Girl Scouts GCNWI Camp CEO 2014

When I was invited to participate in the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago & Northwest Indiana‘s 2014 Camp CEO, I had little idea what that meant but gladly accepted on the premise that I would be mentoring high school girls. When I was sent a list of items that I needed and saw ‘sleeping bag’, ‘bug spray’ and ‘rain poncho’, I got a bit nervous. Now I am sitting here reflecting on 24 hours that I wouldn’t trade for the world, and wondering why I didn’t know how much Girls Scouts had to offer when I was in middle & high school.

Girl Scouts GCNWI Camp CEO 2014

Photo via @connieleads

Camp CEO combines a group of highly motivated teenage girls (of those who apply, 25 are accepted) with c-level executives in a relaxed summer camp setting. When I say highly motivated, I mean every girl had a plan for the future, and every plan included somehow making the world a better place for others – I didn’t know what I wanted to do until well after college! There is a nice mix of career focused events like creating an elevator pitch and traditional camp activities like hiking and swimming. I enjoyed the blend of formal and informal, as it allowed campers to ask career specific questions and also more personal questions like ‘how do you feel about feminism in the workplace’ over a hike through the woods.

The beauty of Camp CEO was that we were there to provide guidance and inspiration to a special group of young women, and through that process I was inspired by both those young women and other CEOs. On one hike I was able to talk to a high schooler who is deciding what to do with her non profit when she goes to college. She is still in high school and has already built a non profit that donated over $6,000 to charity last year! Impressive. My mentee wants to work with the loop system in inner city schools to provide a family unit for at risk students, an alternative to seeking that family unit within a gang. I was constantly impressed with the campers, and cannot wait to see all of the good that they do in their lives.

Beyond camp activities and casual conversations, Dream Your Future panel discussions provided a formal setting for CEOs to share their story and leave campers with a piece of advice. These panel sparked questions and conversations amongst CEOs and campers, which led to a great learning experience.

My “Dream Your Future” panel (from left to right) included myself, Phyllis Cochran, Cheryl Burton, Raschanda Hall and Diana Palomar.

Dream Your Future at Girl Scouts GCNWI Camp CEO






Here is a snippet of their advice for the campers. There is no way to sum up the wisdom shared in one blog post, but this is my attempt at the important nugget they left behind.

Phyllis Cochran
Do not be afraid to take the job that no one else wants, which is how Phyllis started her journey to the top of the ladder. She also recommended hiring people that are smarter than you and having a mentor.

Cheryl Burton
Cheryl started her career in sales at Xerox and is proof that if you follow your heart and pursue your dreams you can end up with a career that you love.

Raschanda Hall
“Good . Better . Best . Never let it rest until good is better and better is best.”

Diana Palomar
“Whatever you do, bring other girls along and share your opportunities with them.”

Thursday’s “Dream Your Future Panel” included (from left to right) Angela Hickey, Melissa Preston, Connie Lindsey and Brenda Russell.

Girl Scouts Dream Your Future
Angela Hickey
Angela’s story is truly the American dream. She lived in poverty as a child but was determined to make a better life for herself, and is now an Executive Director at a law firm. Angela is proof that determination and persistence can help you achieve your dreams, regardless of your current situation.

Melissa Preston
Melissa took an untraditional path by having the courage to always seize opportunities that presented themselves. She was also confident enough to ask for what she wanted, even when what she wanted was to travel around Africa with the Vice President of our country while at one of her first jobs!

Connie Lindsey
Connie had so much wisdom and inspiration to share that it’s hard to pick one thing. The piece of advice that made the greatest impression on me was that your job does not define you. Your job is important, but it’s connecting your job with your charitable work and your personal life that make up who you really are. This is incredibly important to keep in mind as you work your butt off to get where you want to go. A job is a means to the lifestyle you want to live, but don’t forget to take time to do good, give back and have a personal life.

Brenda Russell
Brenda shared a special story about a spontaneous birthday trip and marathon that took her across the world. No friends or family could make the trip, but the kindness and love that she was greeted with 1/2 way around the world just gave me chills thinking about. Brenda’s story was full of life lessons, and to me one of the most important lessons was – don’t miss out on the experiences that you want in life because no one is willing to go along for the ride. If Brenda had decided to back out because she was going at it alone, she would have missed out on a memory and experience that will last a lifetime.

