Product Development Powered By Social: Chicago Social Media Professionals Panel

We get it – you know what social media is. But do you know how to test products and build interest in a company using social media? That’s part of what product managers do.

You can produce content all day long – but if no one is looking at it or interacting with it – then you’re kind of just talking (to yourself).

We know you’re a girl boss who wants to build her brand and empire – so there’s help. Taylor Gaines, Chief Executive Officer at T&T Digital Media Agency, started networking classes once a month. Her current series, Powered by Social Media (R) brings together digital media experts to discuss how social media is changing the landscape not only in marketing but business in general.

Powered by Social Media touches on topics from search marketing to cyber security to highlight differences, overlap, and trends in every area of the online world and how it can be applied to everyday decisions.

In their April Powered by Social Media event, the topic was Product Development Powered by Social Media. Digital experts gathered at Breather in the West Loop for the panel discussion.

The Gist:

Yes, product managers do mock feature releases. Yes, it really is all about the money – if you don’t have revenue, you can’t keep developing your product. And finally, message boards and feedback can make or break product development, but also knowing what your product is intended for and if people are using it as intended is imperative. The right people need to be testing the right products.

“Just because someone doesn’t like x,y,z maybe they are not the right fit for your product,” one of the panelists said.

Read below for more detailed answers from the product development panel discussion.

The Product Development Panelists:

Heather Campos is a Senior Manager of Digital at Brandmuscle. Campos oversees digital marketing strategy and solutions for spirits, wine, food, and hospitality clients.

Chris Kelson, MBA, is a Global Product Manager, IoT & Connected Home, at Whirlpool Corporation. Kelson is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and a Masters in Business Administration from Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Colleen Wilson, MBA, is the Founder & CEO of Collaborate Chicago – a product strategy and product marketing consulting firm. Wilson has 12 years of financial services, fintech, and SaaS product leadership experience. Most recently Colleen led product strategy and product marketing for the small-business lending platform Square Capital, turning it into the fastest growing product at Square.


Amanda Elliott, Founder of Windy City Cosmo with panelist Colleen Wilson, Founder and CEO of Collaborate Chicago at the Product Development Powered by Social Media event in April 2017.

Social Media Conversation with Product Managers:

In an hour panel discussion, these product managers answered questions by Gaines that helped social media experts understand more about how product developers leverage social media to test products and how end users engage with their brands.

Question: How does social media affect what you’re doing?

“I work with a Fortune 500 companies that have local entities. They are looking for ways to break through,” Campos shared, “For independent retailers – 9 times out of 10 don’t know how to market themselves. Then we’ll do audits and pull up the responsiveness of their site or their Google maps. Some people post one star, and that can kill you.”

The Product Development Process:

“We will take any data we have access to, and then within 2 weeks, we’ll spin off a lean product and see if we have any bites. That would take anywhere from 4-12 weeks. When you’re rolling out to 5k users it’s a little different than 200,” one of the panelists described.

“It’s very easy to have analysis paralysis. You don’t want to handicap yourself and never take action. Ask yourself, is there a huge regularity constraint that you need to consider?”

“When you have more users, it’s faster. If you see a product selling, you can literally test anything. The more users you have, the more a/b testing you can do.”

“We do fake lead pages. I want to see if people want it. Are they enticed by the tagline and the product?”

Question: Do product developers utilize emerging technology?

“AI is huge. Budweiser just integrated AI into age drinking,” Campos shares, “I work in Alcohol/Beverage, there are 15 documents that you have to look to. There are lots of things that you can’t say online.”

Question: How closely do you work with other departments?

“In tech organizations, product manager, engineering manager and UX designer. At Square, we had a product marketing person, too,” Wilson shares, “Product marketing is how you tell the world about your product.”

“We monitor social to get personas from them, then we look at Open Table and Yelp for the bar industry – based on user personas, we determine who is going to use the product and how,” Campos shared.

Automated Responses (Twitter DMs, etc.):

One of the bigger discussions of the night was whether to automate responses or respond personally.

