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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3 Easy Ways For Entrepreneurs to Get Self-Care Every Day

As most of you know, Windy City Cosmo embraces the hustle and self-care. As a female making their way and building their career in the entrepreneurial world—I have to! From frequently attending networking events to appearing on the radio, the freelance life can definitely take its toll.

In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, it’s easy to neglect taking care of yourself. Every now and then, we have to pick our heads up from the daily grind and spend some time on ourselves. Over the past few years of living and learning as an entrepreneur in the city of Chicago, I’ve developed a few healthy habits of my own. Call it self-care or a healthy lifestyle. There are a lot of things that you can do for self-care like take a bubble bath or get your nails done or take a walk with a friend but I’ve found through looking at other entrepreneurial sites like Thrive Global and Shopify, that there are some easy ways to incorporate self-care every day that won’t get you out of your workflow – rather improve it. In order to help out those of you who are just starting out or may be struggling to make it to the next level, here are my top 3 health tips.

1. Have a bedtime routine. I set my phone so it tells me when I should go to bed to get 8 hours of sleep. I’ve had issues falling asleep and having a routine has helped me to make bedtime something I look forward to. I usually do a little cleaning, take a hot shower, do my face wash routine and then make hot tea, stretch and heat up my sleeping mask (yes you heard that right!). If I’m still not tired, I try to catch up on articles or read a book in bed.

2. Work out. I’m not saying to work out to lose weight, work out to become mentally strong. When you dedicate time to challenge yourself and commit to moving your body, your whole day is changed. I’ve had many issues with working out. I’ve tripped over the concrete while running at night. I’ve missed waking up early for a spin class, and I’ve forgotten to repack my gym bag. If you have an hour lunch, I suggest working out for lunch.

It helps in four ways

A) it helps you move your body and feel refreshed after sitting

B) it helps you bring your lunch instead of wasting money on eating out

C) it helps relieve stress

D ) it helps you stay focused. When you only have 30 minutes you work out and give it your all.

3. This may sound silly, but make sure you smile every day. It changes everything. I got a positivity journal and it takes 5 minutes to fill out. In the morning you write down what will make today great and at night you reflect. Practicing gratitude and thinking positively is so important. Don’t neglect your thoughts and how you’re feeling. Spending time turning negative thoughts into positive is life-changing. This is one of my personal favorite tips, and it even caught the attention of others as it was included in an infographic (see below) by Elysium Health.

Self-Care for Entrepreneurs

As you can see, there’s more than one way to work some type of wellness routine into your daily life. Also, everyone is different so something that works for me might not work for you. You can check out the infographic to see even more advice from others as well as some science-backed advice from Elysium. For those of you looking to dive even deeper into the more scientific aspects of healthy living, you can check out this resource on NAD+ and how it’s connected to our health.

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10 Life Hacks I Learned as a New Entrepreneur

I’m a woman entrepreneur in Chicago. Looking back on my adventures building my business over the past eighteen months, I realized I learned a lot (maybe the hard way). Being new to entrepreneurship, I adapted little and big life hacks that have fundamentally transformed the way I look at business and life. Some of these are easier said than done, and I need to remind myself every day to do it. But, some have become an integral part of my standard operating procedure. I want to share these best practices and tools for entrepreneurs – with women, men, entrepreneurs, and wanna-be-entrepreneurs – hopefully, some of these will resonate.

Here are the life hacks I learned as a woman entrepreneur in no particular order.

1. Really, there are no stupid ideas, only identifying ones that work for you

Tool: An easily accessible idea repository, mind mapping software

When you are starting out as an entrepreneur, ideas pop up everywhere. In most cases, we dismiss them as impractical. Keeping an open mind towards ideas, and exploring them, no matter the source, is critical. I have gotten ideas from sources as diverse as customers, investors, teenagers, and friends at the gym.

Mapping out ideas and writing them down has helped me remember these ideas so that I can come back to them on a regular basis. Sometimes, I incorporate ideas from my idea repository into my products, marketing strategy, and partnerships. These ideas have a way of morphing and transforming into unexpectedly exciting concepts after a few iterations.

2. Ruthless prioritization followed by precise execution

Tool: Business process map and a good project management software

It is very easy to get lost in rabbit holes and sucked into diversification, which makes us lose focus on what we want to do as we grow our business. Pivoting several times is not only natural; it is essential in the early stages of your business. As you progress from ideation to your startup launch, it is important to have a frame of reference that validates your hypothesis. These could be frameworks or people who could give you timely feedback. Being a little ruthless with prioritization is life-saving because your business is your baby as an entrepreneur, and in reality, who likes to admit that their baby is ugly!

