Nawbo Chicago

NAWBO Member Directory

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October 2012

President's Message - October 2012

By Charisse Witherspoon
President, NAWBO Chicago
President/CEO, Witherspoon Marketing Group, Inc.

If you were fortunate enough to be among those who attended our sold out October 1 event, NAWBO Day 2012: Business Building Boot Camp, you should be really busy now, as well. You should have left our business development-themed conference effectively introduced to, or reminded of, the value of: 


  • Developing conversation starters and other networking strategies
  • Replacing your wish for a clone with a plan for re-prioritization and balance
  • Investing time in online marketing, strategically and consistently
  • Considering inspiring stories from others who walked a path like  yours
  • Learning more about cloud computing options and benefits
  • Starting or joining a team to win  elusive contracts
  • Managing your business, your finances,  and your estate, proactively
  • Attending NAWBO Chicago events
You know the real value in the information is using it, not simply hearing it. And you know that attending NAWBO Chicago events are opportunities to tailor meaningful and long-lasting experiences. We’d love to hear of your results from this one.

Networking Breakfast (October 9th)

Join NAWBO Chicago for a Networking Breakfast at Wintrust Financial. Mix, mingle and meet some of the area's leading business women.

Learn important tips from our expert panel. The breakfast will also allow guests to ask questions, so come prepared.

Anna Maria Viti-Welch, The Viti Companies

Anna Maria Viti-Welch is President of the Guy Viti Insurance Agency. The agency specializes in commercial lines, personal lines and health insurance. Extensive experience has enabled her to specialize in tailoring insurance plans for the restaurant and nightclub industry with special attention to the three stages of building a restaurant; from lease, to remodel, to opening the doors.

Anna Maria’s experience in the restaurant industry is in part because of her family involvement in numerous restaurants in the Highwood area over the past several years. She recently started a North Shore Restaurant Roundtable Group which meets quarterly to share marketing ideas, business concerns and planning ideas for the local restaurants owners. She also
continues to speak regularly at the Women’s Business Development Center in Chicago in an effort to assist others in protecting and developing their businesses.

Anna Maria is a recognized community and business leader with integrity. She not only is an expert in the insurance field but also enjoys being involved in the development of new business networking ideas and recruiting new business resources for her clients in the restaurant industry. Her impact on community may prove to be her greatest achievement. Her talents and entrepreneurial business acumen complement her high energy. Highlights of her professional career and community involvement are noted on her LinkedIn page.

Michele Kurlander, Kurlander & Associates LLC

Ms. Kurlander has been advising business owners on legal matters for more than 40 years (business issues - including formation, operation, acquisition and disposition of businesses, contracting, real property matters - including leasing, purchase, sale and development, and WBE certification) and also works with business owners on estate planning issues.  She is also an advocate and expert on  small business issues. She is a past President of the Chicago Area Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) –  on the Board of that organization in various capacities from 1989-2001 and is currently back on the Board as parliamentarian; was an elected delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Small Business, a participant in the 1993 Illinois Women's Economic Development Summit and the City of Chicago task force that legalized home based businesses in the City's zoning ordinance, as well as a member of the Women in Entrepreneurship Working Group of the Governors Commission on the Status of Women.  She won the SBA's 1999 Womens Advocate of the Year award for Illinois and the Region. She was a member of the Executive Committee of WE-WIL (Women Empowering Women in Illinois), and was NAWBO Chicago's local government matters liaison. She was graduated from the University of Michigan and from Northwestern Law School, and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother of six, a past Board member of the Chicago Abused Womens Coalition,  and also a freelance writer of travel articles (mostly about France) and a writer of short fiction.