As hard as I’m trying, there is no way to sum up Camp CEO in a blog post. It’s a special place that lends to invaluable experiences with new lifelong friends. There is so much more that I want to say about the good that Girl Scouts does, but I’ll close with some of my favorite tweets from Camp CEO (I especially loved when the campers “took over Twitter” to live tweet their experiences):

Girl Scouts Camp CE0 2014 tweets #campceo2014 Girl Scouts Camp CE0 2014 tweets #campceo2014 Girl Scouts Camp CE0 2014 tweets #campceo2014 Girl Scouts Camp CE0 2014 tweets #campceo2014 Girl Scouts Camp CE0 2014 tweets #campceo2014 Girl Scouts Camp CE0 2014 tweets #campceo2014 Girl Scouts Camp CE0 2014 tweets #campceo2014 Girl Scouts Camp CE0 2014 tweets #campceo2014 Girl Scouts Camp CE0 2014 tweets #campceo2014 Girl Scouts Camp CE0 2014 tweets #campceo2014 Girl Scouts Camp CE0 2014 tweets #campceo2014

5 Appetizers, Wine & Dessert at The Savoy, Wicker Park

Girls night at The Savoy means getting to share and sample multiple dishes while sipping on a glass of wine and having great conversation. The starters and salads interested us more than any main dish, so here is what we sampled.

Meinklang Grüner Veltliner
I, unfortunately, was not a fan. I was hoping for a light, crisp and spicy Grüner that would pair well with whatever fish we happened to order, but instead drank an almost off-dry wine with few traditional Grüner Veltliner characteristics. I would recommend choosing a different glass.
Gruner Veltliner at The Savoy in Chicago








Brussels Caesar
shaved brussels sprout leaves, white anchovie, arugula, anchovie crusted croutons, parmesan.
If you aren’t a fan of anchovies, this isn’t the salad for you. I thought it was a nice play on a classic Caesar, and enjoyed added flavor from the brussels sprout leaves.
Brussels Caesar at The Savoy in Chicago





Tuna Tartare
sesame, scallion, chili oil, house pickles
Terrible photo, but the Tuna Tartare was delicious. The tuna was rich and satisfying, and the accompanying flavors helped play up the tasty tuna qualities as opposed to masking them.
Tuna Tartare at The Savoy in Chicago





Crab Cakes
jicama slaw, grilled ramp aioli, herbs
This is easily the ‘meatiest’ crab cake that I’ve had in the Chicago. The amount of fresh meat and the lack of ‘binding’ made me feel like I was eating a fresh crab cake in San Francisco. This is easily one of the better crab cakes that I’ve had in the city.
Crab Cakes at The Savoy in Chicago





P.E.I. Mussels
squid, fennel, spanish chorizo, tomato dashi broth
Good mussels, but definitely not the best I’ve had in the city. The broth was flavorful and the mussels were tasty.
Mussels at The Savoy in Chicago





Seared Scallops
fava bean puree, asparagus, breakfast radish, yuzu vinaigrette
Delicious. The scallops were cooked to perfection and the accompanying vegetables made this a perfect spring time starter.
Scallops at The Savoy in Chicago





Flourless Chocolate Cake
So. Good. This was a perfectly portioned dessert to end the night.
Flourless Chocolate Cake at The Savoy in Chicago

Overall, I had a good experience and would recommend The Savoy for a more intimate evening with friends or loved ones. I’ll definitely be trying other restaurants in the area before heading back, but it was an overall enjoyable dining experience.

A Weekend in Birmingham, MI

This weekend we headed over to Bloomfield Hills, MI to visit family and participate in a charity event. I love exploring downtown Birmingham’s restaurants when we are there, and the following is our whirlwind food and wine tour from the weekend.

Lunch at Toast
Urban Veggie – balsamic roasted seasonal vegetables, grilled portabello, arugula, roasted red pepper mayo, goat cheese spread, (subbed) multi grain bread
Lunch at Toast Birmingham






Ice Cream at Ray’s
Absolutely delicious and creamy coffee ice cream, and this is a “small”







Dinner at The Bird & The Bread
We started with Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta Limited Release 2010. It was an excellent blend of 71% Carmenère, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Merlot from the Colchagua Valley. Because we had a lot to celebrate, the sommelier had us go a bit out of order to toast with Albert Bichot Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Rose NV. It was a perfect celebration wine on a nice summer evening, and served as the perfect palate cleanser before moving on to dinner.










