August 21, 2013

Featured Biz Mama: Leasa Navarro of kickSprout

Filed under: Biz Mama,Local (Chicago) — Tags: , , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

Biz Mama: Leasa Navarro of kickSprout

Biz Mama columnkickSprout is a social community connecting women experiencing pregnancy and motherhood face-to-face in local cities to help navigate the world of parenting. They empower moms to organize local groups, events and workshops to connect families to learn from one another as well as through local experts on topics that are vital to raising a strong family. kickSprout is the place to experience the transition to motherhood & family life together.

Leasa Navarro is co-Founder of kickSprout, managing business development, brand partnerships and daily operations. Prior to kickSprout, Leasa served as an Interior Designer in Chicago. Leasa is a busy mom of 2 and currently lives in Chicago with her husband and two children, 3-1/2 years old and 13 months.

I met Leasa after attending a kickSprout event in Chicago when my son was just a few months old. I loved the kickSprout concept and community and am excited to see the organization grow!

Leasa Navarro of kickSprout

Tell us a little about your business/job responsibilities.

We are a small startup so I am pretty much involved with all aspect of kickSprout. I focus mostly on business development and brand partnerships as well day to day operations. I am also very involved in member support and relationships. I attend as many events and outings I can because one of my favorite parts of being involved with kickSprout is meeting and connecting all the amazing Moms and Moms-To-Be. kickSprout is a social community and we believe that creating a supportive community for moms will create a flourishing community and a better world. We’ll be parents until the day we die and will always have something to learn and give back. kickSprout is not about us, but about the parents and people we want to help and support.

What are the ages/genders of your children?

Daughter 3-1/2 and a son 13 months.

Did you start your business before or after having children?

We started kickSprout when our daughter was around 8 months old and really started because of our own need as first time parents. The moment we brought our daughter home from the hospital (after 4 days in the NICU) and the role of mom and dad sunk in; we quickly realized that this parenting thing amidst all the advice, was going to be much different from what we had expected.

We were the first of our friends to launch into the world of parenting and we were completely lost. We were truly looking for was a community to connect face to face with other parents as well as access to experts to ask our burning questions. We yearned for a community of parents to reassure one another that we were not all going crazy. We wanted to hear, “Don’t worry, we’ve been there before.”

How did your business life change after having children?

As I mentioned we started kickSprout in response to our new life as parents. It is definitely busy trying to balance and juggle everything on your plate running a business and taking care of the family. Even more so with two. I feel am very fortunate though that I am able to be home to watch my kids grow up as well as work on a company that is all about them and helping to make me a better Mom!

Describe a typical workday.

Typical, ha I don’t think I have one of those!! I have a sitter that stays with the kids 2 days a week so on those days I would say I have a more “typical” work day. On the other 5 days of the week I try to squeeze in work and work around family time, nap time, dinner time and doing a lot of work in the evenings. Being organized is key. I wish I could say I was a super organized person but it is still something I work on day to day.

What is one tip you can share with other Biz Mamas?

Guy Kawasaki said his 2 kids are the ultimate Startups and that is something that has stuck with me. There are a lot of similarities in becoming a parent and starting a business, you work a lot for at times little outward reward but both experiences are things I wouldn’t change for the world. It is hard to figure out a balance at times but I know my family is “my” ultimate Startup so as long as they are happy and healthy I have succeeded.


Chicago, IL
Twitter: @kicksprout
Facebook: kicksprout
Click here to find a kickSprout group in your city

Let’s help kickSprout grow!

kicksprout indiegogo campaignkickSprout has launched an Indiegogo campaign to help them add chapters to new cities. As a mom, I know how important it is to have parent resources and a support system, especially in those early days.

Click here to watch the video and donate to this great cause!

Campaign runs through Sept. 1, 2013

February 27, 2013

Biz Mama: Jamie Russo of Enerspace

Filed under: Biz Mama,Local (Chicago) — Tags: , , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am
Biz Mama: Jamie Russo of Enerspace

Left to right: Enerspace yoga session, Jamie Russo, and the Enerspace coworking space in Chicago

Biz Mama columnJamie Russo of Enerspace has a lot of start-up experience as well as big co consulting and brand management. Her passion is health and wellness, particularly helping people create a lifestyle that helps them excel at their business endeavors and achieve superior mental and physical wellness. After growing a health services company that became focused on getting employees at large companies engaged in their health, she conceived of this idea to fully integrate work and wellness.  The ability to self-select a work environment through coworking spaces is an explosive trend and she is shaping the ability to choose an environment that fosters optimal well-being. Chicago is the first location. Enerspace will be taking workplace + wellness national in 2014.

