Next Chicago speaker

Lauren M. Pacheco

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March 30, 8:30am • Schawk! • part of a series on Courage

Curiosity is many things—a trait, a mindset, and a skill. To wonder about the things you don’t know and to actively fill those gaps with knowledge is to consciously enrich your life.

We’re so excited to be exploring February’s global theme of CURIOSITY with Katherine Nagasawa, a multimedia journalist and documentary filmmaker who uses her skills to dig into, and shed light on, the stories that pique hers and others’ curiosity.

For her day job, she’s the multimedia producer for WBEZ’s Curious City, a journalism project that answers people’s questions about Chicago, the region, and its people. Outside of WBEZ, Katherine has produced several documentary film projects including Beyond the Seal, a web documentary about Fair Trade bananas and the people behind a movement to change the banana industry. Her latest short documentary, Ilse, follows an undocumented high school senior as she attempts to obtain permanent residency. 

Eager to learn more about the creative storyteller behind this work, we reached out to Katherine with a few questions ahead of Friday’s event. Check out our Q&A below and join us this Friday at Threadless! Can’t make it? Tune in to the livestream on our Facebook page.

See you soon!

How would you define this month’s theme, Curiosity, in one sentence or less?

A sense of wonder and inquisitiveness about the world that comes from being present and attuned to one’s surroundings.

What is one of the most enjoyable surprises you’ve come across while producing stories for WBEZ’s Curious City?

Investigating what other Chicagoans are curious about makes the city come alive to me in new ways. I notice more when I’m out and about, and am able to connect seemingly random details to specific parts of the city’s history, or to present-day policies. For example, the handwritten Chinese signs on lampposts in Chinatown have new meaning to me because of a recent question we answered about why it’s so hard to find apartment listings in Chinatown online. It turns out that these paper signs are one way Chinese landlords advertise apartments through exclusively Chinese networks, as opposed to English-language websites like HotPads or Domu. This helps explain why Chinatown has maintained its historical identity as an enclave for recent Chinese immigrants while other neighborhoods, like Pilsen and Koreatown, have gentrified or dissolved.

Has working on stories centered on others’ curiosity changed how you approach other work or personal projects?

Absolutely! I think it’s cemented my belief that starting with a question is one of the best ways to discover interesting stories. One of my web documentary projects, “Beyond the Seal,” follows fair trade bananas from the fields in Ecuador to grocery stores on the East Coast. The idea for it came when my film partner, Leah Varjacques, saw bananas with “Fair Trade” stickers on them while shopping at the Dill Pickle Coop in Logan Square. She wondered about where the bananas came from, and what “Fair Trade” meant in a tangible sense for all the players along the supply chain. Those initial questions jump started the project and helped focus our reporting when we were out in the field.

What three words that start with the letter “L” would you use to describe yourself?
Listener, loving, and lively.

What are the top three places you find inspiration?

In archives, out and about in the city, and in other people’s life stories.

What’s one fun fact about you that’s not in your official bio?
When I was in elementary and middle school, I wrote and edited a monthly family newspaper — my first foray into journalism!  

“Remember to do what makes you feel good. Give yourself authority.” - Abena Boamah-Acheampong

Friday morning at WeWork Kenzie was AMAZING. If you weren’t able to make it in person, you can watch video of Abena’s presentation on our Facebook page, and check out some highlights attendees shared below!

We’re so excited to kick off 2018 with Abena Boamah-Acheampong, the founder and visionary behind Hanahana Beauty, a skincare brand committed to empowering women of color. 

Check out our Q&A with Abena below– and join us this Friday at WeWork Kinzie! (Can’t make it? Don’t forget– you can livestream CreativeMornings events from our Facebook page!)

From what I understand, you began your journey to creating Hanahana Beauty by simply creating shea products and sharing them with your family and friends. When you decided to begin selling your products, what went into defining your business’ mission?

