How a 100 Year Old Company Attracts Talent in The Age of Entrepreneurship

Sometimes it’s important to pause and think about why we do the things that we do. It’s true for 100-year-old companies who are attracting creative talent as well as ourselves.

In order for a company to keep doing what they’re doing, and inspire others to do what they do – people need a reason behind it. It’s one of the key things entrepreneurs need to identify before starting their business, as serial Chicago entrepreneur, Katy Lynch advised.

And it’s also true for Fortune 500 brands who have been around for more than 100 years like Hallmark.

In the age of freelancing and entrepreneurship, Windy City Cosmo sat down with the creative talent development team from Hallmark to learn about how they foster creative development to keep growing this 100 plus year business.

In this article we’re going to explore:

  • Hallmark’s brand
  • The talent they want on their team
  • How a diversified creative company grows creativity and their business in the age of freelancing and digital media
  • How Hallmark is working with other brands like Starbucks through a talent swap

Hallmark’s Why:

What is your why? Your why is your culture. It’s your values. It’s who you are and it’s a blueprint for how you operate as a company.

With a staff of 800 creatives, Hallmark is one of the largest creative companies.
Hallmark’s mission is about enriching lives. Hallmark’s creatives have many roles and relationships and the context and content from those helps translate into our products.

So what are some key ingredients to a creative community?

In 2015, a team of leaders from across Hallmark’s creative community came together to define their “sense of purpose.”

“Our sense of purpose is our why. We know what we do, and how we do it, but we really wanted to get at the heart of our WHY. It’s about why we do what we do. It’s our culture. It’s our values. The statements that came together as a result are meaningful,” Kristi Heeney-Janiak, Creative Resources and Talent Development Manager shared. “But it is the actions you put in place that get people to believe in it.”

One component of the creative sense of purpose is originality. The Hallmark creative community feels that in order for their teams to grow, they need time to step away from their trade and gain new skills or perspectives. Hallmark gives creative employees five days a year to do that through its #my5days program.

The first path is self-exploration. A Hallmark creative employee can choose a new skill they want to learn or expand their creativity by gaining difference perspectives.

The second path is workshops. A Hallmark team leads workshops such as embroidery or wood sculpting, wreath decorating and cake decorating is most popular one.

In just two years of launching this initiative, Hallmark has more than 2,500 examples of #my5days experiences on Instagram.

How Greetings are Still Relevant in the Digital Age:

Another component of a great company surviving disruptive technologies is looking at what they are good at. Then, looking further to compare their talents and strengths to how trends are changing and also how they are staying the same.

Hallmark, while it has many brands, at its heart is a global greeting card company.

In their interview, the creative talent development team shared that as other areas in business fluctuate, greeting card sales remain steady even among millennials in the social media age.

In terms of card spending, millennials are the fastest growing group because when they buy cards, they spend more money on them, according to Lindsey Roy, Hallmark’s chief marketing officer, in a recent CBS News interview.

“We’ve seen that millennials are really growing into that magic life stage for card sending,” Roy said. “Maybe you’re setting up households or having kids or doing the kinds of things that really just expand your relationships.”

Hallmark’s Creative Team:

How do you get involved in the creative process? Well, it actually sounds entrepreneurial.

At Hallmark, there’s a package that each employee brings to the table. Talent all come in knowing digital and design skills. Specifically, Hallmark looks for a portfolio that demonstrates a voice or problem-solving point of view.

“We might do more specific training in lettering and manipulating font,” shared Erin Roebuck, creative talent development specialist.

Beyond software skills, Hallmark employees also are expected to evolve. There are two aspects that Hallmark focuses on to grow skillset. The first is the “what” which is the creative skill set of design knowledge. The second is the “how” which is leadership and how they think through things.

Hallmark’s creative leaders have four main traits: they take initiative, pitch and come up with new ideas, solve problems, and are able to lead and inspire people.