I was introduced to Jamie—a fellow West Loop business owner—through a mutual friend. I found that we had much in common, including children around the same age and a love of health and wellness. She loves to talk and write about integrating wellness into work space design and is available for speaking engagements and guest blogging (contact her).

Jamie Russo of Enerspace

Tell us a little about your business/job responsibilities.

I am the Chief Work + Wellness Officer of Enerspace which is a coworking space for entrepreneurs and mobile professionals. The first location has been open almost exactly one year and we just doubled the size of that location so I still wear a lot of hats. I have an outstanding woman running the space now and am trying to shift my focus to growing the business and writing and speaking about workspace design of the future.

What are the ages/genders of your children?

My daughter, Dagny is 15 months old. Our first “child” is a male mini GoldenDoodle named Miles J. He’s three.

Did you start your business before or after having children?

I had wanted to start my own business for a long time. A few years into the last start-up, where I had been the first employee but still not a founder, I was committed to making that happen. I got to a point where I just needed to be more in control of my life, both bigger picture and day to day. That was for me but also turned out to be very important to integrating a child into our family. While working on my business, I also got pregnant with Dagny. A famous Chicago architect once said “Make no little plans” so I forged ahead. I signed my lease in September, had Dagny on November fifth and started the build-out for Enerspace a couple of weeks after that.  I opened for business when she was three months old (and in the hands of an amazing nanny).

How did your business life change after having children?

Before I had a child, I was almost solely focused on career success. I worked long hours (nights, weekends), traveled a lot to meet with clients. I had an end goal in mind but wasn’t enjoying the journey. Now that I have a child, I have an unalterable commitment to doing what I am passionate about while STILL being successful. I just define my own success now.

I believe in working smarter, not longer, and I try to stay focused on designing my work around the life that I want to live vs. (barely) living around my work. This outlook is for my personal happiness, to help me to be a better mom day-to-day and to be a role model for my daughter.

Describe a typical workday.

Due to the nature of owning a coworking space and the stage that it’s in, there is no typical day. When I’m in Chicago, I get up at 5:30, go to Rowfit, then spend as much time with members and networking as I can. When I’m in the Bay Area, I get up at 5 am to get a start on priorities for the day and get organized. I go to CrossFit three times a week from 6 am to 7 am and other days I run sometime during the day to get my Vitamin D and to refocus and stay productive.

My ideal typical day would be: Get up, catch up on news, participate in social media activities, generate some content (blog post, book chapter), work out, make breakfast for Dagny while addressing any time-sensitive things going on at Enerspace. I have someone that runs the space but I am still very involved. Then, eat breakfast with Dagny, drop her at the sitter. Come home, answer emails, work on PR/Marketing, work on business plans for expansion, network for coffee or lunch, continue projects from the morning, catch up on a few personal things, take Miles to the dog park, pick up Dagny. Enjoy a healthy family dinner with my family. I try to doing significant work after Dagny goes to bed to a couple of nights a week. The other nights are spent with my husband planning weekend trips and watching Downton Abbey and Homeland.

What is one tip you can share with other Biz Mamas?

Value your time. If you own a business that you can/want to grow, then think about what activities are taking time away from that growth. Cleaning your house, planning meals, buying groceries, cooking, getting the dog groomed.  Outsource those things.  In Chicago, for $15-$20/hour, you can have a very qualified individual do all those things for you.

The moms that I know that own businesses, and don’t seem like they’re on the ledge half the time, get other people to do these things for them so that they can either make more money or have the leisure time and flexibility that you deserve for working so hard/smart.  If you can bill a client $75/hour, then it makes economic sense to pay someone $20/hour to take your dog to the groomer. Save your down time for value-added activities like enjoying the dog park with your dog, eating dinner with your family, or getting a manicure!  For $100/week you could eliminate your errands enjoy your weekend and maintain your health and sanity.


Chicago, Illinois / San Mateo, California
Facebook: enerspace
Enerspace Blog

November 27, 2012

Typography in the City gets some love, both locally and abroad. #TypeTuesday

Typography in the City book Creative Bloq  Typography in the City featured on

Hooray for urban typography!