I officially launched Hanahana Beauty in March 2017, but I started selling in December 2016 right before Christmas via Instagram.

For me Hanahana’s mission to empower women of color through creating all natural products was defined before I even launched because I was making shea butter for my self and that was one of the main reason why I continued to make my  own products.

What three words that start with the letter “A” would you use to describe yourself/your personality?

alluring, accessible, adventurous

Given January’s global theme of anxiety, do you have a daily or weekly practice that you tap into for self-care?

I love to start my mornings in a routine– this usually involves a form of meditation and praying and then also dancing in the mirror for 30 minutes before starting my day. 

In one sentence, how does January’s global theme of anxiety play into your work?

I feel like every day managing school, Hanahana and administering therapy involves some level of anxiety from acknowledgment to management to just discussing it it in ways that will not cause more anxiety.    

What three words describe how you felt after starting your business?

excited, overwhelmed, eager 

What was the most surprising thing you learned after launching Hanahana Beauty?

I think the most surprising thing was truly understanding the process of making raw shea butter and realizing all the work that goes in to it.

What are the top three places you find inspiration?

In my bedroom
In Ghana
In the sun

December was a busy month! On December 6th, our amazing 2017 partner, agencyEA, hosted a special evening event in partnership with CreativeMornings/Chicago, the Obama Foundation and Shutterstock. With just a few hours and a table full of supplies, five teams of Chicago creatives were tasked with creating and presenting concepts for campaigns to inspire active citizenship. The winners, the team called #CitizensIRL, walked away with Golden Tickets to a 2018 CreativeMornings/Chicago event, and plans for a private reception in the Savage Smyth space.

Last night's #clientcitizen event, put on by our 2017 local partner @agencyea in collaboration with @obamafoundation and @shutterstock, was amazing! -- Seeing what a few small groups of creative Chicagoans can come up with in a few hours is nothing short of inspiring. Congrats to the winning Team 4, who presented their campaign for inspiring active citizenship, called #CitizensIRL. The group will receive golden tickets to 2018 @chicago_cm events, and a private reception in the very cool @savagesmyth space we've enjoyed for many events this year! -- Special shoutout to our local sponsors who help us pull these events off month after month! @lyftchicago for providing discounted rides, @honeygrow and @darkmattercoffee for always-delicious goodies and caffeine, @greensheepwater for bottled water, and @palmerprinting for the clever nametags. CreativeMornings/Chicago thanks you! 💛

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On the 16th, we held our last CreativeMornings event of 2017: Audience Takes the Stage. Three members of the CM/Chicago community took us on interesting journeys into #CMContext. Bruno Pieroni talked about the creativity that emerges from constraints (and had some fun creating a presentation entirely in haiku format). Daniel Orbach talked about what designers can learn from fighter pilots, and Marta Cuciurean-Zapan discussed “design fictions,” and how designers can approach the challenge of designing for worlds, environments or circumstances that don’t exist yet. It was a fascinating end to a great year. Thanks for joining us, creatives– we’re so excited for what 2018 holds!

Tomorrow is our last event of 2018! We’re so excited to cap off the year with Audience Takes the Stage, featuring presentations from three of our very own community members– Bruno Pieroni, Marta Cuciurean-Zapan and Daniel Orbach

December’s global theme is Context, so, in that spirit, we reached out to Bruno, Marta and Daniel to learn more about them–namely, the things we can’t learn just by reading their bios. Check out what they had to say below, and join us tomorrow at Sprout Social. We’ll bring the coffee and treats. See ya there, morning people!

List three words that begin with the letter C to describe yourself/your personality.

Bruno: Curious, centered, Carioca (google it!).

Daniel: Candid, clever, and charming. 

Marta: Curious, cheerful, and interested in culture.

In one sentence, how does context (December’s global theme) play into your work?

Marta: In anthropology and human centered design, we look to the context of people’s lives to create impactful, relevant, and desirable experiences.

