“Big-shot town, small-shot town, jet-propelled old-fashioned town, by old-world hands with new-world tools built.”
It’s a summary of Chicago that was just as relevant when essayist Nelson Algren wrote it in 1951 as it is today. Chicago is unquestionably enjoying a new era of innovative tech, inventive food, contagious culture and bold business growth, but the world expects nothing less from a city of such constant reinvention and knuckle-cracking endurance.
As part of Adweek’s special article series on the region, City Spotlight: Chicago, our editors selected 20 Rising Brand Stars who represent a fascinating cross section of the industries and initiatives shaping the city in 2017. Get to know them below:
Michelle St. Jacques, VP of Brand Building for U.S. Sauces, Meals and Desserts, Kraft Heinz
Michelle St. Jacques is shaking up the ketchup business. As vp of brand building for U.S. sauces, meals and desserts at Kraft Heinz, she’s helped drive Heinz, an almost 150-year-old brand, to double-digit growth since 2014.
She’s done it by helping craft campaigns that have gotten people talking, like Heinz’s “Weiner Stampede” Super Bowl spot from 2016, which introduced Heinz’s line of condiments with wiener dogs in hot dog costumes running toward a family in mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce and sriracha costumes.
For 2017, the brand created “Smunday,” a petition to make the day after the Super Bowl a national holiday. And earlier this year, it brilliantly revived Don Draper’s “Pass the Heinz” pitch from Mad Men as a real-life ad in Times Square.
Most recently, St. Jacques worked on Kraft Mac & Cheese’s tongue-in-cheek “Swear Like a Mother” campaign for Mother’s Day, celebrating moms everywhere who swear in front of their kids.
“I’m inspired by brands that have found a way to be part of culture,” St. Jacques says. “Anyone can buy eyeballs, but creating campaigns that people talk about is a more powerful way to build your brand. It’s the new way to think about ROI.”
Nina Barton, svp of marketing, innovation, and research and development for the U.S. business at Kraft Heinz, praised St. Jacques for being a risk-taker.
“She’s willing to push the envelope,” Barton says. “She drives that energy to want to continue to grow her brands, and it’s evident in every interaction you have with her.” —Christine Birkner
Denise Lauer, Director of Communications and Corporate Brand Strategy, Morton Salt
Denise Lauer leads a team that’s responsible for Morton Salt's brand strategy, digital and social media, public relations, employee engagement and social responsibility. Lauer joined Morton Salt in 2011 and has since been working to reignite the brand, most recently as senior director of communications and corporate brand strategy.
“The Morton name is synonymous with salt,” Lauer says. “My job is to bring greater meaning and cultural relevance to this century-old brand. It’s an incredible privilege—and a great responsibility—to take an iconic brand and reimagine it for the future."
She added: “At Morton, we don’t have the traditional structures or rigid ways of working that you might find at a company with so much history. We tend to operate with a more entrepreneurial spirit, much like a startup. So we’ve had more flexibility to leapfrog into bold creative territories for our brand. The challenge is to stay true to our brand as we continue this journey to reignite Morton.”
Toward that end, Lauer and her team led the launch of "Walk Her Walk," a new platform that conveys the brand's aim to make a positive impact. It debuted in 2016 with an OK Go music video and also included a Morton Salt Girl-inspired Snapchat lens, influencer partnerships, out-of-home advertising and numerous digital and social activations.
Morton CEO Christian Herrmann called Lauer “the driving force behind Morton’s brand transformation.”
“She has set a clear, ambitious vision for the brand that has challenged us to think big and bold and beyond salt,” he says. “By pushing us outside of our comfort zone, we are now aligned and determined to unlock the full potential of the Morton brand. And we’re just getting started.”
A native of Cleveland, Lauer, who held global communication roles at Quaker Foods and Snacks, FedEx, and Eaton Corporation prior to joining Morton, now calls Chicago home and enjoys its vibrant arts, culture and food scene.