I’m excited to share that my “type-spotting” blog Typography in the City and the related book were mentioned in two places yesterday.

Bill Motchan, writer of the Chicago Journal’s ‘West Loop Wanderings’ blog posted an article about my inspiration for Typography in the City—including a photo of one of my favorite West Loop typography spots. Read the Chicago Journal article.

My self-published book, Typography in the City (based on the blog) was featured on Creative Bloq, a blog that delivers a daily dose of design tips and inspiration. Read the Creative Bloq post.

Thanks Chicago Journal & Creative Bloq for spreading the word about urban typography!

November 26, 2012

Small biz spotlight: Visage Joli

Filed under: Local (Chicago),Small biz spotlight — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 10:58 am
Wendy Kimmell of Visage Joli

Wendy Kimmell of Visage Joli; Wendy at work.

small biz spotlightWendy Kimmell is owner of Visage Joli in Chicago and an experienced makeup artist. From 1987–1996, she was the guests’ makeup artist for The Oprah Winfrey Show. She has also done makeup for national commercials including Kraft, Head & Shoulders and Pizza Hut. She was 1st Assistant to Key Makeup on the movie Rudy. And since 1993, she has been the senior makeup artist for CBS 2 Chicago.

I can personally vouch for Visage Joli: Wendy and her team did my bridal makeup and hair two years and it turned out fabulous. She and her team helped me start out my wedding day relaxed and stress-free—which any bride will tell you is truly appreciated. She even made sure I ate lunch!

Wendy Kimmell of Visage Joli

Tell us a little about your business.

Visage Joli is an award-winning on-location bridal makeup & team hair. We are comprised of pros from the television and film industries with 25 years of experience. Our makeup artists are airbrush-certified and their expertise is based in fine arts education.

Our hair stylists can do anything a bride and her mom and attendants desire, from a simple blow dry to the most cutting edge up-do. We pamper and relax bridal parties and have lots of fun with them.

What do you love most about having your own business?

Because this is my business, I can choose the quality of the hair and makeup artists who I work with. We can work directly with the brides so that they can get to know us, and see that we will give them the best service possible—all the way up to and including their wedding day.

What I love most about my work is enhancing women’s natural beauty!

Who are some of your past clients?

I have been fortunate to work with some wonderful media figures & celebrities. My favorites were Hilary Clinton, James Earl Jones, Anne Rice, the cast of Friends (loved Jennifer Aniston & David Schwimmer!), Clint Black, Rosie O’Donnell, Tom Hanks, Martha Stewart & Michael Douglas.

What skill(s) do you feel is most important for a small business owner?

I think the best qualities that a small business owner can have are flexibility and patience. Brides are very often overwhelmed, so what they may like at their makeup trial can change after they “live with a look” for 12 hours. Being agreeable with what a client wants or with sudden changes are very important to the success of a business.

Tell us about an exciting project you’re working on or have recently worked on.

The most fun project that I have worked on recently was The Blues Brothers Revue produced by Judy Belushi. The actors who play Jake and Elwood were fabulous and sweet. And I got to make-up Paul Shaffer and “Father Guido Sarducci” from Saturday Night Live! It was a very enjoyable day.

Visage Joli

Chicago, Illinois
Twitter: @visagejoli
Facebook: VisageJoli

November 14, 2012

Recap: The One Show Creative unConference in Chicago

The 4 principles of the unConference, the DIY session board, and session-in-progress by Big Cartel

You may be wondering: what the heck is the Creative unConference? It’s a conference with a theme, but without any agendas. The day’s sessions are created by the participants. Someone has a session idea, they write it down and post it on the session board.

Hosted by The One Club (a New York organization that promotes excellence in advertising), I happened to stumble upon Creative unConference through a twitter mention. I was hooked once I found out my alma mater Columbia College Chicago was hosting.

Thinking like a start-up.

This year’s theme was “Thinking like a start-up.” Being a first-timer, I wasn’t quite ready to lead a session (though I would consider it next year) but I found the sessions to be relaxed and open. It was easy to ask questions or chime in.

A recap of the sessions I attended:

  • Kevin Willer of 1871 gave an overview of how their co-working space helps digital start-ups.
  • Jim Coudal of Coudal Partners spoke about how their business grew and evolved to include products (Field Notes) and a premier ad network (The Deck).
  • Dave Reidy from closer look gave a lunchtime session to a variety of aspiring book-creators about writing your book.
  • Leo Burnett Farmhouse led an interactive idea session that resulted in an audience-created idea.
  • Dan Kristofferson of Big Cartel gave an inspiring session that made me want to follow all of my creative aspirations—and open up a Big Cartel shop!