Bruno: Because I work with very different clients and very different teams all year long, context is key; what is a great idea/pitch/joke to one group of people may be seem completely off-brief/off-brand/inappropriate to another group.

Daniel: In consulting, context is everything. Understanding your client and where they’re coming from informs the work you do on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, we’re able to transpose useful insights and information from one industry to another. The industries themselves are contexts. Finally, knowing the right tools to use in a given situation is also dependent on context. For example, the tools you can use to do user research depend on where you’re doing research and a variety of other factors; the tools you use to actually build out a design depend on the geographic context of your developers as well. It’s all context.

How does Chicago influence you and/or your work?

Marta: The rich history of work and design, as well as cultural and neighborhood events.

Bruno: It would be enough if the city was simply the home of some of the world’s most talented creatives, which it is. What makes this city different, however, is how often those creatives are willing to share their process, their insights, and their stories in free events like this, lectures at the city colleges that are open to the public, and workshops led by any of those crazy talented people all over town. You could literally spend a whole week hopping from an inspiring talk by an artist at the MCA one evening, to a Chicago Humanities Festival panel the next, to a Second City class the following day, to a workshop with Jay Ryan the next morning, to a CreativeMornings event that Friday.

Daniel: Being from Chicago originally (okay, okay, the north suburbs) it’s difficult to separate Chicago from the rest of me because it’s such a foundational aspect of my identity. Growing up in Chicago has definitely fostered my love for all things sports, and all things food (especially the unhealthy type). The city’s identity is also the perfect fusion of midwestern friendliness and humility crossed with big city culture and impact. People move here because they love it, and the city is really a part of who they are. It keeps me grounded and excited for the future. Additionally, living here in the winters isn’t easy, but it’s always a good reminder to never give up! There’s always a spring around the corner.

What has been your most memorable CreativeMornings experience to date?

Daniel: I loved the CreativeMornings a while back with Susan Messing & Rachael Mason. It was also my first ever CM/Chicago, but that’s almost besides the point. They did such an unreal job captivating and energizing a room full of sleepy adults, and they did it all off the top of their heads. It was unreal, and gave me a deeper appreciation for the power of presentation.

Marta: Dawn Hancock for the trajectory of building a business with purpose, Sonnenzimmer for a unique presentation, and Rashayla Marie Brown for her striking work and insight into the Art Institute community.

Bruno: I saw Kevin Lynch, creator of @yearbnb, in 2015, and was so inspired by his self-imposed project (spending a year living in different Airbnbs around Hong Kong, one week at a time) and the funniest CM talk I had heard thus far, that I started following him on Instagram right away. We started commenting on each other’s photos, and last January met up for dinner in Shanghai, where I got to follow up with his project and career and get a million recommendations for Hong Kong. It was like having my own CreativeMorning — even though it was evening (wait, it was probably morning here in Chicago! It counts!)

What are the top three places you find inspiration?

Marta: Art installations to inspire the design of experiences, environments, and emotions; novels to put myself in someone else’s mind and how the story is told; the enthusiasms of other people.

Bruno: I get a lot of ideas while walking, so… sidewalks? I’m grateful to have very talented and creative friends, who are not only far more cultured than I am but are also very generous with their time and knowledge when I try to pick their brains (my talk, for example, wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t done some good, old-fashioned brain picking). Finally, I know there’s a lot of (fair) criticism of social media and what it does to us, but I’m a big fan of all the amazing photos, drawings, and art in general I can soak in just flicking my thumb over my phone screen for ten minutes (or maybe I’m just lazy).