“Chicago is a powerhouse for arts, culture and brands, making it an attractive hub for some of the biggest names in the CPG space,” she says. “It’s also a food lover’s paradise. I can’t think of a better home for Morton Salt—or me for that matter.”
John Starkey, VP of Marketing, Americas Region, Wrigley
John Starkey has been trying to revamp the way the company goes to market. Recently that’s taken shape in the company’s Extra brand, shifting its messaging from being “functional and functionally related" to "laddering up to do more emotional storytelling,” Starkey says.
And it seems to be working. The company just won six Effie awards for Extra's “The Story of Sarah and Juan” from Energy BBDO, and Extra was named the second most effective brand in the marketplace.
Starkey, who has been at Wrigley for seven years, previously spent 15 years at General Mills.
“John represents a great partner in business and with our agency partners,” says Orla Mitchell, global vice president and chief marketing officer at Wrigley. “He shares my own values and beliefs that great work comes from a partnership based on trust, openness and patience. In our Extra journey, we took the time between agency and client to craft the idea and execution to become the best it could be, and John's passion and pride in the team and the work has been there the whole way."
Paul Matson, Director of Engagement and Customer Experience, McDonald’s
As director of engagement and customer experience at the world’s best-known fast-food chain, Paul Matson’s daily responsibilities go well beyond responding to Facebook comments and liking complimentary tweets.
“If you want to talk to McDonald’s,” he says, “our team’s responsibility is to steward your ability to do that, meet you wherever you are and deliver that experience.”
Matson's dual marketing and customer service responsibilities include everything from reviewing phone bank policies to overseeing data analytics and, yes, interactions with tens of millions of fans across social media channels.
“We have a small army of people that allows us to engage on any material scale,” Matson says. “It represents our ability to be a global brand but still be human on a very individual basis.”
Matson, who was global head of content and social at Groupon before moving to the golden arches in 2015, says direct feedback from McDonald’s customers is more important than any focus group or social media study.
The fact that Matson previously worked at both Weber Shandwick and DigitasLBi in Chicago only left him better prepared for this client-side move, which he describes as “the biggest jump into the deep end.”
“I will always have an endless amount of respect for the agency world,” he says.
Matson also has a native’s fondness for the Windy City, saying, “In its deepest roots, Chicago still has a blue-collar feel” far removed from that of Manhattan or Silicon Valley. Matson calls the recent launch of Omnicom’s dedicated McDonald’s agency, We Are Unlimited, “a major event,” predicting that the unusual business model behind the partnership may have an outsize effect on future agency-client relationships.
“[We are] one of the most well-resourced brands on the planet,” he says of his current employer. “You pay attention to McDonald’s even if you don’t mean to.”
Elena Parlatore, Director of Nutrition Ecommerce, PepsiCo
Elena Parlatore is just one month into her new role at longtime employer PepsiCo, where she's now the head of ecommerce for brands such as Tropicana, Quaker and Naked brands.
Previously the head of digital for Quaker, Parlatore was responsible for all of Quaker’s social channels as well as the brand's website and paid media. In that role, she earned a reputation for innovating without straying from the brand.
“Elena’s thoughtful planning, keen eye for innovative platforms and ability to quickly convert strategy into on-brand online executions illuminates her exceptional savvy in the digital space," says Lisa Mann, svp of PepsiCo Global Nutrition Group.
Parlatore described her time on the storied oat brand as “a transformation at Quaker around digital and social,” with an emphasis on better connecting with consumers and transforming the way the brand goes to market in the modern world.
With activations like its robot chef at last year’s South by Southwest conference, as well as its social campaign for the old-fashioned technique of overnight oats, Parlatore helped keep a classic brand on the cutting edge, and now she has even more brands to take to the next level.
Stephanie Izard, Top Chef and Iron Chef Winner
America first got to know Stephanie Izard in 2008, when she was crowned the first female winner of Bravo’s Top Chef. Since then, Izard has opened two restaurants in her hometown of Chicago: the James Beard Award-winning Girl & the Goat and the Little Goat Diner. Izard says returning to the Windy City was an easy choice for her.