Attracting and Keeping Creative Talent with an Entrepreneurial Workforce:

Hallmark attracts some of the best creative in the world and has a high tenure of about 16 years.

In the age of being your own boss, Hallmark pitches a steady paycheck but one of the most valuable aspects of working for a company like Hallmark is in the collaboration.

Talent Exchange: Hallmark Swaps Talent:

Hallmark is always working with their creatives to inspire them beyond their work and to introduce them to new ideas and thinking. One way they’ve been doing this is through an annual symposium, the Creative Leadership Symposium.

And they’ve taken it a step further this year by actually exchanging creative talent with other companies, such as Starbucks. Hallmark recently hosted three Starbucks creatives, and the following week, Hallmark sent three creatives to Starbucks for a designated time.

“The outcome of the talent exchange is to immerse high potential creative talent in best practices of creative studios and provide inspiration and creative connections. We gain new ideas and thinking by bringing together two creative communities that are at the heart of their respective organizations,” shared Heeney-Janiak.

How does someone develop creative talent?

In one word – mentorship. This is something that the Future of Work expert, Cheryl Cran mentioned in a Kansas City leadership conference. “One of the opportunities for millennials is that you can research the heck out of anything,” Cran shared, “If a millennial is looking for opportunities, and doesn’t want to intern, they need to find a mentor which goes beyond their research.”
“A creative talent may start to cultivate their skills in school, but it continues to evolve when they join Hallmark,” Roebuck shared. “We are a very open and sharing community. New hires get a chance to work alongside tenured and talented individuals who have become masters of their craft. After a couple of years, many creatives say that working at Hallmark feels like getting their MFA.”

One thing that Hallmark recognizes is that they need to learn from a millennial just as much we can share.

Hallmark has moved away from a structured mentorship to a collaborative environment where people can seek out help and mentorship rather than be assigned.

Research is important and so is innate talent, but both the Future of Work consultant and Hallmark agree that mentorship and collaboration are important to growing talent and developing skills.

How do you structure creative projects at Hallmark?

One of the cool aspects of Hallmark is that it is a company made up of creatives, but ones that are both creative and business focused. At Hallmark, one of the key traits is to constantly think and develop new ideas, but they also think about how this idea can be profitable and how they would pitch it.

While Hallmark’s business partners offer key initiatives that drive ideas, they are not independent of what creatives can bring to the table.

“We moved from being a service organization to a strategic enabler, ”Heeney-Janiak shared. “This means that we’re positioned differently in the business to lead new concepts and ideas that are directly aligned with business strategies.”

Conclusion: How to Stay Competitive

The workforce is changing and jobs are not about doing what you’re told but are more focused on bringing ideas to the table and taking the initiative to develop your own talents. Larger corporations like Hallmark are still attractive to millennials because they have a built-in network and mentorship opportunities that can help a creative grow their talent.

The competitive edge seems to be:

  • Finding a community that can help grow your talents. This could the people sitting next to you at work, a Facebook group or a professional group.
  • Finding a mentor, which is someone experienced in your field who can show you what research alone can’t.
  • Investing in your skill sets and keeping up to date with software in your industry.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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Why Leaders Should Live The Life They Imagined To Transform Their Teams

This story about living the life you imagined, professionally and personally, starts where most stories do — at a bar.

In this article I’m going to share with you:

  • The formula for living the life you imagined as told by Carla Moore, Vice President, Strategy and Education, HBO.
  • Why it’s important for leaders to live the life they imagine to transform their team.
  • The future of work and how companies like Hallmark are responding.
  • Action steps for personal and career success.

I met HBO executive and author, Carla Moore, at a hotel lobby in Kansas City, Missouri. She was speaking at a talent leadership summit hosted by TeamKC, an initiative of the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC), in partnership with 250 employers in the KC region.

The summit, also dubbed the first annual TeamKC Training Camp, brought together 350 of the region’s top human resource professionals to discuss the future of work and how companies can attract talent.

