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  • Writer's pictureMel

This time last year...

I can still remember walking into the space that warm May morning, with such excitement and anticipation of how the day was going to unfold. People kept asking me if I was nervous, but even to my own surprise, I wasn't nervous AT ALL. I was strangely calm. It felt right. (Ok, I was slightly nervous that the banners weren't going to hang properly, and I did catch myself watching them swing slightly when the air conditioning kicked on).

Everything about that day surpassed my expectations - all of the work I had put in over the days and months leading up to the event had paid off. Each of the speakers brought tremendous energy and vulnerability in sharing their story of failure and success. I loved watching women connect and nod their heads and smile as each woman took the stage. And we ended by sharing drinks together in the sunshine (and what a gift that was for May in Chicago!).

Little did I know then what significance the word PIVOT would have in our lives and and in our careers. As you would expect, each of our dynamic speakers from last year has continued to grow and change in the face of these challenging times. I hope you enjoy this (virtual) catch up!

Our 12 leading ladies and what they are up to in 2020!

Sally Lou Loveman Amy Wilson Paige Nolan

Sally Lou Loveman: Sally Lou published her book SPEAK: Love Your Story, Your Audience is Waiting on January 27th, launched it on the TODAY show and started a very exciting book tour. 48 days later the world came to a standstill and required a pivot (which she did while recovering from coronavirus herself). She is now taking her platform on-line with curriculum taken from the lessons in her book. She is launching her first #SallyLouSpeakChallenge on June 8th and can't wait to be back with the community of passionate heart centered professionals who want to use their voice for good. You can also find Sally Lou sharing inspiring stories via her podcast - The Love Speaks Series.

Amy Wilson: Amy's podcast What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood continues to be just the right amount of funny and real we need right now, and the content is even more spot on for this mom-stuck-at-home moment. Amy and her podcast partner Margaret Ables have also used this time at home to explore an idea they have long wanted to bring to life - videos! - humorous ideas of what motherhood is like in our current state. They've already had over 250,000 views on Facebook!

Paige Nolan: Paige's supportive, intuitive voice resonates now more than ever as we navigate new normals in our families, our relationships and our world. Her inspiring and thought-provoking writing speaks to our hearts in her social posts and newsletters. She continues supporting women in her 1-1 coaching work as well as workshops. While normally you would find her visiting cities across the country with her Live What Matters workshop -now she has taken it virtual, giving many more women the opportunity to connect with Paige and pursue meaning, purpose and connection together.

Laura Sage Alicia Driskill Kate Sullivan

Laura Sage: Since last year, Laura and the Chill Meditation team have focused on becoming a platform that creates live and digital mindfulness based experiences for more than 300 organizations ranging from global corporations to universities to startups. This Spring they launched the Chill Anywhere app that was developed to further employee wellness. Users have access to: a growing library of on-demand videos on topics including stress + anxiety, rest, leadership and yoga; daily live streamed classes; and an engaged online mindfulness community. During the pandemic the Chill team leveraged their digital platform to be a resource to help people during these uncertain times by creating mini meditation sessions via Zoom and IGTV in addition to providing complimentary trial access to Chill Anywhere. We are excited that Chill has extended this two-week trial offer to our Next Collective community.

Alicia Driskill: In 2020 Alicia has grown EvolveHer from an event and co-working space in Chicago to expanding their services on a digital platform. EvolveHer provides access to women nationally with the goal of curating and organizing the premium (virtual + live) events, tools, and resources tailored to the individual's preferences for professional and personal development. They are taking what they’ve been doing manually, and scaling it up to serve the thousands of women in our community.

Kate Sullivan: This year Kate's tv series "To Dine for with Kate Sullivan" launched it's second season and is currently airing on PBS with amazing guests from Sarah Blakey to Deepok Chopra. (You can see Season 1 on Amazon Prime). Ever the journalist, during the quarantine Kate has been using instagram live as a platform to interview leaders and influencers in the restaurant and events industry about how they are pivoting in the face of current events.

Christina Karin Jeannine Adams Beth Berke

Christina Karin - It didn't take long for Christina to spring into action when the pandemic hit. This Chicago-based fashion designer quickly changed gears, halting sample making in her studio to start making masks. She created the #maskchallenge campaign with a goal of donating 10,000 masks to hospital and front-line workers. Each week Christina's team works to sew, pack and ship masks to Covid frontline workers. You can donate directly to the mask challenge here, or alternatively you can support the effort via a purchase of a pack of Eco Masks which funds the production of 5 masks to Front Line Responders and hospitals in need.

Jeannine Adams - Jeannine launched a special project early this year - her third child, a beautiful baby girl to add to the family! Of course that didn't stop her from evolving her business, restructuring the offerings and services to clients, while also helping her partners to do the same. To support local Chicago businesses, she created the CHICAGO LOVE campaign, with 14 local female-led brands and boutiques in Chicago offering discounts and deals to support each other and keep these small business afloat during these challenging times. Jeannine also is focused on the Boutique solutions side of Ready Pretty, which offers creative marketing strategy, content creation, PR, event planning and social media support for brands.

Beth Berke- Beth and the team at South Loop Loft have been keeping busy even while working from home! They have been processing and photographing new arrivals from all of Beth's pre-Covid global sourcing and managing their website, Chairish + 1st Dibs. They are working hard to serve their clients and keep us all inspired as we spend more time in our homes! Also they are donating 10% of sales to support the continued services to kids in foster care at Children Home and Aid to the work of the Chicago Food Depository.

Molly Vaille Elaine Frei Colleen Curtis

Molly Vaile: You might remember Molly sharing with our audience her story of deciding to leave her role at the Wonder Museum - "I make all of my career decisions based on my quality of life" . And after deciding that working 7 days/week 16 hours/day was not meeting that criteria,  she took an intentional sabbatical for the summer of 2019. In her words she stepped back, took a deep breath and listened to those whispers that float around in our hearts and minds for her next career adventure. While on a cycling trip in the islands of Croatia, she had that moment of stillness and clarity that many of us strive for and she realized it was time to get back to the things she loves - the outdoor lifestyle, skiing and cycling. So she decided to move from Chicago and make Denver her home. Currently she is teetering between starting her own strategic operations and marketing company or taking an executive level position working with a company on the cusp of transformational growth.

Elaine Frei: After her balloon installation business stalled with the cancellation of events, uber-talented Elaine and the team at Luft Balloons shifted from creating these balloon installations for events to designing and creating installations to display outside of homes and businesses - bringing joy and celebration during these socially distant times. Their amazing smiling rainbows and colorful bursts can be seen throughout the city! They have also used their talents to spread joy to our health care workers, creating awe-inspiring balloon sculptures outside local hospitals and putting smiles on the faces of these heroes. You can join in supporting these workers here.

Colleen Curtis: Colleen and the team at The Mom Project have leveled up their support of women in the workplace at this time when moms really could use a partner. They have created the Unity Project, a program built to support individual job seekers impacted by COVID-19 hardships by pairing them with incredible professional coaches and recruiting/talent professionals. The Mom Project is working towards a goal of connecting 1,000 women, moms, parents and advocates that have been recently laid off or furloughed with supportive coaching and services to aid in their job search. Check out their virtual event series the Unity Hour.


Hope you enjoyed catching up with these bad-ass ladies.

Sending you a virtual hug.

xx Mel

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