“Chicago has an ever-growing market of people who are excited to try and support new brands,” she says.
When she's not on TV, Izard’s days are now filled with the duties that come with heading up two locations.
“I hop around between the restaurants for a combination of recipe development, managing, tastings, marketing meetings for This Little Goat—our cooking sauce and spice line—and other projects,” she says.
Izard is quick to point out that it takes a village. “I've surrounded myself with people who are smarter than me, so it makes everything I'm working on a little bit easier,” she says.
Izard’s business partner, Kevin Boehm, described her as a “a force of nature" whose "talents are not just limited to cooking.”
“She’s creative, smart and has a seemingly unlimited amount of energy,” Boehm says.
He’s not kidding about the energy. Amid all of this, Izard somehow also found time to compete in Food Network's Iron Chef Gauntlet, which he won just a few weeks ago. But she’s strategic about her TV appearances and uses her time in the spotlight wisely.
“It's opening up new windows of opportunity and helping our brand reach a new audience," she says. "I’m excited to see what happens next!”
Anjali Sant, Head of Digital Marketing, Hyatt Hotels Corp.
As head of digital marketing at Hyatt Hotels Corp., Anjali Sant and her teams set the company’s strategy for digital marketing and email marketing, along with developing and executing integrated digital plans across all of Hyatt's brands. Sant is also responsible for driving profitable growth for Hyatt.com.
Ellen Lee, svp of global digital for Hyatt, credits Sant with transforming the hotel brand’s approach to digital marketing and building a strong, dedicated team.
“Under her leadership, her team has been able to diversify our channels and tactics to support customer acquisition and engagement as well as optimize the balance between brand and performance while managing risk,” Lee says of Sant.
Sant described the people she works with in Chicago as having "a startup mentality.”
“They are willing to roll up their sleeves, get to work and find solutions—all with a can-do attitude that I think is so characteristic of Midwesterners,” she says. “I’ve also found that many companies are starting to move their offices to downtown Chicago—it’s a gold mine full of young, motivated and fresh talent who are eager to learn about all things related to technology and digital. I’m very excited to be a part of the growing digital space in Chicago that I think will lead the way for years to come.”
Jacob Sembrano, Head Brewer, Cruz Blanca
Chicago’s craft beer scene is booming, and the excitement in the industry is embodied by Jacob Sembrano, head brewer at West Loop brewery and taquería Cruz Blanca. Part of the larger Frontera group owned by chef Rick Bayless, Cruz Blanca brews beers inspired by those made in Mexico City during the 1860s.
Sembrano got his start working as a brewer at Chicago’s Goose Island, where he honed his craft by incorporating experimental ingredients, new barrel-aging techniques and implementing alternative fermentation methods.
“We want to brew beer that pays homage to the cultural diversity that was happening in Mexico City in the 1860s—the German, Austrian, French influence—blended with Mexican culture,” Sembrano says. “We bring in these European styles and try to include as many Mexican or local ingredients as we can.”
Originally from Texas, Sembrano has made Chicago his home, and it comes with the perk of being able to get seasonally available ingredients.
“The possibilities are pretty endless—peaches and apricots and raspberries and blackberries, all of these wonderful fruits and herbs,” Sembrano says. “I’m hugely influenced by the other brewers in Chicago, and I can’t help but to think that you become a part of what’s happening in your area—from your ingredients to how you interact with your peers.”
Alison Miller, VP of Marketing, Chicago Cubs
Five years ago, the Chicago Cubs embarked on a dramatic rebuilding process, going from 101 losses in 2012 to 103 wins and a World Series title in 2016. The club also executed a winning brand strategy under the guidance of Alison Miller, the team's vice president of marketing.
"She’s been the central nervous system on how we take our brand to market," says Crane Kenney, president of business operations with the Cubs.