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Getting to Know a Leader on a Personal Level:

“Let’s grab a drink,” Moore said.

We had just come in from a tapas dinner, and I was ready to do some cardio before bed. But the night was still young in the middle of America.

I feel like so often we have business hours and short blurbs of time for people. I’ve found that letting a connection marinate and taking it to places that some would call your cut off — is actually where you connect.

It was during our second martini – which we took to go – that I began to know Moore on a personal level. We cut through the formalities and she was introducing me as an important blogger to people in the elevator.

We both have lived in Chicago (for me, currently and for her, formerly). Both are still single. And both have big dreams that we didn’t think we could achieve.

I was talking to her about “the life I imagine.”

When I met Moore, I didn’t realize that she had reached over 10,000 people through her public speaking and life coaching. And that more importantly, her mission is to inspire others to live the life they’ve imagined. She is doing that through her book, Crash! Leading Through the Wreckage, where she talks about using personal power to transform your leadership.

She was getting through to me – right there at a hotel bar and the next day, she was going to do the same thing to leaders and tech recruiters in Kansas City.

 

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 350 top recruiters and human resources professionals from companies including Hallmark, Garmin, Bank of America, Sprint, H&R Block, Dairy Farmers of America and Virgin Mobile USA learned about team leadership.

 
Moore’s passion is talking to people. Her purpose is helping people live the life they imagined. And, her power is in her speeches, her work, and this book. Let’s look at this a little bit closer.

The Life You Imagined vs. The Life You Have:

In front of more than 350 top recruiters and human resources professionals from companies including Hallmark, Garmin, Bank of America, Sprint, H&R Block, Dairy Farmers of America, Virgin Mobile USA, State Street, and Cerner Corporation on February 2, 2018, Moore gave a familiar empowering message — live the life you’ve imagined.

You can hear the same message thousands of times and still not listen to it. Often, we don’t believe the message. We think that’s a nice thought. We feel good after hearing it.

But we don’t know what to do with it.

We don’t know how to have our own personal transformations. We don’t know how to have our big breaks at the office. We keep waiting for big opportunities or to feel something — happy — I guess, about waking up in the morning and doing what we’re doing.

Moore had a run in with death – a convertible hitting a median at 55 mph. It’s not that she wasn’t living a great life or didn’t have great achievements before this near-fatal crash. I mean, Moore was everyone I wanted to be and more. She had a place in Chicago. She has an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management. She had a good job that she is accelerating in. But she wasn’t living the life she imagined until she had that car crash.

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Carla Moore from HBO spoke about living the life you imagined at the KC Leadership Summit.

The Formula to Live The Life You Imagined:

Fast forward 10 years, and Moore’s living the life she imagined. Authoring an amazing book, spearheading transformative initiatives for her company and living each moment like it could be her last.

So what’s the formula for this life we’ve imagined?

Passion + Purpose = Power.

Passion:

Experts advise going into a field that you’re passionate about — something you like doing. For many of us, we think that’s it’s impractical or not lucrative. And for others, we don’t even know what we like.

Moore shared that a person’s passion changes the game. If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, —start figuring it out by compiling a passion list. Write down everything you like. Take note of what you’re doing when time flies. It may take time for you to discover what you’re passionate about, but the reward is worth it.

Moore encouraged the audience to “Keep writing — there is some connective tissue.”

Purpose:

The next part of the formula is purpose.

Moore shares in her book that 70 percent of millennials want to own their own company but in the interim they are choosing to work for smaller businesses with a sense of purpose. Larger corporations are falling by the wayside with the millennial workforce.
The keynote speaker, Cheryl Cran, Future of Work expert, shared that by 2025, the workforce will be mostly contracted and entrepreneurial workers.

 

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Cheryl Cran, Future of Work Expert at the KC Leadership Summit February 2018.