My former stomping grounds: the Art & Design Department at Columbia College. Some of my professors are still there!

I left the Creative unConference with a notebook full of ideas for my design business, as well as my new “start-up” (my baby goods business).

Reminiscing…and seeing the future

It’s been, ahem, a few years since I attended Columbia College. So after the conference, a fellow CCC alumna and I took the opportunity to tour the Art & Design floors and reminisce about how much had changed.

I also browsed ShopColumbia, the fantastic student art store on campus. A great opportunity to see “what the kids are making” and get some cool art. I applaud Columbia for helping these up-and-coming artists get their work out there, even before graduation.

Did you attend the Creative unConference? What did you think?

October 29, 2012

Small biz spotlight: Mercury Organizing Professionals

Mercury Organizing Professionals in Chicago improves efficiency and reduces anxiety and frustration levels. They can improve utilization and control of your space, streamline filing, storage and scheduling systems, and help set sustainable organizational parameters. They provide a personalized plan for you. They put clutter in its right place and create efficient systems that eliminate obstacles, minimize distraction, and allow you to function at your best!

Founder Elizabeth Lourdes (Lulu) Miranda and I have known each other for many years, she is one of my dearest friends. Over the years, Lulu and I have collaborated on several successful art shows and currently co-host Neighborhood Networking in Chicago. Oh, and she is also helping me organize my home and office!

Elizabeth Lulu Miranda of Mercury Organizing Professionals

Elizabeth Lulu Miranda of Mercury Organizing Professionals

Tell us a little about your business.

The company was founded by Elizabeth Miranda. The name was chosen with the concept of the planet Mercury’s retrograde in mind. Three to four times a year the planet Mercury appears to slow down and appears to reverse direction in its cycle.

People commonly attributed technical malfunctions, setbacks, lost luggage, obstructions, misunderstandings, and sudden unexplained ‘out of the ordinary’ events to the Mercury Retrograde. They were advised to take things slowly during this stage of the cycle, to look at the details, and take extra precautions. Out of this came an awareness that instead of feeling loss of control and disappointment, one can create an advantageous moment, to redo, reassess, review, reconsider, and reorganize their activities.

I discovered that the concept of Mercury retrograde is quite meaningful. Whether you rewrite your business proposal, take time out to do the things you enjoy or reorder your messy cluttered closet, Mercury retrograde is about finding the treasures you hold, finding what really matters to you and honoring them.

What do you love most about having your own business?

I love the daily opportunities that come up for me to be creative and create solutions to a challenge. The sense of ownership comes from the freedom to learn from mistakes as well as celebrate the wins.

Who is your dream client/customer?

An ideal client is an individual or a small business dedicated to starting and staying organized. Keeping a schedule, whether weekly, monthly or annually with us to assist them in keeping up with their system we helped implement into their daily routine.

What skill(s) do you feel is most important for a small business owner?

A small business owner has to wear many hats and it’s difficult to reach beyond the daily grind. Once a system is in place, it’s the ability to reassess their current priorities that will keep them on task to reaching their goals.

Tell us about an exciting project you’re working on or have recently worked on.

People I work with generally comment on how frustrating it is for them to get organized and generally don’t know where to start. I enjoy that I can coach and pass on my skills to a person who wants to “get organized for life!” (that’s my slogan). Each case is different but the outcome is always the same, a person feels empowered to move forward with their ideas and dreams, not seeing clutter or obstacles any longer hindering their progress. I am happy to contribute to making that happen.

Learn more:

Mercury Organizing Professionals & Design Studio, Inc

Chicago, Illinois (they work with clients nationwide)

Twitter: @mopdscom
Pinterest: elmiranda
Facebook: MercuryOrganizing

And stay tuned to Biz Mama for an upcoming feature highlighting some of the organizing solutions Lulu has created for my office!

October 12, 2012

Paul Shaw’s Walking Type Tour highlights #sta_chicago #typeinthecity #typography

On Wednesday, I attended a wonderful walking typography tour with Paul Shaw, organized by STA Chicago and AIGA Chicago.

I’ve been blogging found typography in my West Loop neighborhood, so I was eager to see what Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and Loop had to offer. Two-and-half hours later, my freezing fingers had documented 20 typographic spots—and Paul was still going strong at the Chicago Cultural Center when I had to head home (Little One was waiting for his dinner).