“If you have an auto DM – save a customer by not using auto responders. If it’s your company, then turn your notifications on and answer. It’s the hustle,” an audience member shared.

“AI is intelligent enough to get the tone and emoji right,” a panelist added.

One of the audience members shared that the CEO of Amazon – social media is used to start conversations. No one said they wanted Prime, but they created it. So, how do you know if they need the product?

The panelists shared that you can’t create pain points – they need to exist. They [customers] don’t know they need Prime, but they know that they want to get a product in a week.

Question: Where are there unmet pain points?

Panelists agreed that social media is a necessary evil – people will BITCH about things that they will never say about to you to your face. That’s their job.

Take a look at Powered by Social’s previous events below.

Want to be part of this exclusive monthly social media mixer? Email Taylor Gaines at

Do you organize social media, blogging, or marketing events in Chicago? Email Amanda at if you would like Windy City Cosmo to cover your event.

Happy networking and learning!


Why do Women Buy Magazines? An Interview with Former French Vogue Editor

When you wear something, do you have the power to influence someone else to wear it or incorporate it into their style? That’s what the Editor in Chief of Vogue does.

Choosing what went in the magazine, it was to reflect…the way things were in fashion, in culture, and in what the French called ‘the art of living.’ We were very into the art of living,” recalled Joan Juliet Buck, the first and only American to be Editor in Chief of French Vogue from 1994-2001.

As a daughter of Jules Buck, an American film producer, her childhood was a whirlwind of famous faces: John Huston, Peter O’Toole, Lauren Bacall, Federico Fellini and many more; ever-changing home addresses: London, Paris, Cannes, Los Angeles; and the unspoken lesson that appearances mattered more than reality.

Her job gave her the means to recreate for her aging father, now a widower, the life he’d enjoyed during his high-flying years – a splendid illusion of glamor and luxury.  But such illusions cannot be sustained indefinitely, and they always come at a cost.        


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Joan Juliet Buck With Anjelica Huston, wearing Christmas scarves and all the wrappings, St. Clerans 1963.


In THE PRICE OF ILLUSION (Atria Books; $30.00; March  7, 2017), Buck offers up her memoir: recounting six decades spent in the creative hearts of London, New York, Los Angeles, Milan, Paris, and more.  The cues she had gleaned early in life from her family were about how things looked and where they came from.  

The key to success was the perception of success and the only trick to transformation was believing you were what you wanted to be.  But when her fantasy life at Vogue came to an end, she had to find out who she was after all those years of make-believe.  Now Buck chronicles her quest to discover the difference between glitter and gold, fantasy and reality, and what merely looks like happiness from the thing itself.

In light of her recently published memoir, Windy City Cosmo reached out to Buck about her life at French Vogue, how she defines style, and how she selected the cover girl.

Windy City Cosmo: How did you reshape French Vogue?

Buck: I took out the adjectives. I tripled the volume of text. I made it more imaginative and especially more playful.

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Windy City Cosmo: In managing a widely-read publication, how did you choose who to put on the cover and what stories to cover?

Buck: In not quite seven years, I had two actresses on the cover and each time I wasn’t satisfied with the results. I decided I would only put models on the cover because women buy magazines to find out what they should want to look like. They want to see models. They don’t want to see movie actresses promoting a movie. So I chose the covers according to what the fashion at that moment was and I chose the models according to the message we were trying to get across. Because actresses don’t really want to become who you really want for that moment, they want to stay themselves except prettier.

Windy City Cosmo: How did you maintain composure when staff or business partners tried to undermine you?

Buck: I maintained composure because I had no idea what was going on (she chuckles). I just didn’t know. I wasn’t used to office politics. So I wasn’t very good at interpreting certain things.

Windy City Cosmo: What are some of your best planning strategies for a timely, edited publication?