 

Companies like Hallmark, one of the largest creative companies in the world, took notice a few years ago and rewrote their mission to begin developing a cultural committee and projects. One example is something called #my5days, where Hallmark employees have five days to step outside their normal work and exploring their craft or something entirely new.

 

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Amanda Elliott from Windy City Cosmo, Carla Moore from HBO, and Kristi Heeney-Janiak from Hallmark at the KC Leadership Dinner. 

 

“Passion is your compelling emotion. Purpose sustains passion. Passion can be wild and unbridled. Purpose is singular and focused,” Moore explains. “Purpose is how will you serve the world?”

So, if you’re great at writing and passionate – what is it that you do with it that serves others?

Ask yourself. Write it down.

What are you doing with your talents that is serving others? And if you aren’t doing anything with your talents, what could you do? What would it look like? How would it help others?

Moore made the point that we benefit when we use our talents and do work that we’re passionate about. In her book, she shares, “When you release the need to prove how good you are and instead help others see how good THEY are, it’s called enlightened leadership.”

How can leaders do this?

“It’s by being transformed themselves and then helping to transform others into enlightened leaders.”

Power:

The last part of Moore’s formula for leadership is power. We all want power. Money gives us power. Titles give us power. But what really gives us power is when we’re doing what we love to do with a clear purpose. And when we develop our passions into talent and use that to better the world, that is true power.

This made sense. This gave me a new drive and sense of belonging and mission. So often we look at the end goal — power and success — and we miss the ingredients that make those things meaningful and most of all – worth it.

First Think, Then Do:

I got on the plane after the KC Talent Leadership Summit and started writing my passion list — the things I like. I must have written down hundreds of items.

A few days later, I started reading You Are a Badass, by author Jen Sincero. In this book, she shares that it’s through doing, not thinking, that we discover what we like. You can’t be afraid to do things and be bad at them.

First, you have to develop your passion and then build the skills to sustain it. Create the purpose for your life, and then find the power that motivates others to do their best work and fulfill their dreams and goals.

 

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Recruiters and Fortune 500 companies gathered at the KC Leadership Summit. 

 

Leaders Need to Be Inspired and Inspire Others:

I took a moment to reflect. When I stated Windy City Cosmo — I didn’t know it would lead me to this hotel bar sipping martinis with a powerful woman — telling me to live the life I imagined.

Leaders need to be inspired. Leaders also need mentors and direction. And that’s what this community in Kansas City has — it has great resources for leaders and developing talent to think differently, work on their passion projects, and live the life they imagined. In turn, it helps others live their best life as well.

I felt power and leadership in the room that day — in the Kansas City community, a unique business community where companies work together to attract the top talent. Which is probably why, as Cran pointed out, that Kansas City is the third best city for jobs in America in 2017. (Chicago is number 23).

In the words of Carla Moore I leave you with, “Go be great and love the life you imagined.”

Leadership Action Plan:

1. Write a passion list. Keep writing until you see a trend. For example, working with your hands.
2. Think about how you can use your passion to help others.
3. Think about how you can use your power to inspire others and mentor them.

 

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Carla Moore with her sisters before the KC Leadership Summit, February 2, 2018.

 

Books to add to your reading this:

You Are A Badass By: Jen Sincero
Crash! Leading Through The Wreckage By: Carla Moore

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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Chicago Events Celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018

Ladies! This week is a good week to network and meet other amazing, entrepreneurial women in Chicago for International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 8, 2018. I went to a beauty event with the Tulle Project today and as we were introducing ourselves, one women shared the four, yes four jobs she has. Another woman, in awe, noted how ambitious Chicago women are. I wholeheartedly believe that. I encourage you to meet these Chicago girl bosses this week at one of the many Chicago events for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018. Look for events and opportunities to connect all month long for women’s history month.

Quick note: International Women’s Day theme is #PressForProgess.

Global Strategist Association Event:

The Global Strategists Association is hosting a luncheon in honor of International Women’s Day to discuss opportunities for women of color.

