This week I attended a very interesting and inspiring open house and networking event at Life Creative on Chicago’s near west side. I really had no idea what I had agreed to attend so I was very impressed when I came into the main area which is probably about 20,000 square feet of open space, with a number of interesting gathering environments.  The space is billed as a 70,000 square foot creative campus. Besides being a flexible event space it is a resource center for event planners and creative producers such as photographers and videographers who need access to props, furnishings, backgrounds and other decorative assets via a monthly membership plan. I was delighted to bump into my old friend Bob Shaffer who is the onsite floral designer. I knew Bob when he owned his own floral shop on Armitage Avenue and his kids studied piano with my wife Julie.  Several months ago I ran into him at the new nature center near Western and Peterson. He told me then about this cool creative space where he was working but I had no idea how cool it was until this visit.

If I understand it correctly this particular event was a collaborative venture between Life Creative and Thinkubator. There is a relationship between the two which I do not fully understand at this time but suffice it to say that there is a meaningful synthesis which I hope to learn more about. I am not sure where I learned about the event but I registered online via Eventbrite and was surprised to get a quick follow up welcome email from the Thinkubator host Gerald Haman. Gerald was mention several times over the evening by multiple people as a kind of genius and someone worth knowing. So I’m looking forward to it. We did speak briefly and he was very informative and personable.

After grabbing a glass of wine from the open bar I immediately spotted JD Gershbein, who I have met superficially face-to-face a few times over the years, but have come to “know” much better via LinkedIn where we both gather on a daily basis.  JD is a “Thought Leadership Coach” and LinkedIn guru providing profile writing and other LinkedIn related services.  If anyone wants to know anything about LinkedIn and how to get value from it, JD is the go-to-guy. He was accompanied by his branding designer Debra Kocis of envisionimpact.com who’s work speaks for itself because JD happens to be one of the best branded business people I know – -so if Debra has anything to do with his success I would not hesitate to recommend her.  JD’s brand is largely focused on his distinctive personal persona which includes a shaved head, big smile, distinctive round glasses and crisp shirt and tie.  The glasses are obviously a play on his company name “Owlish Communications.”  J.D. reinforces his brand through artfully done social media memes that share pertinent business information arranged around his face, which is his brand image.  I had a great time hanging out with these two. No surprise to encounter them at an event emphasizing creativity.

I had a brief chat with the CFO of Life Creative who after learning that I produce video, quickly walked me over and introduced me to Laura Kelly, Executive Producer for RevDigital who is apparently the video arm of the Life Creative/Thinkubator alliance. I was intrigued to learn more about their presence on Comcast Channel 392. I understand from Laura that it is a regional channel covering Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin (I believe) on which they are promoting paid placement. In other words you can buy air time. They will be broadcasting coverage of this event on March 1st at 8PM. I will set my DVR for sure.

The inspiration for attending this event was partially part of my quest to increase my sphere of influence and expand my network by meeting more people. I am 25 days into a challenge to meet 100 new people in 100 Days. I am joined by 18 other people who have signed on to share the journey with me, one of whom, John Jones, small business accounting expert was also in attendance.  I also had a chance to visit with  Andrea Nierhoff, anti-aging specialist and hair designer who I know from my buddy Bernie Small’s Logan Square networking group. Andrea introduced me to retired CPD officer Craig Roberts who was on hand to investigate details related to a police/firefighter fundraiser he is involved in putting together.

The passed hors d’oeuvres were delicious and while hanging around one of the food locations I had a nice conversation with “creative thinkologist” (my term not his) James Feldman. His business card/brochure explains “What 3D Thinking Can Do for Your Brain.”  I have to say that just a few minutes with him got me thinking, so I would say he’s on to something.  I also enjoyed speaking with fellow marketeer John Benandi and look forward to continuing our discussion sometime soon at the Nil Tap on west Foster Avenue.

I ended up the evening much where I began, interacting with Debra and JD joined by Bohdan Gernaga of tymedesign who apparently does beautiful interiors and architectural design as evidenced by the few smartphone photos he shared with us.

Maybe it was the two glasses of excellent red wine and excellent tuna sushi, but I had a really good experience and was really inspired by the space and the people I got to spend time with. It takes a bit of doing for each of us to step out of our comfort zone, show up someplace and just start talking with random people. But when I was a kid, some “dime stores” would sell a paper bag with unknown contents for a dime or quarter. You had no idea what you might get, but every now and then it was a small treasure. That’s what makes it fun.

Who I met at Life Creative / Thinkubator Chicago Event February 2017
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