About midway through dinner the sommelier and I got around to discussing his guild somm testing and my WSET testing, and after a great discussion about Bordeaux barriques he shared a few wines that he found interesting. I found the most unique bottle to be based on the label and not the juice – the 2010 Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier has braille on the label, something I’ve never seen before. I wish I remembered the full story, so instead of butchering a good story & potentially passing along false information, I’ll just say that it was a feel good story of a unique label with braille.









Aside from a salad, we enjoyed tasty Lemon & Shallot Mussels with Pinot Grigio, served with toasted baguette & lemon. I enjoyed the mussels, and I’m looking forward to trying the Baby Tomato & Horseradish with Verjus preparation on our next visit.
mussels at bird and bread







Brunch at Toast
Obviously, I really like Toast (we ate their twice this weekend, and I’ve blogged about them a few other times). They have consistently good drinks, food and rotating specials that are great. I went with two of my favorite menu items, a Bloody Mary & Huevos Rancheros.

The original bomb mary – house vodka, horseradish & all the fixings served with a pickle spear, sliced japalenño and olive-rimmed with a secret spice mix
the original bomb mary at toast







Huevos rancheros – two fried eggs, corn tortilla, black beans, green chili, queso fresco, corn salsa, guacamole, sour cream (only to be outdone by their in house pulled pork huevos rancheros special)
huevos rancheros toast






We finished the weekend with a fun scavenger hunt / bar crawl benefitting JDRF. And now, time to detox and prep for the week. Cheers!

An Ex-Techweeker’s Take on The Email Debacle

I’m not one to voice my opinions publicly, but as a former Techweek vendor and a female business owner, the discussion around the recent Techweek email has led to many emotions that I would like to share.

First, the good. I can honestly say that without the support of Techweek, I would not have built a successful business that now employs multiple amazing female employees. The gratitude that I feel for what Techweek did for me as an entrepreneur with absolutely no experience is beyond anything that I can express. The Board of Directors is (or, at least was while I was there) comprised of three men and one woman, all of whom helped my career in some fashion. The female member of the board is someone I look up to and respect greatly, and was one of the first (if not the first) females to graduate from Boston University with a computer science degree. Basically, a badass woman in technology who advocates for other women, and who sits on Techweek’s board. They were there to answer my questions, offer invaluable advice, introduce me to the right people and give me the confidence that I lacked to propel my company to the next level. This from a group that is now being labeled the villain for not supporting women in technology.

Another positive from my time at Techweek is the amazing women that I was fortunate enough to work with, and that I now call my close friends. The former Executive Director, Director of Business Development, Director of Operations and Director of Program Management are all incredibly smart and talented women that I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t worked with Techweek. These incredible women all held Director level positions within the organization that supposedly does not support equality in technology, and all of them had men who reported directly to them.

Now, what bothers me. There are two things that bother me most, and I feel that they are much bigger than any individual organization. First, it bothers me that it took prominent men in the technology industry to call out a sexist ad before change took place and media paid any attention. I do not in the least fault these amazing men for supporting the cause, but this isn’t the first issue women have had with Techweek programing, yet this is the first time their voices have carried beyond a private Facebook group and social media posts. Why didn’t anyone care last year when women were offended by the fashion show? The same women who are writing about the email in Crains were publicly upset by the fashion show last year but that didn’t spur any action from the media or Techweek itself. Is it because the fashion show was sanctioned by another female focused media company, or is it because no prominent men got behind the cause? How do we advocate for ourselves if we aren’t taken seriously until prominent men stand up for us?

Another thing that really bothers me is the female name calling and fighting. Why must we resort to saying that other women are dressed slutty or to attacking each other for the way we choose to support femininity in a Facebook group? This frustration dates back to last year when I was incredibly embarrassed after a Techweek party when a strand was started in a women technology Facebook group that called out other women for dressing “like sluts” at a Techweek kickoff party. I believe it was something like, ‘how are we supposed to be taken seriously when all of these girls show up dressed like sluts?’. Men can wear shorts, pants, casual, formal, a hoodie, a tank top or a tee, and they don’t judge each other like that. Why can’t we be happy that women showed up to a tech party in Chicago, and supportive of the fact that their style happens to be different than our own? I understand and agree that some of the dresses were tight and short, but I also think those girls looked great, and confident; publicly tearing each other down is not the way to move forward.

