When I moved to Chicago, I was nervous because where I came from zero was a dress size and not the temperature outside.
Nevertheless, I wanted to make the most of city life, and I did that by attending a different free event every night.
My adventures and the people I met along the way inspired Windy City Cosmo, a lifestyle blog that encourages you to explore the city with or without heels because there’s new cocktails to drink and CEOs to meet.
On Wednesday, February 24, 2016, Windy City Cosmo was selected to speak at Bloggers Meet Startups Meetup’s first event at 1871. The four-year-old group, Bloggers Meet Startups, was formed by Scottt and is now moderated by Maddy Osman of The Blogsmith.
I wanted to share with you highlights from my first speech and also share some great blogs and startups in Chicago. There were four featured speakers at the February 2016 Bloggers Meet Startups Meetup, but attendees also have 60 seconds to pitch their own projects. Since we were at 1871, one of the greatest innovation hubs for startups in Chicago, there were a lot more startup founders at this event.
You’re Invited To Free Events Every Day:
It’s hard to believe that you are invited to an event when you don’t receive an invitation. So, I’m giving you a formal one. When you live in the city you are invited to a handful of free events every single day. And these events can be as small as a pop-up sale at your favorite Chicago boutique to as big as a startup competition at IBM.
You can find these events on Windy City Cosmo, Time Out Magazine, Eventbrite, Built in Chicago, and Meetup.com, among other sites.
These events may be exciting like a Ne-Yo concert on Michigan Ave., but the true value comes in the fact that they are held at Chicago businesses like Edelman, The Shift, Basecamp, and The Social Deviant. On top of access to restricted businesses and special spaces in Chicago, these free events also help you gain really easy access to the people you want to meet, the people who are going to inspire you or the people who are going to discover your brand and share your content on social media.
Making real-life, in-person connections is important, even in the digital age.
Aziz Ansari mentioned in his book, Modern Romance, that you can swipe right on Tinder, but ultimately you need to meet the person in person for the relationship to progress. The same is true for job interviews. The third part of the interview is always the in-person interview because meeting in person in important.
From Instagram to Insta Friends:
I think when you combine technology to create opportunities to meet people and then actually meet in person at these free events, you are able to grow a very strong social network and professional network very quickly.
For example, I have been an active user on Instagram, which requires liking a lot of photos a day. I realized I was finding photos from Once Upon a Dollhouse, a Chicago lifestyle blog. After a few weeks, I checked out their blog. They liked my photos, and I liked theirs. I went to an Ulta Beauty event on Tuesday and one of the bloggers introduced herself. Yes, it was the founder of this blog I had really enjoyed. We instantly connected and they ended up coming to this Bloggers Meet Startups Meetup the next day to support me and also pitch their blog at the end.
This all happened because we created an opportunity through social media, but deepened our relationship in person. Now we also follow each other on Snapchat (@Rationalization, @OnceUponADollhouse).
Be Inspired, Be Inspiring:
The last part of getting the most out of free Chicago events is that you want to give back.
It’s nice to be inspired, but you want to be inspiring as well.
I started Windy City Cosmo because I wanted to have a purpose for going to these events, and I also wanted to document how resourceful and beneficial it is for city dwellers to attend these Chicago events.
I started writing event recaps for SheSays Chicago, an international group of women and men in creative fields helping women advance to leadership roles. Today, SheSays Chicago is still one of the best resources for not only networking, but also mentorship, and freelance work referrals for me.
After the presentation, we had a brief q&a with Windy City Cosmo and the room full of roughly 50 startup founders and bloggers.
It was really great to be in a room of Millennials all working on projects to make life better, inspire others, and create ways to form and facilitate relationships.
This was Bloggers Meet Startups first time booking space at 1871. Photo: Once Upon a Dollhouse
Chicago Bloggers Pitch:
Several attendees pitched their blogs and startups including the lifestyle blog, Once Upon Dollhouse, and a new event company that followed trends on Pinterest to bring clients the best mix between hiring an event planner and DIY parties, Paris 312.
We were inspired by Susie of Suzlyfe.com to live a life beyond expectations. Susie was diagnosed with a terminal disease but has been living life like a champion by running marathons and helping others with her health and wellness blog and as a trainer.
Startup Founders Pitch:
Startup founders also pitched like Justin and Matt of Backspace app, a social sharing site where nothing lasts forever, and the most liked content stays on the platform longer.
And another startup, ParqEx, is using a similar concept to Airbnb and applying it to parking space by letting consumers rent out their personal garage space or outdoor parking space when they don’t use it. Because yes, parking is always an issue in cities.
Below are some photos from the networking portion of the event.
The next Bloggers Meet Startups Event will be at Next Door Chicago in Lakeview.
Bloggers Meet Startups has three portions: features speakers, 60 second pitches and a networking opportunity. Photo: Amanda Elliott