Kenney says Miller has been responsible for unifying the Cubs' branding, everything from determining which shade of blue is actually Cubbies Blue—at one point, the Cubs were using at least a dozen different shades—to selecting the team's font to making corporate partnerships seamlessly blend into Wrigley Field's brand. Miller also developed the team's message to fans, which began in 2012 as something every Midwest parent would approve of.
"Internally, we called it 'the honesty policy,'" Miller says. "It was a little bit of an aggressive strategy, but for the first time, we were going to be very candid with our fans and say, 'This isn’t the year we’re going to win, but here's our plan.'"
With years of rebuilding ahead, Miller decided to celebrate the fans and the ballpark, which culminated in 2014 with a yearlong celebration of Wrigley Field's 100th anniversary. Miller organized a tribute to each decade with throwback uniforms, custom bobbleheads and more as the Cubs honored the 1910s during the team's first homestand, the 1920s during its second homestand and so on.
When the Cubs' plan on the field came to fruition in 2015, Miller helped cultivate Chicago's nationally recognized #FlyTheW campaign, which unified the city. She capitalized on the Cubs' tradition to fly a "W" flag above the centerfield scoreboard after each win.
During the past two postseasons, #FlyTheW became an October rallying cry and point of pride as the team handed out flags at games and even towels to airline passengers flying into Chicago. Eventually, Chicagoans draped the entire city in "W" flags, covering everything from their front porches to museums and office buildings with them.
Jamie Wideman, VP of Marketing, Terlato Wines
As the vp of marketing for Terlato Wines, a family-run company based in Lake Bluff, Ill., Jamie Wideman is tasked daily with the challenge of introducing her customers to the world of fine wines.
Wideman's work with the Seven Daughters brand, which recently won a gold Wommy, highlights her focus on making wine as friendly and uncomplicated as possible for today’s on-the-go consumer. Wideman knows the importance of making sure her brand’s vision fits in with today’s technology.
“Postmates, Instacart and other delivery services are changing how consumers encounter our brands,” Wideman says. “People are discovering new varietals, regions and formats every day.”
Her hometown of Chicago's status as one of the country’s top dining destinations also offers much in the way of inspiration.
“Chicago has always been an incredible food city—I think the world is beginning to recognize that,” Wideman says.
She highlights another reason for the city’s appeal: “The energy in this city is magnetic, especially in summer. I think brands want to tap into that energy.”
Jeff Jarrett, VP, Global Head of Ecommerce, Mondelez
If Jeff Jarrett has anything to do with it, you’ll be buying all of your snacks online in the coming years.
In his role as director of ecommerce for Mondelez, Jarrett is responsible for pushing the snack giant into the 21st century and making its most popular brands, like Oreo and belVita, as easy to buy as clicking a button. Considering that 90 percent of retail sales are still made in brick-and-mortar stores, why is a consumer-packaged-goods brand so bullish about online shopping? Jarrett is armed with stats to back up his team’s digital work.
“We intend to be the snacking leader online as we are offline,” he says. “We’re building an industry-leading ecommerce snacks business, targeting at least $1 billion in revenue by 2020, and we’re making great progress. In 2016, our ecommerce net revenues grew more than 35 percent.”
Since joining the Deerfield, Ill.-based company last fall from Kimberly-Clark, Jarrett spearheaded the brand’s partnership with ecommerce juggernaut Amazon and is exploring different business models like subscriptions and personalization to keep Mondelez ahead of its competitors. To do so, Jarrett is staffing up internally. In the past two years, Mondelez has hired 100 execs who specialize in data analytics, shopper insights, content, search and supply content.
“I love the fast-paced, dynamic environment of ecommerce and the data-driven insights you get from the business,” Jarrett says. “It’s an amazing brand-building and sales-growth platform, and it provides brands with unique opportunities for testing, learning and driving innovation.” —Lauren Johnson
Katie Rahn, Director of Marketing, The Art Institute of Chicago
Art museums aren't usually known for making noise, but the Art Institute of Chicago was the talk of the marketing world in 2016 thanks to its brilliant Van Gogh BnB stunt with agencies Leo Burnett and Starcom Mediavest.