I’m not saying that Techweek isn’t at fault, I think their oversight two years in a row shows that something needs to be done, and that (fortunately) the good ‘ole boys club isn’t going to cut it in Chicago any longer. I’m inspired by the group of women that rallied together to ensure change is made this time. I hope we are able to raise the bar to a much higher standard and move forward as a unified community focused on making Chicago an even stronger technology hub for everyone who chooses to participate.

I do, however, think that it’s unfortunate that the story of what they do do for women in entrepreneurship and technology has gone untold. I’m proud of the 19 women who made the list of Techweek100 because according to Techweek’s Chairman “The reality is, we look across lines; we don’t look at gender or race or anything, we look at leaders…”. That means that these 19 amazing women are truly leading the way, doing and building amazing things and leading the charge for women in technology.

I want to reinforce two facts:

  1. The industry needs to change, and I am proud of the women who are working hard to change this every day. Thanks to them, the technology industry continues to improve for all women. Thanks to the men who found the email offensive, the discussion has been elevated to the next level.
  2. Techweek screwed up, but they are also incredibly supportive of females in technology and entrepreneurship. Again, I can honestly say as a female entrepreneur with 100% certainty that my business would not be where it is today without Techweek’s support. I think they need to understand their faults, but I also hope that everyone can understand the invaluable support that they provide to entrepreneurs and technologists of all genders, ages and races.

Border Patrol at Pouring Ribbons NYC

My reviews tend to be positive, but I couldn’t not post about this cocktail. The group I was with had heard good things about the cocktails at Pouring Ribbons, so I was looking forward to checking it out. We even waited for about 10 minutes in the freezing cold to get in. Then, I made a terrible decision. I love tequila, and that led me to order the Border Patrol

Sombra Mezcal, lime, mole falernum, pineapple, angostura bitters.

Border Patrol at Pouring Ribbons NYC























This drink, quite literally, tasted like dirt. I cannot remember the last time I ordered a drink and actually could not drink it, but I could not take more than two sips of this cocktail. Not only did it taste like dirt, but the mouthfeel was gritty and dry (I mean, how is that even possible?). I did try the cocktails that my friends were drinking, and they were fine. So, word to the wise, avoid the Border Patrol at Pouring Ribbons, but their other craft cocktails are tasty.


PARATHAS BURRITO Little Goat Chicago

Breakfast Meeting At Little Goat

I was a bit hesitant to order a breakfast burrito for two reasons, 1) breakfast burritos can get messy, which could be embarrassing at a meeting and 2) breakfast burritos can weigh you down and make you groggy for the remainder of the day. That being said, they are also one of my favorite foods so I was incredibly excited to try Steph’s version (I call her Steph… like I actually know her… one day).

All that really matters is that the burrito was delicious. I really liked the texture of the indian flatbread, the eggs were cooked quite well and the greens added a bright, and surprisingly sour element that kept the dish interesting. If you have yet to try Little Goat, and do not like lines, I highly recommend stopping by at 8am on a Tuesday morning – take a moment to enjoy the most important meal of the day before heading into the hustle and the bustle of your busy life.

indian flatbread . sunny side eggs . avocado-bean salad . chili pepper sauce . sheep’s milk cheddar
PARATHAS BURRITO Little Goat Chicago

5 Important Entrepreneurial Lessons After 2 Years In Business

Last Friday was my company’s two year anniversary, which has me thinking about where I was at two years ago. It’s incredible how much you can learn and grow in such a short period of time, and I am so thankful I took the “leap of faith” to start my company. As I think back on all of the lessons that I have learned, I wanted to share five that I find particularly important with any entrepreneurs just getting started, or with anyone thinking about starting their own business. I by no means “know it all” (not even relatively close), but fortunately my entrepreneurial experiences have taught me a great deal, and I want to share my learnings with whomever may find them useful.

1) Perseverance Is Key

Lessons On Entrepreneurship

There will be incredible highs and incredible lows. There will be exciting days, there will be normal days and there will be endless 16 hour workdays. It’s an emotional roller coaster, but if you’ve got a good idea, a strong work ethic and the desire to truly see your business succeed, you can persevere.