Daniel: This first one is a weird one, but those moments right before I fall asleep are somehow SO inspiring. I keep a notebook/phone by my bed and frequently find myself having amazing, creative ideas when I’m about to hit the hay for the night. Second is probably reading. I read a ton of non-fiction (hardly any fiction, though) and love learning about those weird niche stories and histories no one has really brought together. My talk at CM is actually inspired by a book I read! I’m currently reading one about the history of energy and how it’s influenced the evolution of society. Endlessly interesting. Finally, for visual inspiration, I actually have a curated set of RSS feeds I check every morning. I had a professor say that your visual vocabulary is like a muscle, and looking at inspirational images is how you exercise that muscle. I try to look at 50-100 images a day from different blogs/channels/feeds that I find interesting and inspiring. I’m a big fan of Nick Felton, House Industries, Gather Home & Lifestyle (local fave), and AIGA’s Eye on Design Instagram account.

What’s one fun fact about you that’s not in your official bio?

Daniel: I’ve never had a hot cup of coffee in the morning. I always thought coffee tasted disgusting, and had never actually had a coffee in it’s entirety before I tried one over the summer. I’ve had sips here and there and always hated it. Hopefully I can stave off the addiction and keep living off of my natural energies.

Marta: I took swim classes this summer so I could learn the “put your face in the water” part that seems so important. 

Bruno: I can recite virtually every line in the movie “High Fidelity.” But I try not to.

In a humorous and enlightening talk, our November (#CMDeath) speaker, Jana Kinsman (of Bike a Bee), spoke about bees, why we should care about them, and about the amazing work she is doing in our own city to help them thrive. Enjoy some highlights captured by community members below– and a timely reminder from Jana’s talk— winter is the best time to sign up for a CSA!

Next Friday, illustrator and beekeeper Jana Kinsman will be presenting on November’s global theme of Death, touching on a less focused-on angle— the declining bee population and how bees’ survival is closely intertwined with our own. 

To give you a little preview– and because we’re so excited to learn more about the awesome work she does in our city–we reached out to Jana early with a few questions. 

Check out the interview below, and join us next Friday at Savage Smyth!

What three words that start with the letter “D” would you use to describe yourself/your personality?
Determined, diligent, defiant

I understand Bike a Bee’s workspace is based out of The Plant. Has being a part of The Plant’s community changed your practice or your business in any way?

If anything it reinforces it. We all encourage each other to be more sustainable, and support one another in that direction. Everyone there is also an incredible resource in every way—help, materials, ideas, friendship

What has been a surprising part of sharing your beekeeping with schools and community spaces?
How willing and excited many places are to host a beehive full of stinging insects. I thought it would be harder, but so many of the locations will do anything to get one!

What’s the first thing you like to share with people who are unfamiliar with the practice of beekeeping?
That you’re dealing with a wild insect super-organism, that it’s nothing like a pet dog or farm chicken. That it’s a craft, and a very challenging one, and that failure is part of the experience.

How did your portrait service Doodlebooth come into being?
I was invited to sell prints of my work at a designer-centric holiday fundraiser but I didn’t have any so I asked if I could draw people at the party for $10 each. It was a hit, and as I was leaving i said to the organizer, “I’m going to turn this jnto a business! I’ll call it doodlebooth, like photobooth but with doodles!” Two weeks later I had a business plan and a domain registered.

What’s one valuable thing you’ve learned from observing bees?
Countless things. Truly. It has been lifechanging. You see the interconnectedness of the entire world.

Given this month’s theme of death, what has beekeeping taught you about the circle of life?
Exactly that. That life is a circle. The seasons are a circle. everything has a purpose and a reason in nature and life.

I read that some cultures have mythologies that describe bees as a connection between the natural world and the afterlife. Does the practice of beekeeping vary greatly around the world?
Oh yes. Apis mellifera, the species of bee we keep in the US, is originally from eurasia. Many ancient civilizations kept bees. Many were honey hunters who took honey and bee larvae from wild colonies. To humans, ancient or modern, the idea of a social insect is fascinating and warrants deep respect.Other Apis species are kept in different ways in other areas of the world, like in India or China or south america. It’s a fascinating wide world of insect stewardship! But with Apis mellifera, the basics of the craft of beekeeping have changed very little. The hives and tools have been tweaked over the decades but the basic principles remain the same.