Audrey Lavin, Silver Learner Schwartz & Fertel Certified Public Accountants

Audrey is a CPA at Silver Lerner Schwartz & Fertel, a Skokie based firm offering a full range of accounting and tax services.  She specializes in tax planning and compliance for individuals and closely held business, serving many industries, specifically Professional Services and Real Estate.  Previously, she was a Senior Manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers where she was a subject matter expert in the development of individual tax and financial planning tools. For over 20 years, she has worked with individuals and businesses providing comprehensive tax, accounting and financial planning services. She has advised clients in all areas of their financial life, including entity formation, tax compliance and planning, retirement, estate and education planning. An experienced speaker and trainer, Audrey has presented tax and retirement planning workshops to employees at Fortune 500 Companies. She has developed training materials and presented seminars to investment advisors at national brokerage houses, CPA’s and loan underwriters. Audrey received a BBA from the University of Michigan and a Masters of Taxation from DePaul University. She is a member of the Illinois CPA Society and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Tuesday, October 9
8:00 am - 10:00am
Wintrust Financial Center
9700 West Higgins Road, 2nd Floor Conference Room
Rosemont, IL
(Free and ample parking in adjacent lot)

NAWBO Chicago Members: Free / Wintrust Guests: Free / Non-Members: $30
Please register at

New NAWBO Chicago Partner

At Allstate, inclusive diversity is a competitive advantage. The breadth of our differences both defines us and makes us stronger. We seek to give everyone a chance to realize their hopes and dreams while on our team. Diversity is about people, and people are the key to our success.”  - Thomas J. Wilson, Chairman, President and CEO

We’re In Good Hands; Allstate Expanding Diversity Reach

NAWBO Chicago is pleased to welcome Allstate Insurance Company as our newest partner. Headquartered in Northbrook, Ill, Allstate is the nation's largest publicly held personal lines insurer, serving approximately 16 million households through its Allstate, Encompass, Esurance and Answer Financial brand names.

Notable to NAWBO members is the impressive value that an industry leader like Allstate brings to our membership in aligning with our diversity procurement goals and small business initiatives. We’re excited to connect with Allstate and their Sourcing & Procurement Solutions department, led by Senior Vice President, Cheryl Harris.

Their outside-of-the-box efforts in innovative sourcing of business partners and suppliers has optimized the company’s $14 billion spend portfolio; they intend to increase their annual diversity spend from 6 percent to 9 percent in the next few years through advanced programming that will also help diverse businesses like yours grow. Two such programs include:

  • Allstate Diverse Supplier Mentoring Program assists business owners by connecting them with dedicated Allstate leaders. The 12-month mentorship places focus on management, employee development, sales, marketing, and technology improvement.
  • Allstate Annual Supplier Diversity Exchange is an annual event that provides opportunities for diverse businesses to competitively bid for contracts with Allstate and Allstate's major suppliers. Since the inception of the exchange, nearly 100 diverse supplier business owners (minorities, women, disabled, veterans, LGBT) have been invited to RFPs and more than half have secured contracts.

These diversity programs are available and could be substantially beneficial to our members! We’re truly excited to be working with Allstate, and we look forward to disseminating more information about the company and their diversity efforts.

Inaugural Ravenswood Business Roundtable Group

We have formed a new NAWBO Ravenswood Business Roundtable Group!

Our goal is to build a peer-to-peer forum for independent small business owners to:

  • share and discuss ideas, questions and solutions to common business issues;
  • build relationships;
  • inspire and energize each other.

We will meet on the 2nd Thursday of the month, 9:30–11:00am,
at Lillstreet Art Center, 4401 N. Ravenswood (at Montrose).*
Our inaugural meeting will be held October 11, 2012.

Interested in joining us?

If you would like to attend, RSVP by October 5 to a group co-chair:
Angi Semler or Joy Stauber

Kick-off goals:
We want to build a roundtable that reflects its members and their needs.
Please come ready to share issues you are grappling with as an independent
small business owner; terrific solutions you have found that may apply
to a range of industries; what you hope to learn, gain, and share as part of
the group; and other ideas you have. Then together, we can prioritize and
set an agenda to address members’ needs and draw speakers from our
combined expertise.

* Lillstreet is just off the Montrose stop on the Brown Line.
If driving, please note that parking on the 4400 block of Ravenswood is permit only until 10am.
It’s best to turn north onto Ravenswood from Irving Park Road, then park on Ravenswood south of Montrose.
Parking is available on side streets as well.

Business Accelerator Program

Business Accelerator Topics in October

Mark your calendars now for these exciting online events, brought to you at no charge by NAWBO Chicago and the Business Accelerator Program:

  • October 4th Coach Chat on Making an Introduction with Impact
  • October 11th Webinar on Managing Your Financial Scorecard
  • October 18th Coach Chat on P&Ls, Income Statements and More
  • October 25th Coach Chat on Which Marketing Tactics Are Best for Me?