Details:

Time: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Location: The DuSable Museum of African American History

RSVP

1871 Event:

1871, a Chicago incubator for startups is hosting a day of workshops and speaking events for women. 1871 is such a great resource that female founded companies like this 3D printing jewelry company, this beauty services company that is now offering company perks to GrubHub, and this designer clothes and accessories startup all used to help grow their business.

This event series has several sessions that you can drop into throughout the day. I’m personally looking forward to the Building Your Company’s Brand Panel Discussion.

Details:

Time: 8 am – 9 pm

Location: 1871, Merchandise Mart

RSVP

SheSays Chicago Event:

SheSays Chicago, a Chicago chapter of a national organization of women in creative fields, is putting together an event with Leo Burnett on Thursday, March 8, 2018 right after work.

I’ve been attending SheSays Chicago events for years and even spoke at one of the panels about networking. You can read about some of my past coverage of their events like Turning Passion into Profit and Networking Advice from Edelman, PR Agency.

There will be a panel discussion.

MODERATOR:

Jessica Papilla, Data Analyst at Leo Burnett

PANEL:

Monika Black, PhD, CPC | Chief Strategy Officer at DyMynd

Kayte Malik, CEO and Co-founder of Dresscode

Beth Sehgal, Global Director of Diversity & Inclusion for A.T. Kearney

Priya Shah, Founder and Executive Director of The Simple Good

Details:

Time: 5:30 – 8:00 pm

Location: Leo Burnett Office

RSVP

Ladies Get Paid Event:

Ladies Get Paid, an organization that helps women achieve their professional goals and get equal pay, is hosting an International Women’s Day event at Ace Bounce. This looks like a causal event to get drinks and meet other professional women.

Details:

Time: 5:30-7:30 pm

Location: Ace Bounce

RSVP

WeWork Kenzie Event:

WeWork Kinzie is hosting an International Women’s Day workshop for freelancers and female entrepreneurs. Over 150 people have signed up for this event. In this workshop, speakers will present four topics: (a) finding the courage to lead, (b) the foundations of entrepreneurship, (c) a woman’s story of finding her purpose, and (d) establishing a position of influence in a competitive industry.

Details:

Time: 6:00-9:00 pm

Location: WeWork Kinzie

RSVP ($20)

She Means Business Event:

She Means Business will be presenting a panel discussion and gender equality and female leadership in the workplace.

The Panelists:

• Naima Prince, Expert Budget and Financial Analyst at GSA

• Lindsey Branding, Controller at Hireology

• Colleen Wilson, Founder & CEO of Collaborate Chicago

• Holly Glowaty, Co-Founder at K+H Connection and Founding Co-Producer at Flourish

• Katharine Hebenstreit, President & COO at Link Capital

Details:

Time: 5:30-8:00 pm

Location: Topstep Trader

RSVP

Edgewater Chamber of Commerce:

If drinks aren’t enough for you, the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce is hosting a dinner crawl. Get all the savory details below!

Time: 5 pm

Location: Edgewater, over 10 restaurants

RSVP

Conclusion:

I hope to see you at one of the Chicago events for International Women’s Day or you can join the conversation online using the hashtag: #PressForProgress.

How do you build a professional community in Chicago? Tag me on Twitter or Instagram @windycitycosmo.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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New Coworking Space for Women Opens in River North to Fuel Your Passion

Collaboration over competition is a popular hashtag on Instagram and it’s the mantra for a new women only Coworking space in River North, evolveHer, that wants to fuel your passion.

From the moment you walk into 358 W. Ontario St., 5,000 sq. feet open concept workspace, you can’t help but feel like it was made for you. The founder and CEO, Alicia Driskill, wanted a Coworking space exclusively for women so that they could collaborate and build businesses and succeed in their career goals.