Katie Rahn, at the time the museum's associate marketing director, worked closely with the agencies as a key architect of the idea, which created a real-life version of Vincent van Gogh's "Bedroom in Arles" and then rented out the room via Airbnb. The campaign has since won dozens of advertising awards worldwide, which may not mean much to the museum world, but Rahn admits "other museums have been really excited for us. It's like, 'How did you do this?'"
Rahn has since been promoted to director of marketing and says she's excited to continue introducing the museum to new audiences, whether from around the world or around the corner.
"I believe so deeply in the power of art to connect us to the past and offer different ways of thinking about the world, so it’s a privilege to work for a museum so rooted in history but always looking toward the future," she says. "The challenge is reminding Chicagoans how lucky we are—one of the best museums in the world is right in our backyard.
Cameka Smith, Founder, The BOSS Network
Using her background as a marketing influencer in Chicago, Cameka Smith hosted a series of events eight years ago that she dubbed BOSS: Bringing Out Successful Sisters.
As a victim of the recession—she previously worked in education—Smith wanted to become an entrepreneur but lacked the necessary resources that would allow her to pursue that goal. By hosting the events, which 150 to 200 people would attend, she connected with forward-thinking women of color looking to build their own brands and businesses. Soon, she had women asking how they could join the organization.
BOSS took off once it transitioned from an event series to a network and now boasts 75,000 subscribers and 2,500 paid members while still hosting 10 to 15 events per year.
Smith described an early success story that helped The BOSS Network take off. Seeking candidates for an elevator-pitch competition, Black Enterprise looked to Smith for suggestions. She nominated Shay Atkins, who built a business called Creative Turkey Cuisine to help African-American women eat healthier.
"After she made the top 10, we flew to Atlanta to throw a celebration after the competition not knowing if she won, but she absolutely did," Smith says. "The judges came to the event and asked, 'How did you know she was going to win?' I said, 'I believe in my brand and the women in my organization."
Smith sees the future of The BOSS Network not just as an entrepreneurs network, but as a major media brand.
"We want to be all things media for woman of color in business," she says. "If brands want to reach these consumers, they will have access to do advertising or marketing with us. If entrepreneurs want to grow their business or learn how to move the corporate ladder or know who's moving and shaking as multicultural women in business, they'll come to us. We're building a new media digital platform for professional women of color." —J.F.
Nick Scarpino, VP of Marketing and PR, Portillo’s
Nick Scarpino’s ties with Portillo’s run deep. At 17, he worked as a cashier at the Windy City restaurant chain that’s famous for its Italian beef sandwiches and Chicago-style hot dogs.
After embarking on a marketing career that included four years at Google, Scarpino was drawn back to Portillo’s again. When founder Dick Portillo sold the company to a private equity firm in 2014, he reached out to the new owners and was hired as marketing employee No. 1.
“I came aboard with the charge of: We’re going to expand in Chicagoland and expand to new markets,” Scarpino says. “Portillo’s had never had marketing before, so we had to figure out what that would look like.”
He figured it out. From 2014 to 2017, the number of restaurants grew 40 percent to a total of 48 in Chicago, California, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“We have extremely small budgets and rely heavily on word of mouth, PR and social media,” Scarpino says. “Sales have grown by delivering amazing food and a great experience.”
One such social campaign was born thanks to a serendipitous NHL playoff series. When Portillo’s announced plans to open in Tampa, Fla., in 2015, the Chicago Blackhawks had just defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Stanley Cup. Portillo’s seized the moment, taking out a one-page ad in the Tampa Bay Times saying, “Cheer Up, Tampa. There’s good news from Chicago today.”
The next day, 15,000 people in the Tampa Bay area signed up to the company’s email list.
“They became our brand ambassadors overnight,” Scarpino says. “Sometimes, there’s a gift from the marketing gods in the form of a Stanley Cup playoff.”