Buck: All monthly publications work three to four months ahead. So the hardest work was to take a second look at the fashion shows with actually projecting photos on the wall so that everyone could look at what we had just seen. We could look at it again and we could figure out and edit what we’d seen from the shows into a coherent narrative about what things were actually going to look like. And once we had the fashion figured out, everything came from that. The coverage of – you know if there were movies or plays or exhibitions that had to do with a general feeling that was coming off of the fashion shows that was the direction we’d go in.


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Portrait for Talk magazine by Jean-Baptiste Mondino 1999

Windy City Cosmo: How do you define success?

Buck: Feeling good about what you’re doing.

Windy City Cosmo: How do you make business relationships?

Buck: It was usually done through sympathy. I work much more on sympathy than I do on strategy. And what I discovered for myself and I’m sure this doesn’t hold true for other people and I wish it did is that an empty, manipulative strategy was always a disaster for me. Things only worked at Paris Vogue if I felt a true enthusiasm for a designer, a perfume, a situation, an event, a place. And then everyone could get behind if. But if I was only pretending to like something because it was political the thing would just be a disaster.

Windy City Cosmo: What is style to you?

Buck: I think style – personal style comes from the things that you as a person prefer to see, prefer to smell, hear, feel and when you surround yourself with the things that you prefer, you are considered to have style. If you dress according to what you really like, you have style. So it shapes – your own preferences shape your style and your style shapes other people’s perception of you.


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Joan Juliet Buck with Manolo Blanik and Paloma Picasso posing on the balcony of Roebuck House, London 1978


Windy City Cosmo: How did you find true happiness instead of focusing on the coveted?

Buck: By taking a step back and only going towards those things that I am in sympathy with – the things that really make me feel good as opposed to the things that are supposed to make me feel good.

Buying a new handbag only makes me feel good for about 4 days. But living somewhere beautiful makes me feel good all the time. Writing as honestly and as truly as I can no matter how hard it gives me enormous satisfaction. Writing something that I don’t believe withers my soul.



How a Chicago Tech Power Couple is Teaching a Billion Kids to Code

Katy Lynch wants a billion kids to learn how to code. And she stepped down from her job as CEO of Techweek, to pursue her passion and launch her second start-up this year in Chicago.

Using today’s technology and building a new, simpler code syntax called KidScript, Lynch is transforming a seemingly solo and challenging endeavor – learning how to code – into a collaborative, empowering and interactive program.

Over the past 15 months, Lynch partnered with her husband and former start-up co-founder of Belly, Craig Ulliott. Ulliott and Lynch had previously built the digital media firm, SocialKaty, which was acquired by Manifest Digital in 2014. Together again, this tech power couple created Codeverse, the world’s first hackable classroom and vertically integrated technology platform designed to teach children ages 6 to 12 the vital skill of coding.


A Mission-Driven Business:

“My husband and I have a lot of shared experience in the tech world and educating the next generation of tech stars has always been important to us. This was one of the reasons we jumped into the tech space to create Codeverse,” Lynch shared.

As an experienced start-up founder, Lynch stresses the importance of defining your mission.

“Define your mission, your vision, and your values early on – that dictates your company culture and who you hire. For Codeverse, we came up with the mission statement – ‘teach a billion kids to code’. We are a mission-driven business.”

To develop this kid’s coding program, Lynch and Ulliott hired an in-house curriculum team and worked with a large group of certified K-12 teachers for over a year.

“We’ve conducted over 450 product demos with kids, and all have them completed Codeverse. They’ve generated their own app or game in 20 minutes. It’s gratifying to get kids excited early on.”

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Is Learning How to Code Really That Easy?

With coding, there are many different languages to learn such as HTML and Python and Ruby.

“There are multiple ways to perform one action with different languages. Many of these languages are way too advanced for kids to learn,” Lynch explains, ” I’m 32, and it’s difficult for me!”

To assimilate kids to learn to code, the Codeverse team built their real programming language based on the core concepts, of other languages, such as “if” statements, variables, and loops.

“The thing that makes this awesome is if a child wants to learn another language, like Ruby, it’s easy to transition,” said Lynch.