Using a tool like the business process map is helpful to prioritize your business ideas based on value creation. Having a great project management software has also been a life saver for me to keep track of everything related to the project on a week by week basis to keep things manageable.

3. Understand your strengths and weaknesses – and test your limits

Tool: SWOT, MBTI, Google

You don’t know what you can or cannot do until you try. As a new entrepreneur, this past year has been an incredible learning opportunity for me. Learning concepts in business school is one thing, but researching and understanding how the real world operates is another.

Starting from a place of understanding my strengths and weaknesses through SWOT analysis was very helpful. It helped me figure out where I needed to personally develop to get my business to where we wanted to go. Necessity is the mother of invention, they say; I say that tiger mother definitely pushes your buttons and fires up cylinders that you didn’t know existed.

MBTI from Myers Briggs was a tool I found super useful to interact with my co-founders and advisors. Forming a new team in a high-stress environment is hard, but if you have the instruction manual for a personality type, it does help ease the process a little as you understand how to vary your approach based on the kinds of people you hire and manage.

Google has of course been my guide to the galaxy of tools, techniques, and processes that we have had to adopt along the way.

4. Create your own village

Tool: Your friends and family, extended community, connections from the past, network for the future. Advisory board, Linkedin, Facebook, Whatsapp, Ning and so much more.

Entrepreneurship is a very lonely journey. Finding people who can help, guide, support, partner and in general be that support system in the journey is critical in sustaining the entrepreneur journey long term. As an entrepreneur, I was required to merely take feedback for what it is intended for: as learning opportunities. Yes, that was very hard, but a great life skill to have! I have had the good fortune of friends and family who continue to give me their advice, effort and help along the way and hope to continue getting that in the future. This has truly been a life support system for me as I received guidance from the unlikeliest of places when I needed it the most.

5. Stay present with personal and situational awareness

Tool: Your senses and your internal radar

It is all too easy to get immersed into your own world and forget about the world around you when you’re wearing many hats. I have had several conversations of “uh huh, uh huh” with family, while mentally wrestling website content or a product feature. This is so hard to implement in practice, but something that all of us needs to strive for.

Emotional intelligence is a must-have as an entrepreneur, and it is all about understanding how all players in a situation respond and adapt. It is important to recognize and trust your instincts and understand spoken and unspoken communication around you. This means getting our heads out of the daily rabbit holes and breathe in to be responsive to everything that is happening around us.

6. Finding balance in your life

Tool: Calendar to make time for hobbies, vacations, time with family and friends

Entrepreneurship by definition puts a heavy thumb on the scale, disrupting life balance as we know it without care or remorse. Even though I led a balanced life during my corporate career, trying to find some semblance of equilibrium between work and home, passion, and duty, ambition, and zen has been a real challenge.

My new approach as an entrepreneur is to guard personal time fiercely and treat it as an investment for yourself and your startup. Always searching for this elusive sense of balance has helped avoid burn out (and most importantly, provide sanity).

7. Find time for others – Karma has a way of seeking you out

Tools: Kindness, empathy, and listening skills

When you are an entrepreneur you have so many things on your plate, it is easy to be self-centered and focus on the million things you need to do. That is, even more reason to find time to help others in need – whether it be to find a job, make connections, give advice or even just smile and listen. I have had the most interesting conversations at the gym. It started with helping someone execute sun salutations and somehow turned into contacts in Silicon Valley technology investment firms. I am a strong believer in kindness – attracting goodness, especially if you don’t expect anything in return.

8. Ideate. Listen. Observe. Inquire. Learn. Pivot. Repeat.

Tool: Brainstorming techniques, an excellent ring binder notebook, periodic review of notes

There is nothing glamorous about entrepreneurship. It is about being disciplined and keeping yourself on task with a change management process that works for you. Because like it or not, you are always changing. Being mindful and conscious of how to evolve with these changes was a crucial learning for me, Having a few brainstorming techniques in your back pocket is very useful to get ideas flowing. After the ideation process, it is all about listening to feedback, creating learning out of feedback, micro-pivoting as needed and then rinse and repeat.

9. Settle for outcomes – never for values

Tools: Company mission, vision and value statement

One of the main drivers for me to start my own company was that I wanted to create something that was true to my values, where I didn’t have to settle for values that rang false or be someone I was not. When you are creating a company, you almost always don’t get exactly what you are looking for. In that scenario, the one thing I did not compromise on are the company values on how to operate, who to work with, and even the definition of ‘is’: because of a simple reason, I want this to be a company that founders and employees are proud to work at.

I have learned to choose values over outcomes. In situations like ‘Is it more important to have all of these features added, or give people time off to have family time ?’