Carrie Sloan, Director of Marketing and Events, Land and Sea Dept.
From dreaming up a tropical tiki bar in Chicago to pulling off a secret Beach House show, Land and Sea Dept. is always producing something.
For Carrie Sloan, a Chicago native who works as the company's director of marketing and events, that means working at the intersection of restaurants, art and culture. Land and Sea Dept., a concept and project development studio, manages some of Chicago’s most inventive restaurants and bars, including those at the Chicago Athletic Association, including Milk Room and Cherry Circle Room, as well as hot spots elsewhere in the city such as Longman & Eagle and Parson's Chicken & Fish.
Land and Sea, whose partners’ backgrounds include construction, design, music and woodworking, creates experiences that go beyond food. Recently, it created a pop-up bar in collaboration with the Field Museum’s ongoing “Specimen” exhibit, bringing items never before seen outside the museum to an interactive space in the Chicago Athletic Association.
Sloan, who worked at a New York agency before returning home, says Chicago’s creative community is one with a spirit of collaboration. “This is the kind of city where if you want to start a concert series or a bar, you can do it,” she says. “We have the resources and creative minds here to get things done.”
This spring, Land and Sea partnered with the Garfield Park “Not A Hoax” Earth Day event to benefit the Natural Resources Defense Council. This summer, it will collaborate with Pitchfork Music Festival, providing food and drinks for a new Pitchfork Plus experience.
“One of the coolest parts of my job is getting to collaborate with all of these amazing local and national partners," Sloan says. "Growing up in Chicago and now getting to partner with our museums, artists and musicians is a dream come true.”
Brian Bannon, Commissioner and CEO, Chicago Public Library
Brian Bannon believes the future of libraries can be found in quite a ways back in the past: in an idea from Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin, who opened the first public library system, thought a library should be a public meeting space, a place of experimentation, discourse and ideas. And, of course, books.
Fast forward to 2017 and Bannon, commissioner and CEO of the Chicago Public Library, has embraced Franklin's idea as he’s led the reimagining of one of the largest library systems in the world.
Bannon joined the library system in 2012 having worked at San Francisco's and Seattle's public libraries as well as the Gates Foundation. It was the Gates Foundation that funded the Chicago Public Library's work with Ideo Chicago for a total rethinking of the library’s organizational culture and design. The result: the Design Thinking Toolkit for Libraries, which puts design at the heart of library culture. For instance, instead of a traditional teen reading program, the system offers digital media centers where kids can learn how to code and learn from musicians and artists.
Bannon brought a private-sector philosophy, and the 80 libraries in Chicago’s system now listen to patrons and quickly adapt to their changing needs.
“One thing nearly every neighborhood has is the physical space of a library, which provides huge potential for use,” Bannon says. He noted that some underserved Chicago children will never get a chance to experience the city’s vast cultural resources, but the library can bring it to them.
“We have a city that has children that will never see the lake or go downtown, but they do have a library," he says. "If we can bring all the riches Chicago has to offer, whether it be a science museum or a recording studio, we can change lives.”
The results point to success. Family programming attendance is up by 80 percent, library use is up and private partnerships have grown to more than $100 million in five years.
This month, a new 25,000-square-foot children’s center opens in Chicago’s flagship Harold Washington Library. Bannon and his team are leading workshops around the world, making the Design Thinking Toolkit for Libraries available internationally (most recently the materials were translated into Chinese).
“As we transformed this 140-year-old institution of libraries, we realized that we could bring what we learned to the world," Bannon says. "Libraries are experiencing a renaissance.”
Sanjiv Gajiwala, VP of Marketing, Mike’s Hard Lemonade
Previously working in the beverage industry, reviving brands like Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Style and Lone Star, Sanjiv Gajiwala has spent the past five years as the vp of marketing for Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
Managing the entire line of Mike’s products has allowed Gajiwala to showcase his versatility, which is essential when bringing innovative products to the marketplace.