A Coworking Space For Her:

There is so much to love about this Instagramable space. The first is the artist, Laura Leigh Bean, who created a stunning wall filled with paintings of women when you first walk in. It’s something spectacular when you see a diverse wall of stylish and successful women in a business space. I seriously stood in awe for a good 10 minutes.

Wallpaper Vibes 😍 by member @lauraleighbean

A post shared by EvolveHer (@evolveher) on

Then, in the next room, she created wallpaper with women’s faces that is so chic. Bean has been working with other female empowering spaces like the new, Ezza Nails salon, which is having a hair and nails glam night event on March 7, 2018 that you can sign-up for here.

Beyond the artwork at this women only Coworking space, it’s simply inspiring and inviting. I love the comfortable office chairs, the long and vibrant couch, and extensive bookshelves with empowering books and cute trinkets. It simply feels like a second home.

Coworking Community:

One of the best aspects of this women only Coworking space in River North is the community. When I attended the launch party in January, I recognized so many Chicago female entrepreneurs like Michael Donnelly, who runs the FWD Collective conferences in Chicago and San Francisco for diversity. Then there was Lisa Nation who founded the Lisa App for businesses to offer beauty services to their employees. And then there was Silvana Favaretto, who founded the Tulle Project, making skirts for women to feel feminine and empowered in the workplace. And then Ari Krzyzek, who founded The Creative Women’s Co., a podcast, event series and community for female creatives and entrepreneurs.

Beyond faces I did know, I also got to meet the funny, charming and extremely talented Grace Lee of Love, Sugar, and Grace bakery. She made the most beautiful and delicious cake pops and macaroons but I have to admit I commented on her style at first when I met her. You can follow her witty and beautiful bakery bites on Instagram here.

Branding and Business Events for Women:

I think one of the best aspects of this women only Coworking space is the events because I love events and how they inform us and bring people together to share ideas. EvoveHer has an extensive events calendar including branding workshops and how to use Instagram for business. But they also have fireside chats like the She Did That documentary sneak peek on March 10, 2018.

Lastly, as a social media queen and blogger, I love the hashtag #fuelyourpassion and that they have a wall and glam light for women to take pictures and post on social media. I feel like women connect when taking pictures and commenting on Instagram and this was a nice added touch to the inspiring Coworking space.

Women’s Coworking Space Pop-Up:

EvolveHer is the first permanent space for women only. But I’ve been going to the Ladies Room, which is a weekly Coworking space inside the Coworking office, Coalition Impact, also in River North. That too, is a great area for women to collaborate every week and learn from graphic designers and writers and founders. The mains difference is that it’s only available on Wednesday’s and then a special free dat once a month (which if you follow my Insta Stories has amazing snacks and cocktails as well as good community.)

One of my favorite Chicago PR companies, Exclusive PR also has a space there. Once a month they offer free Coworking and then a mixer immediately following.

I really appreciate the community in Chicago that helps women succeed and having a space that can be girly and empowering and also inviting and propelling. It’s really exciting to see in Chicago.

How to Find The Right Coworking Space For You:

There are so many Coworking spaces in Chicago and the industry is only expanding. I would suggest to sign up for some events, see who you want to connect with or which area in the city that is best for your commute,and then explore. As a blogger who has spent way too much time at Starbucks, a Coworking space is truly valuable to grow your brand, find a mentor, and learn while your building your empire.

You can see a map of 50 Coworking spaces in Chicago that was created by Vertabiz.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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Chicago Staycation at Historic Millennium Knickerbocker

I get it – I love to get away. But sometimes getting away is a martini, a nice bubble bath and a new comfy bed for the night. Staycations have become more popular over the years and I can see why – yes, its fun to explore a new city, but sometimes a nice night in at a nice hotel is the self-care and break girl bosses need. I recently had a nice Chicago staycation at the historic 1927 Millennium Knickerbocker Chicago.