“Create a business plan when you’re seven years old… and then never create a business plan again.” - Saya Hillman (Mac & Cheese Productions)

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us for an incredible and hilarious morning with Saya Hillman for #CMPioneer! Each month, we love seeing what you enjoyed most and took away from each talk. Check out some highlights from Friday’s event below!

Wise questions for the would-be #pioneer from @sayahillman @chicago_cm

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Next week we’ll be joined by Saya Hillman, “Head Cheese-It” of Mac & Cheese Productions℠, who, in deciding to blaze her own path towards her “Life of Yes℠” through the creation of Mac & Cheese Productions, has helped countless others embrace their own Life of Yes, and all the positivity, self-efficacy, playfulness, & community that comes with. We couldn’t wait until next week to hear from Saya, so check out our brief interview with her below, and set your reminder to register for tickets Monday morning (10/23) starting at 11am!

Details and registration here.

Define what this month’s theme, PIONEER, means to you in one sentence or less.

Either I don’t fit in any of the already existing boxes or already existing boxes lack what I want so I’m going to create my own box and invite others to join me.

List three words that begin with the letter “M” to describe yourself/your personality.


In three words, describe how you felt when you first started Mac & Cheese Productions.

Go, don’t think.…

How do you come up with M&C’s Offerings (e.g. Sleepaway Camp, Idea Potluck)?

I question:

  • what areas of my life are stressful and could be made easier/more enjoyable
  • what am I nostalgic for
  • what do I envy
  • what do I want more of
  • what am I good at that others struggle with
  • what are sources of angst or sadness for others
  • how can I tweak someone else’s XYZ that would put a Life of Yes℠ spin on it
  • what can I create with what I have (physically and skills-wise)
  • how can I make myself feel good
  • how can I make others feel good
  • how can I monetize avenues to fulfillment and personal growth in ways that make sense for who I am and what I bring to the table
  • how can I act now

What is one daily practice/habit that helps you cultivate a Life of Yes?

I work from home so I clean right before I go to bed or right when I wake up (ideally, the former so that I can hit the ground running in the AM). My mind is much more likely to be inspired, relaxed, and motivated when my environment is serene, decluttered, and inviting. I also take cleaning breaks throughout the day, when I still want to be productive but need to get up from the computer and move my body. Some of my best ideas come when I’m scrubbing toilets. (Also why I now have a “housecleaner” branch on the Mac & Cheese tree – get paid to do something I love, am good at, and you hate? OK!).

What’s your favorite thing about being your own boss?

Autonomy – 10AM Tuesday yoga or Trader Joe’s, afternoon naps, wake up slowly via the sun not the alarm, no pants most days, take random days off and spontaneous trips, make decisions without having to run them by anyone, choose when I want to be “on” and interact with others and when I need Saya-Time, adding and subtracting branches to the Mac & Cheese tree when I want, no time-wasters (meetings, protocol, conference calls, office small talk, red tape, inefficient systems).

What is one piece of advice you’d share with someone who wants to blaze a new path for themselves, whether starting a business, going to school, accepting an exciting new role, or making another big life decision?

The Perfect Time Unicorn, and his cousins More Time and Better Time, don’t exist. Stop waiting for the perfect time, more time, or a better time to take that trip, quit your job, move to another city, ask that cute barista out. You will never win that game. All your ducks will never line up. Your future self will not have more time than your current self. There will always be an excuse not to jump. Just jump. Nike the bejeezus out of life and just do it. Whatever it is. You can always change course, you can always come back.

Last Friday at Savage Smyth, Rule29 founder and Creative Director Justin Ahrens joined us to talk Compassion. Justin shared the story of how “a few knucklehead friends with an idea” grew into Wheels4Water, and how Wheels4Water has evolved and come to raise more than $430,000 and help more than 10,750 people receive safe water, sanitation & hygiene training.

Check out some highlights attendees shared below, and stay tuned for news of this month’s speaker!