“We’re working on a new product, White Claw Hard Seltzer, which is really targeted at a better-for-you consumer—it’s a totally new type of product,” Gajiwala says. “Getting it off the ground and introducing consumers to something they didn’t know about and will be really into is a great challenge.”
Colleagues say Gajiwala has been instrumental in helping the company keep up with today’s technology.
“Sanjiv has really done a lot of shifting the thinking of the way the beer industry reaches our target consumer,” says Diane Sayler, director of brand experience. “He really has been a leader in shaping the way the company thought about digital and its use, and as a result, we were one of the first major suppliers of any of our distributors who adopted a digital-first mentality towards what we do in marketing.”
Maurice Smith, President, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois
In 2015, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois elevated Maurice Smith to the role of president after 20 years in the industry working in corporate finance, treasury, business development and subsidiary management.
At the time, Colleen Reitan, executive vice president and president of plan operations at HCSC, said Smith's "track record of leading multi-stakeholder teams, along with his strong connection to the Illinois business and civic community will help position BCBSIL for continued success in this fast-changing health care environment."
Smith's responsibilities now include the management for sales and account management, provider network contracting, medical management, government relations and public affairs.
Smith was recently named a Chicago Made Man, which honors African-American male influencers who have worked to make their communities a better place.
Rachel Dickens, Director of Marketing and PR, One Off Hospitality Group
Rachel Dickens sees many parallels between running a restaurant and producing a film or TV show. On the operational side, there are the partners, who have years and years of experience running restaurants—like the producers and directors. Then there are the chefs, the creatives and stars. And then there are all of the other players who come together to create what she calls “a living, breathing production.”
Her role? To help all the players in the massive One Off Hospitality group execute the show in their 11 restaurants, which boast an impressive seven James Beard Awards among them. This includes fielding a steady stream of media requests, ranging from legacy publishers to YouTube influencers.
“Part of my role is figuring out ways to broaden relationships with our media visitors,” Dickens says of her role, which also involves helping the restaurant’s “stars," the chefs and makers, tell their stories in new ways.
That involves everything from working with Instagram influencers to sharing the stories behind certain dishes to spending time with chefs to encouraging them to be public-facing.
Case in point: Last year, Publican House baker Greg Wade was featured in the Netflix farming documentary Sustainable. This fall, Publican’s chef Paul Kahan publishes his first cookbook.
Next, Dickens is telling the story of Underscore Hospitality, a new venture by Kahan proteges Erling Wu-Bower and Cosmo Goss as well as Joshua Tilden, One Off’s strategic operations director. This group, which will be incubated within One Off, is preparing to launch a California-inspired restaurant in the Windy City called Pacific Standard Time. This summer, the group is kicking off New York’s Seaport Foodlab.
Dickens says it’s a unique setup in the food industry and an exciting challenge.
“I stand as a keeper of our stories and our brands,” Dickens says. “My role is to listen and understand perspectives from all our partners, all our chefs and all our restaurants and to make sure that One Off and all our individual brands maintain their integrity and spirit.”
Lakshmi Shenoy, VP of Strategy and Business Development, 1871
As vp of strategy and business development for Chicago's large coworking and incubator space 1871, Lakshmi Shenoy works on growth initiatives for the tech hub by connecting startups with more established businesses and organizations.
Prior to joining 1871, she worked at Chicago agency Prophet Brand Strategy and also at Time Inc., Procter & Gamble and Leo Burnett.
Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, credits Shenoy with playing a major part in the organization’s rapid growth—it now totals 500 companies—explaining that she "helped us run our strategy planning sessions and build and expand our members' connections with major Chicago-based as well as national and international corporations through the design and development of our innovation days programs."
"What's more is that we work hard to blend Chicago's diverse set of talents," Shenoy says. "It's not unusual at 1871 to bring together creative talent from agency giants or CPG brands, technical talent from our Midwest engineering schools and analytical talent from startups. I find it difficult to not get excited about what the Chicago community is building."