And if a staycation at this historic hotel isn’t enough, it’s right by Michigan Avenue, 360 Chicago Observation Deck at John Hancock and the Museum of Contemporary Art for you to explore some of Chicago’s most iconic – and if you’re a native – overlooked spots.

The Knickerbocker History: Speakeasy and Playboy:

I think one of the coolest aspects of the hotel is its history. Anyone can build a new hotel, but you can’t make up this hotel’s sinister past. I had to see for myself the Penthouse floor where Al Capone’s brother once ran a casino and speakeasy. Today it’s used for conferences or events but you can still see the cutout to a secret stairway that guests used when the cops came. Al Capone’s brother was never caught because everyone would use that stairway to go down a few flights of stairs.

The Knickerbocker also had a few ownership changes throughout its nearly 90-year history. In the ’70s, the property had a stint as the Playboy Towers. The hotel has housed such luminaries as John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and the Rolling Stones.

The Rooms:

The hotel still has a historic feel. The over the top chandeliers are all noticeable about this four star hotel.

There’s definitely an older feel, but the rooms have been updated and transformed into spacious one bedroom suites with a mini bar, a whimsical bed, 40″ flat screen TVs, and yes a bathrobe and yes – a whirlpool tub (make sure you get the room with a whirlpool tub, you’ll thank me later).

I took a quick 5-minute walk to Water Tower Place on Michigan Ave to go to the new Millennial makeup store, Riley Rose. Since Lush is no longer at Macy’s, Riley Rose was perfect for picking up a bath bomb.

bathroom

I loved the hotel room which had its own living room and a private bedroom and expansive bathroom.

One of my favorite parts of a staycation is getting ready, and I appreciated the lighting and added mirrors. My friend met me for dinner so we got all dressed up to have martinis – something that we should do more often.

The Martini Bar:

One luxury of a Chicago Staycation is that you get to enjoy fine dining and drinks. One of the nice things about the Knickerbocker is that right in the lobby is the Martini Bar open till 10 pm for dinner and 12 am for drinks.

Its extensive martini list is to be explored and enjoyed, and despite being served at the bar, it’s fine dining cuisine is exceptional. Plus, they have a piano and some live entertainment on certain nights.

martini bar

I’ll start with the food. If there is one thing you should order, it’s the steak and arugula salad. Honesty, it’s the best salad I’ve ever tasted. The dressing was light, the steak was savory and the arugula was fresh and had some added toppings for a slight crunch.

And since we had a late night meal, my friend and I also tried some of the martinis. Hands down, the chocolate martini was my favorite. I usually love a dirty martini or a Cosmo. Those were strong and really great but there was something about the chocolate martini.

Sweet Dreams and Healthy Breakfast:

I took my martini up to my room and drew myself the most amazing bath. The bathroom at The Knickerbocker is over the top. They have a shower area and a separate bathtub in the room. I added the jets to the bath and it was better than a jacuzzi at most hotels.

In the morning, I woke up in my robe and comfortable king-sized bed. I connected my phone to the TV to get ready to my favorite music and then rushed downstairs for some much-needed coffee and a delicious omelet at Nix, the other restaurant in the Knickerbocker. The service was great and the omelet was actually delicious, especially the side of bread and jam.

Overall:

There are so many hotels in Chicago because it’s one of the greatest cities in the world. Honesty, I’ve been to quite a few hotels – The Trump Tower smells like vanilla because of the candles. Cambria in the loop is great for a Theatre District Hotel with the exquisite Italian restaurant, Petterino’s next door, The Palmer House has a beautiful and extensive lobby and a spa but the rooms are a bit stuffy.

But the Knickerbocker, this hotel has history and merit and I was surprised by the quality of the food, the rooms, and the location. The hotel rooms itself were some of the nicest I’ve been in. I would say one issue was that the WiFi went in and out sometimes, but other than that, my stay was perfect and memorable. It’s a good location, a good price and it’s a historic spot you should add to your Chicago Bucketlist.

This article is a sponsored post.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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