Paul Shaw has a mind-boggling knowledge of typography and thoroughly explained each type specimen, with humorous anecdotes along the way. He reminded us that much of what we saw was not typography, but in fact lettering.

Downtown Chicago lettering highlights

  1. Clarendon-style lettering on a water fountain at our starting point, the Historic Water Tower.
  2. Versals in the uncial form on the downtown Loyola University building. IWAC stands for Illinois Women’s Athletic Club, a social, athletic and residential club in the ’20s-’30s.
  3. Uncials on the Fourth Presbyterian Church entryway. Paul explained that the lettering was designed to fit the space.
  4. Slab serif cast letters on the Chicago Water Works building. Paul pointed out that there was no period after the title (the grammatical style during that period).
  5. Helios relief on the former McGraw-Hill Building facade. Another example of lettering created to fit the space.
  6. Paul doing a stone rubbing of textura blackletter lettering on the Tribune Tower.
  7. The quirky sans/serif-combination lettering on the Old Republic Building. We also peeked inside the lobby to see a fabulous ’20s-’30s era mailbox.
  8. Art deco lettering on the Carbide and Carbon Building (now the Hard Rock Hotel). Paul pointed out the thick and thin lettering with echoes of Florentine Sans serif.
  9. Dome of the Chicago Cultural Center (I missed the explanation because I had to leave!)

Thank you Paul, for an amazing tour of Chicago typography! 

If you are a fellow type geek, check out Paul Shaw’s website, which includes info for his urban lettering walks. Sign me up for the Italy tour next year!

See more photos from the tour on my blog Typography in the City.

August 15, 2012

Featured project: Art Lakeview branding & promotional materials

Filed under: Featured Design Project,Local (Chicago) — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 10:26 am

Art Lakeview event brochure, postcard and social media logo

For the second year in a row, we worked with the Lakeview Chamber to create promotional materials for Art Lakeview: A Pop-Up Art Experience. This annual “strolling gallery” allows people to experience the Chicago neighborhood through local artwork: the artists hang their work in retail shops on Southport and Lincoln Avenues.

We created the branding for Art Lakeview last year, but this year’s promotional materials needed to be updated to reflect event changes. We designed an event brochure, postcard, poster, banner, print ad and artist cards, as well as a logo variation for social media use. See all the promotional materials here. One of the challenges was showing the artists’ work and corresponding retail locations in the event brochure without using an actual map.

The event was a success and brought many new visitors to the neighborhood.

July 10, 2012

Lichtenstein with Little One: art through the eyes of a baby @artinstitutechi

Filed under: Design & Art,Local (Chicago) — Tags: , , — lidia @ 3:26 pm

Details from Lichtenstein’s paintings and my pint-sized art museum companion

One of the perks of being a mom in business is taking off a few hours to do something fun with Little One. Ever since he was a few months old, my son and I have been attending the Art Institute of Chicago’s stroller tours: a baby-sized tour of one of the Museum’s exhibits or rooms.

July and August’s stroller tours feature the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit. Since my 11-month old son is starting to point at and notice everything around him, I thought the lively modern art would appeal to him. Not to mention, Mama needed a little art break.

Recognize these haystacks? Lichtenstein’s ‘Haystacks’ based on Claude Monet’s series.

Admittedly, I never had a penchant for modern art, so I enjoyed hearing background on the evolution of Lichtenstein’s artwork and techniques. Being a graphic designer, I enjoyed seeing the hand-drawn “Ben-Day” dots and other graphic patterns.

I especially enjoyed seeing the way Lichtenstein combined expressive brush strokes with his pop art aesthetic. I liked his works that were representative of artworks I was familiar with (see inset). And I was surprised that some of his paintings were downright subdued.

As I suspected, the Lichtenstein exhibit was a hit with my little guy. His eyes darted and delighted in the bold colors, dot patterns and stripes all around him. Perhaps he enjoyed it a little too much! (yes, I was the mom with the wriggling, happily shrieking baby in the gallery around noon yesterday). Needless to say, we both left the exhibit energized and inspired!

Artsy mamas (and dads): the next Lichtenstein Stroller Tour takes place on July 23rd

July 2, 2012

Now available: Typography in the City, the book!

Filed under: Featured Design Project,Local (Chicago) — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

Click below to see a preview of the book!

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