All of these events are held from 12:00-1:00 pm EDT, 11:00 am-12:00 pm CDT, 10:00-11:00 am MDT and 9:00-10:00 am PDT/MST.

Don’t miss out on these great opportunities to learn how to grow your business and manage it effectively! To enroll in this NO COST program and find out more about these and other events, click here.

See What NAWBO Chicago Is Doing For Its Members

By Jennifer Strezo
Owner and Graphic Designer
Red Seal Design

Little did I know that when I joined NAWBO two and a half years ago, its members would become such a big part of my business and my life. Emily Smith, of Chicagoland Commercial Real Estate, saw a post I had made on Linkedin and reached out to me about joining her at a NAWBO event. I took her up on her invitation and attended a second event, and I was hooked. As a start-up, it was an investment, but it was one that I don’t regret.

Emily quickly became my NAWBO mentor, and taking her advice, I jumped in and got involved right away. I joined the Membership Committee and the Lakeview Business Development Group to get out there and meet people. The women that I met were incredible. They helped me with questions about running my business. They helped me learn to be a better networker. They helped me in my personal life. They became clients, referral partners and friends.

On the Membership Committee, I met the woman who would help me to become certified as a Female Business Enterprise with the State. In my Business Development Group I met Beth Ryan of Ryan Realty & Associates. Beth gave me invaluable business advice, coached me on where to send my son to pre-school, joined with me and another NAWBO member, Mary Dombrowski of College Nannies & Tutors, to give seminars to parents on navigating school choices in the city, and also became a friend and client.

These are just a couple of the stories that illustrate how invaluable NAWBO has been to me. Without it, I would not be as knowledgeable or as confident as I am today.

Heather Sanderson Recognized by WBDC

Since founding Overture in 2001 with just 3 employees and limited office space, Heather Sanderson has taken her company from a small start-up business to one of the industry's leading promotional marketing companies, as noted by its inclusion in the Top 50 Distributors for five consecutive years running by Promotional Marketing magazine.

The Women's Business Development Center is proud to honor the outstanding accomplishments and WBE success of our client, supporter and friend, Heather Sanderson, with the 26th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year - WBE Success.

Congratulations on your accomplishments, Heather!

Congratulations to Marcy Gelber

Congratulations to NAWBO Chicago's own, Marcy Gelber, recipient of Travel Agent Magazine's 25 Leading Travel Advisers of 2012.

Marcy Gelber uses her 20 years of experience as a teacher to help plan specialist itineraries: FIT, family and multigenerational travel, and MICE travel. "There is very little difference between a lesson plan and an itinerary," Gelber says. " I live, breathe and work travel, and love to talk about travel wherever I am (and) love to educate my clients on their upcoming experiences." Marcy organized one of her favorite trips for a young man who wanted to take his girlfriend to Italy and propose to her there.
"Being able to coordinate with the hotel to arrange a fabulous picnic lunch and a private boat to take them to a secluded side of Capri was truly wonderful," Gelber says.

"I have known Marcy for her entire career as a travel agent, " says client Dr. Marc Feder. "I have trusted her with securing arrangements for not only myself and my family, but for groups as large as 1,300 and as small as 50. In all instances she served her clients diligently and conscientiously, with warmth, sensitivity and humor. Her professionalism is beyond reproach as is her integrity." 

"Marcy has worked with me for several years and when dealing with her clients she certainly wants us to deliver the best in every way," says Sheri Fazleabas, president of A & S Journeys. "Further, she always follows up on her clients even while they are traveling. Negotiates hard too... I would highly recommend her services to the many areas she offers."

Excerpt from cover story "Top 25 Agents" - Published in the August 20, 2012 issue of Travel Agent Magazine

NAWBO Members Win "Smart Cookie" Award

The Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana "Smart Cookie" award has been created to acknowledge and applaud exemplary leaders who, through their smarts and achievements, change the rules of the game, and in doing so serve as role models for our next generation of girls and youth.  NAWBO Chicago is pleased to announce that two of this year's honorees are current NAWBO members.  


Congratulations, ladies!


Maureen Beal                        Genevieve Theirs
United Van Lines        

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