As kids learn to code, the program adapts to their learning needs by giving kids more or fewer lessons depending on how easy it is for them to advance to the next level.

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Building a Collaborative Environment for Kids to Code:

One aspect of Codeverse is the virtual world, but the second dimension of the business plan is the physical one.

“We’ve done a lot of research – we want kids to code in a collaborative environment,” Lynch shared.

Social interaction plays an integral part in the development process for children, and the support provided by the teaching specialists aids in the learning process.

When starting a business plan as an entrepreneur, Lynch shares that you want to take steps to relay to your investors that “you are a) the right person for the job and b) that you can prove you can scale.”

To do this, she advises to do your research and define your competitive landscape. Think about your business model, and how your business is going to generate revenue.

For Codeverse, Lynch created a new business model by creating a physical space for kids to learn to code together. Upon entering the studio, they pick up an iPad with their name on it. Using the iPad, they can write code that manipulates components of the studio, like activating drones, robotic arms or 3D printers. The million-dollar facility is also full of collaborative and social elements, such as a 20-foot screen where 10 children can collaborate on coding challenges at a single time.

“If you’re sitting in the Codeverse studio and you want to change the lights from white to red,” Lynch said, “We give the tutorials on how to do that. You’re coding to have that end result.”

While the adaptive program is online, there is an on-site staff of certified K-12 teachers from the Chicagoland area in the Codeverse studio.

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Codeverse Launches in Lincoln Park:

The first location will open in Chicago in Lincoln Park in July 2017 with plans to expand to three additional locations in Chicago and ultimately, nationally and internationally.

Codeverse has many different types of memberships based on after-school or summer session.

“The ultimate goal is that kids are coming into the space to have fun, be creative and collaborate with peers to build and create apps and games,” Lynch said.

Parents can sign-up or learn more about the memberships starting at $125 a month by visiting Codeverse.


What’s It’s Really Like to be a Chicago Female Entrepreneur

What’s it really like to be an entrepreneur? Now add, what’s it like to be a Chicago female entrepreneur?

In June 2016, Chicago was named the world capital for female-founded startups, with 30 percent of startups started by women.

After attending motivational talks, female creatives or business groups, and interviewing Chicago female entrepreneurs over the past four years, I’ve pulled together some of the best quotes to convey what it really means to be a Chicago female entrepreneur in 2017.

Advice from Chicago Female Entrepreneurs:

“Literally, I didn’t see my friends for the year,” Lakesha Rose from Rose Phillips Online said about the first year of going into business. Read the full interview here.

“Give yourself permission to be fabulous. Do not let anyone define who you are,” said Dima Elissa, Mentor, Investor, and Council Member of Ms. Tech. Read more about her story here.

“If I was going to send someone to you, what would I send them for?” Nicole Yeary, Founder of Ms. Tech, said in a Ms. Tech meetup about how to hone your skillset. Read more advice from Yeary here. 

“We talk a lot more than we used to. We talk like 10 times a day. When you are in business with someone, it’s like a marriage!” Vanessa Cutler, Founder of Emotilink said about having a friend as a business partner. Read more about her mental health app here.  As a bonus, you can read the background of her app design and business plan through this case study. 

“I hot glued myself into my dress,” Krista Goral, Founder of MeasureMake, said about the dresses she created in college for special occasions. She now sews custom fit dresses for women in Chicago. Read more about her dress making start-up in her full interview here.

“The hardest part is balancing and finding the time to do it all. I struggle with the life/work balance, and I am sure many other working women would agree with me on that! I wear many hats, and it is important to me to put my all into ever hat I wear and do the best I can,” said Katie Schuppler, Owner of KS Style Consulting and Style/Beauty Blogger for Fashion Speak. Read her full interview here.  

“I never really worry about failure. I do in the way that everyone does with day to day anxiety. But, so much of liftUplift comes out of myself. I don’t worry that that will be taken away from me,” said Corielle Laaspere, Founder of liftUplift about overcoming failure. Read more about how she has built a global marketplace for female-led businesses here. 

