owner of Local Portion, threw away many projects in art school on her way to becoming a crazy-talented ceramics maker. One professor constantly pushed her, telling her again and again not to fire her pieces, to reclaim the clay and give it another shot.

“I was so angry,” Elysia says. “But that was good advice. I kept pushing myself, and now that I’m alone in my own studio, I’m still pushing myself and looking at the details. I recently showed him one of my cups and he couldn’t believe that I made it.”

Who has pushed you in your life, encouraging you to reach your potential? Share in the comments. We’d love to hear the advice that stuck with you! 

People with Panache: When did you first fall in love with ceramics?

Elysia Vandenbussche: I started when I was a kid. My mom put me in a community class around my neighborhood. And I loved it. I was a pretty rebellious child, so I never took the basics of ceramics; I would just go to the basement of the studio, put my earphones on, blast music and do my own thing.

In high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I ended up going to a private art school in Detroit, the College for Creative Studies, at first for photography, then film. But then ceramics found me again, instead of me really choosing it. It’s like a good relationship, like how did I get here with this person?

PWP: When did you start actually selling pieces?

Elysia Vandenbussche on People with Panache

“My name, Elysia, means double portion. I love portion because a cup, a bowl, is a portion size. What I make is a portion of myself. What am I? I’m local. Local Portion sounds simple, and I’m all about simplicity.”

EV: I started selling in high school through family and friends. They would see stuff and ask to buy it from me. After I graduated from college, it took me a while to get the business set up. I had trouble finding a studio. It took me two years to find something. This past January was the first time I was able to get a space to start creating. Since then things just really took off. It’s been quite the journey with ups and downs and failing and failing again and succeeding and getting good clients and losing out on jobs. It’s been a whirlwind of figuring it out.

PWP: How did you do it? It’s like real-life Business 101.

EV: I’ve never learned more than by just having hands-on experience doing this and not giving up. It was really logical for me to make this my profession, not only because it’s my passion, but it’s the only language I understand. My job options as a ceramic artist were limited here in Detroit and outside of Michigan too. I could go to grad school and become a teacher, that was the best option, and I didn’t want to do that. Sometimes I think about grad school, but for now this is my own version of grad school.

PWP: Is this your sole source of income?

EV: Right now, yeah. This past summer I got really big jobs and big clients so it was great. I was slammed, and I worked every weekend of the whole summer. The last show I did was for Red Bull House of Art, which was an amazing experience.

PWP: What is Red Bull House of Art? We’ve never heard of that.

EV: They have two Houses of Art in the world, one here in Detroit and one in Brazil. They have a curator, a really well-recognized artist, who reaches out and finds seven or eight artists every so many months—it goes through a cycle—and they sponsor you and have a huge exhibition at the end. They do a ton of press. They cater to you and give you money for materials; it’s amazing. That was my first experience. It really showed my playful side.

PWP: That is so cool that Red Bull does that. How did they find you?

EV: From around town and seeing my work at shows. In art school I learned that you go to a gallery, and you show your work. But this is a unique situation with Red Bull because they sponsor you. They only take out a small percentage, and they package it up for you and ship it out if it sells. Most galleries take a larger percentage, and I have to double or triple my price. But I don’t want it to be that price. I want as many handmade cups in people’s hands as possible. This is more than a cup made in China; there are people behind this, it’s affecting our economy.

“It’s a story, it’s a journey, it’s a learning process.”

PWP: Is there any part about owning your company that maybe doesn’t come as naturally to you?

EV: I may be good at ceramics, but I’m not that good at business. I was talking to someone recently about this, and I was being really hard on myself. He said you’re good at business because you’re smart, you know what you want and you’re staying grounded to what you’re building.

Elysia Vandenbussche on People with Panache

Elysia made more than 200 unique, hollow tiles for her Red Bull exhibition.

I could become anything. I could become the next Heath Ceramics, one of the biggest ceramics companies in the US. Or I could go international. But I could still go international staying this small. There are organic ways to grow, and that’s how it happened back in the day, especially for a craftsperson and designer. I don’t want to just become a huge warehouse. It’s about the artistry. It’s a story, it’s a journey, it’s a learning process. Every day I’m learning something new about the direction I’m going to go, choices I have to make. One important thing is that I learn how to say no. It’s so tough because I don’t want to. I might have an opportunity for a big job, but I have to look at if it’s a fit. Is this the right job for me?

PWP: How do you say no? I think that’s something we could work on too.

EV: I don’t know if there’s a real answer. Every individual is different. You have to keep practicing and be aware that you can say no. Knowing that you have that option is the first step. You have to be willing to disappoint people too—sometimes even yourself. You do sometimes feel like you missed out on something. Even with press options, there’s only so much you can do.

PWP: Well, thanks for saying yes to us!

EV: It’s really great what you guys are doing. It’s also a lot about not giving up—my biggest thing. There are challenges every day, but you have to keep going. You’ll get through it somehow.

PWP: What’s your favorite thing about owning your company?

EV: I love being dependent on myself. I’ve had so many different jobs in my life. This takes discipline. I want to invest in myself. I love doing creative projects for other people, collaborations, and having the freedom to create and own my own company while investing in myself and others. That’s what fuels me. It’s endless.

[Photos by Alysse.]

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meet lisa: baking pies and building sisterhood in detroit

“The thing about being an entrepreneur or following a dream is that you have to give it your all, and there’s no time as an adult when nothing will distract you.” It’s one thing to realize that, but Lisa Ludwinski articulated it perfectly—and it sure resonated. She lives in Detroit and runs her pie company, Sister Pie, from home (for now). Continue reading