10. Find time to center yourself

Tools: meditation, yoga, hobbies

Being an entrepreneur is like an on-off switch. Either you are in or you aren’t. If you have decided to be an entrepreneur, there is that strong internal instinct that you have to pay attention to. It’s giving you guidance on all aspects of your business. Having the quietness in your day to have that internal dialogue is very important as an entrepreneur. This means un-cluttering your calendar and your mind to have that clarity of thought and intention calibrated to your goals. Doing this on a regular basis through activities that clear your mind has been very helpful. I found this to be the hardest of the lot to do – concluding that focus amidst the chaos. It is still work in progress.

Conclusion:

This is my top 10 list of the big and small life hacks I have found useful in my entrepreneurship journey. Hope you will find it useful as well. I would love to hear from you on what have learned in your journey that I could shamelessly steal.

Deepa Kartha is the Founder and CEO of Zinda.xyz, an SMAC(Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud) based Employee Engagement software company. Journey from Zinda is a social engagement and impact software in the workplace that aligns employees and companies on a common purpose provides motivation for employees and insights for businesses.

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Windy City Cosmo Wins Award for Female Entrepreneurship Coverage

I’m very excited to announce that after two years of interviewing Chicago female entrepreneurs, Windy City Cosmo joined the stage with Chicago publications and Chicago entrepreneurs that were recognized by liftUplift for being champions of women’s power.

LiftUplift launched in September 2015, and everyday acts as a catalyst that empowers female makers and entrepreneurs. Corielle Heath Laaspere, Founder of liftUplift, orchestrated this special evening on Saturday, April 29, 2017, at Catalyst Ranch in the West Loop.

Chicago female entrepreneurs, from female publications to graphic designers and fashion designers as well as tech startups and venture capitalists, were all recognized with a liftUplift Ally Award.

All of the women awarded were interviewed prior to the black tie event.

During my interview,  I was asked, what inspired you to become a champion of Women Power?

“Women, like men, are amazing and driven individuals. I think it’s important that we have a community where we can specifically address our needs as female bosses and also simply help each other succeed, much like what liftUPlife does,” I answered. You can read the full interview here.

Chicago Female Entrepreneurs Recognized for Championing Women Power:

One of the awardees was Katy Lynch, Co-Founder of Codeverse. She was also recently nominated for two awards at the Moxies –  ‘Best New Startup’ and ‘Best Social Impact Startup’ (which you can vote for here).

Another awardee was Silvana Favaretto of The Tulle Project. Favaretto is a graphic designer (and she graciously designed the program for the award ceremony) who was looking for a project to inspire her creativity and take her art to the next level. She decided to wear tulle skirts for 100 days (see her whole story here) and that’s how the business started.

She wore a black tulle skirt that she made herself. Earlier that day, she was at Chicago’s annual show “One of a Kind.” P.S. you should check out her “Mommy and Me” collection for Mother’s Day.

Photo: The Tulle Project

Make sure to grab a copy of Chicago Woman magazine to read all of the profiles of the women who received Ally Awards.

liftUplift’s Story:

A smiling blonde, Laaspere, draws you in with her contagious charismatic personality, her spark for supporting women and her business acumen to turn her passion into a full-fledged tech startup. I first interviewed her in 2016 and you can read her whole story here. 

“I was born to do this,” are the first words Laaspere tells me.

“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.”

In the past few weeks, she’s been to Russia and shares a bit of her journey to meet Danara Buvayeva the founder of IconicDress.ru, a fashion rental platform like Rent the Runway for Russia.

Last October, American Councils for International Education and WorldChicago placed her as an Intern/Fellow with liftUPlift for 3-weeks, as part of an international business leaders exchange program. Danara was inspired by how well women entrepreneurs are organized and supporting one another in Chicago. When we had the opportunity to propose a reciprocal exchange project for Danara and I to carry out in Moscow, we pitched a 2-day conference for connecting and empowering women entrepreneurs in the US and Russia. And THAT’S how the #W4W Conference was born!

This April, while in Moscow for the conference, I got to visit the Iconic аренда вечерних платьев -прокатshowroom and learn a little more about Danara’s business model. 

liftUplift’s Ally Awards sponsors included: Catalyst Ranch, Lime Red Studio, RISE Movement, and The Tulle Project!

Are you a Chicago female entrepreneur? Share your story with Windy City Cosmo by emailing Amanda at windycitycosmo.com.

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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.

codeverse-founders

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.”

Daniel Kelleghan Photography-24820.jpg

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.

Daniel Kelleghan Photography-24339

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.

Daniel Kelleghan Photography-24478

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.

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