“Don’t compare your hustle with someone’s highlight reel. You don’t see the moments where we work 100 hour weeks,” said Katy Lynch, former CEO of Techweek, in a panelist discussion.

Share your Start-up Story:

For more advice on how to turn your passion into profit, check out this infographic.

Are you a Chicago entrepreneur? Email Windy City Cosmo at to share your story.


Insight from a Chicago Wardrobe Stylist

From my first encounter with Katie Schuppler, I could tell she was a go-getter, businesswoman. It’s the quality I see in many Chicago female entrepreneurs. And that quality is not just connecting with people, but what I like to call “power networking.” In a few minutes, she understands your business and brand and finds a way for us to work together. No small talk, just a friendly, purposeful note, followed-up with an action plan.

This is refreshing; this is productive. This is what differentiates the successful businesswoman from the hobbyists. I’d like you to meet Chicago stylist consultant, Katie Schuppler.

*What’s your name and business name? 

Katie Schuppler, Owner of KS Style Consulting and Style/Beauty Blogger for Fashion Speak

*Did you start a blog that turned into a business or a business that has a blog? 

Kind of both? I started my blog at my last job before I started my business and used that to launch my business when I moved to Chicago but started my business as a separate entity.


*Can you tell me more about your business and the services you offer? 

I am a Personal Style Consultant and Fashion Blogger/Writer who loves to help others create their own personal style in this fast paced world of fashion and just life in general. Having a Bachelors of Arts degree in Fashion Merchandise Management and Business from Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, WI I had then gone on to become a Stylist/Style Director at the #1 women’s boutique in Milwaukee, Fred Boutique.

Now living in the city of Chicago, I have been dedicated to helping my clients find their own personal style through advice, Styling Sessions, Closet Clean-outs, Consignment, and Look Books throughout the Chicagoland and Southeastern Wisconsin areas for over 6 years. I also worked as the former Wardrobe Stylist for The Whitney Reynolds Show in Chicago and am currently a Style Contributor for Chicago Woman Magazine.

*Where’s your favorite place to shop for business clothes? 

I actually love taking my clients to LOFT and Nordstrom Rack, they both a have a great variety and selection at an affordable price.


*What’s the hardest part of owning your own business? 

The hardest part is balancing and finding the time to do it all. I struggle with the life/work balance, and I am sure many other working women would agree with me on that! I wear many hats, and it is important to me to put my all into ever hat I wear and do the best I can. 

*How do you distinguish yourself from competitors? 

I think that just being real and honest, but not harsh with my clients helps them to open up to me as if I were a friend coming in to help them out. I also have business and fashion background knowledge to let them know what is worth spending money on and what is worth investing a little less in.

*Do you use any apps to manage your business? If so, what are your favorites? 

I use HootSuite on and off, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp for Business, and Google for Business. I would say that Google for my business and Instagram are my favorites. They both give great analytics, and Instagram has given me endless business/blog opportunities and connections 


Katie Schuppler, Owner of KS Style Consulting in Chicago.

What, do you find, is the hardest part of developing your own style? 

I think the hardest part is taking everything you see every day in magazines or on TV that you really like and trying to work that into your life, body type, and functionality on a day-to-day basis in your world. My job is always to help my clients find their own personal style within their comfort zone, but to also slightly push the limits to where they would have never picked the outfit and love it nonetheless!

For more information about Katie Schuppler and her styling business, please visit her website here or follow her on Instagram (@KSStyleConsulting) and Windy City Cosmo (@WindyCityCosmo).

For more stories about Chicago entrepreneurs, see past interviews with Windy City Cosmo here:

Read about how to say “no” to brunch and Uber to meet your financial goals from styling and financial guru, Grace Keller.

Read about advice from a Chicago entrepreneur about the clients, the stress, and the PR behind a startup from Lakesha Rose, Founder of Rose Phillips Online.

Read about how to get dresses that fit, no bullshit from the Founder of MeasureMake, Krista Goral.