About six months in, someone recommend I read the book Think and Grow Rich. Two simple sentences in that book lead to a new, strengthened focus, and ultimately to where I am (and my business is) today. ““I will burn all bridges behind me, and stake my entire future on my ability to get what I want.” He left himself no possible way of retreat. He had to win or perish!”

Something clicked, and I stopped looking through LinkedIn job boards (an easy escape). I put all of my energy and focus into getting what I wanted, a successful marketing agency with steady growth based on client successes. When I think about my business two years ago, I sometimes cannot believe I’m where I am today, but I’m thankful that I persevered.

2) Create A Strong Network

Entrepreneurial Lessons

I have a formal mentor, an accountability group, successful family members and friends who are (fortunately) always willing to listen and offer advice and an excellent group of peers. I can honestly say that I would not be where I am without the support of my network.

My network is incredibly important for many reasons. First, I’m only one person with my own knowledge. I know what I know, so it is incredibly important to tap into the knowledge of successful business owners, entrepreneurs who are in, or have been in my situation, peers and friends. While multiple opinions are not always recommended, understand what you do not know and determine who can be a trusted resource. Avoid arrogance and ignorance.

Second, there is truth in the saying that people buy people. Two years later, my business has been built off of referrals from my network, and now referrals from my clients (who, theoretically are now part of my network). Words to the wise… do not forget that a network is not a “thing”; it is people that you care about. Do not be selfish, and give back every chance you get.

3) Build an Incredible Team

BlogHer 2013

You’ll hear this one a million times, but that is because it is so incredibly important and true. Invest in people; make sure you hire the proper team to support your mission and vision. If you come to find that you’ve made a hiring mistake, do not let that mistake linger. Your team is everything, and it needs to be made up of people who are going to contribute to the business’s success. On the flip side, make sure to keep your incredibly important team happy.

When you can, hire people that are smarter than you. Your business will reach a point where you can no longer control every aspect, and at that point having incredibly capable people in place is crucial. It will put your mind at ease (and free up much needed time) if you know they are doing their job better than you ever could. Plus, hiring smarter produces a productive environment where everyone can learn from one another.

In the services industry, your clients are practically extended members of your team. For that reason, it is important to qualify potential clients to ensure that you can provide the service that they need in a manner appropriate for both parties. I now know that I’d rather pass on a client that may not be a good fit for our team, rather than go through a dreaded “break up” a few months in (“No really, it’s me not you…”).

4) The Debate Over Good Sales vs Quality Products/Services

At a recent investor boot camp (don’t ask why I was there – definitely not an investor!), the room got into a debate over whether they would prefer to invest in a good, quality product or service, or a good sales team. I immediately sided with the good, quality product, because that’s what my business was built on, but quickly realized that I’ve been a sales person for the past two years. It was an eye opening debate (and one you should take note of if you are looking to raise money), and here are my (current) final thoughts on the discussion:

If you have a high quality product or service you can likely hire and build a good sales team. That being said, as an entrepreneur, if you cannot sell your own product or service, or get people excited about what you are doing, chances are no one else will be excited either, nor will they buy into what you’re doing. As an entrepreneur, being able to sell yourself is crucial to the success of your business. You may have taken the leap of faith thinking life would be luxurious as “president” or “CEO”, but you will always be your company’s #1 sales person, so make sure you have the passion, hustle and burning desire to sell your dreams to the world.

5) Value

Never underestimate your value, or the value of your products/services. Seriously, this is the one piece of advice I wish I had listened to from the start. I don’t regret the value I placed on myself in the beginning, it was a start, but you have to understand the long-term impact of selling yourself short. If you want healthy, long term client or customer relationships, ensure that your clients or customers understand the value that your product or services provides. With value also comes a certain level of respect and credibility, so price accordingly.

One of my favorite clients decided to set their prices high, aiming for luxury instead of overly accessible. And it makes perfect sense, too. If you saw a pair of pants at the store for $15 one day, and $150 the next, you may laugh, and think the designer is a joke. If, on the other hand you saw the pants for $150 one day, and $75 the next, you’d probably be excited and you might even purchase the discounted item. You can always lower your prices if you come to find they are out of whack, but it is much more difficult to raise your prices, even with good reason.

I hope these five important thoughts will be of some help as your grow your business. While my list could go on and on (time management, organization, location…), I’m curious to know what lessons have been most important to your success. If you have anything to add, please share in the comments below!