People, Places, and Organizations to Watch in 2020 | Stop Look Listen – ChicagoNow

The annual “People to Watch” list has expanded this year.  We have 20 individuals and 2 organizations each recognized for their talent, their connection to people, their innovation and their sheer will to achieve. From an organization giving an amazing opportunity to introduce women to the world of tech, to stories of people who have overcome many obstacles to find success. We’re very proud of this list of outstanding individuals and look forward to helping you get to know them as well. Some I’ve been fortunate to work with and some I look forward to getting to know. So here they are, the Businesspeople, the Inspirations, Creators,the Social Innovators and the “Lane Creators” I’m proud to highlight for 2020.

Michael Jacobson –  “Hospitality Industry Ambassador”

Michael Jacobson was named President and CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (IHLA) in October of 2018. In his role, he is proud to represent the 1,500 hotels and other hospitality stakeholders throughout the state. Michael’s priorities for the organization include bolstering the industry’s advocacy capacity in Springfield and municipalities throughout the state while enhancing IHLA’s educational programs to serve as a resource for its members.
Prior to joining IHLA, Michael spent eight years at the U.S. Travel Association where he led the organization’s grassroots advocacy and political engagement initiatives. He grew U.S. Travel’s political action committee to become one of the nation’s largest travel industry PACs and spearheaded campaigns like the Vote Travel nationwide bus tour and the successful effort to reauthorize Brand USA in 2014.
Michael has more than ten years of experience in grassroots advocacy and nonprofit fundraising. In his free time, he volunteers with the American Cancer Society, helping lead their Global Relay For Life movement throughout the world. A proud alumnus of Seton Hall University, Michael lives in Chicago with his wife, Sarah and daughter, Madelyn, where they enjoy cheering on the Chicago Cubs.

Check out the IHLA


Rashell Zuercher – A “Woman of Wine” and Much More 

Rashell Zuercher is a District Manager for Italian wine importer, Santa Margherita USA.  Her career in the fine wine industry began four years ago after she left the financial world behind, seeking a career with “more adventure and more aligned with my interests”.  Since joining the Santa Margherita team, Rashell has achieved level 2 certification with Wine & Spirit Education Trust, has become a member and helped represent her company at the Women of Wine & Spirits global symposium in Napa Valley, and is currently studying for her certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers. 

A former US Navy journalist, the Akron, Ohio native has made her home in Chicago for nearly eleven years, and graduated from DePaul University with a degree in business.  

“I often feel as though I’ve lived multiple lives within the last 20 years and this chapter is my favorite so far.  I have so much gratitude for the opportunities that hard work and perseverance have afforded me and I have found that looking for the positive in every situation has led to a much happier life”. 

Rashell states her goal is to make the world a little better everyday, even if it’s only for one person at a time, and she actively works to do just that.  For the last three years, she has been a mentor and tutor at Metro Achievement Center, part of Midtown Educational Foundation (MEF). MEF is an after-school program that serves low-income students in Chicago and provides academic enrichment, character education, and individual attention.  Rashell also started volunteering at Paws in 2019, Chicago’s largest no-kill humane and adoption organization.

In her “spare” time, Rashell’s favorite activities include traveling, cheering on the Blackhawks, Cubs, or Cleveland Cavaliers, spending time with her family, or just relaxing at home with her husband their two cats, Sophie and Giuseppe. 

Check out  Midtown Educational Foundation

Asana Nakornchai – Owner /Managing Partner –  BITES 

After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Thammasat University, one of the most prestigious universities in Thailand, with a major in Human Resource Economics, Ms. Asana Nakornchai moved to United States to continue her education at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas where she received a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice/Criminology. Currently living in Chicago, Ms. Nakornchai has worked directly and closely with executives of several companies and was an Assistant Manager at a private investigation company before starting her own import/export business in 2008 that distributed natural skin and hair care products from Thailand. Her passion for food, however, brought her to open her restaurant, BITES Asian Kitchen and Bar, which has been in business since November, 2013. Since then, she has been enjoying herself as a restauranteur managing BITES in Lakeview and plans to develop new projects in the future.

Check out BITES Asian Kitchen and Bar


Chef Aleta S. Williams –  Executive and Philanthropist

Chef Aleta S Williams, executive chef and co-owner of Loquacious Culinary Events, was inspired to begin her culinary career because of a simple observation, “The only time I see you happy is when you’re cooking”.  A graduate from Le Cordon Bleu Chicago, she is a Chicago native that was raised with the

This motivated the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign graduate to leave her corporate career in operations and enroll at Le Cordon Bleu Chicago. 

 After her graduation in August  2004, Aleta honed her skill set by developing recipes and working as part of the senior staff for several high-end catering companies. In 2006, she realized her dream of starting her business, and  Loquacious Culinary Events was born. Aleta’s love of creating wholesome and eclectic meals shines through in the taste, quality, and presentation of her cuisine; her commitment to client service is known industry wide. She has created dining experiences and luxury tastings for clients such as Swarovski, BravoTV, Chicago Sinfonietta, and Adidas; and has been featured as an influential chef in Unilever’s North American Knorr campaign. She was also featured on WGN Midday news lunch break several times.

 As a firm believer in giving back, Aleta has donated her time as a Vegetarian/Vegan Celebrity Chef for the annual Meals on Wheels Celebrity Chef Ball for more than ten years, was a mentor for the Healthy School Lunch Competition for Southside Occupational High School for three years, serves as a Culinary Instructor through After School Matters, and is co-chair of the Rotary Club of Chicago Job1 Committee that assists Chicago youth with job readiness training and places them with summer internship opportunities. Lastly, she serves on the Board of Directors for Meals on Wheels Chicago, the Rotary Club of Chicago and the Hospitality Scholars Foundation.

 Loquacious Culinary Events is focused on bringing to life each client’s unique vision through specialty menus and production products. Aleta and her team are standing ready to make your event memorable and are committed to creating a dining experience that will touch your soul.

 Visit Loquacious Culinary Events


Katy Lynch –  Digital Media Expert, Business Builder

Katy Lynch is a British-born entrepreneur, marketer, and investor. Shortly after graduating from the University of Manchester in 2005, Katy moved to Chicago and became the Head of Social for Where I’ve Been, Facebook’s largest travel application. Lynch spearheaded all marketing initiatives for the company before TripAdvisor (NASDAQ: TRIP) acquired the company in 2010. Shortly after the Where I’ve Been/TripAdvisor acquisition, she launched SocialKaty, her explosively popular digital media consulting business. With over 70 clients including large national brands such as AAA, Firestone, Shopkins and Beanie Babies, Lynch grew the business into the largest social media marketing agency in the Midwest before being acquired by Manifest in July 2014. Her successes positioned her to become the first female CEO of Techweek, the nation’s leading technology conference and festival. Today, Katy is the Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Codeverse –– the world’s first interactive coding studio for kids ages 6-13. Codeverse is founded on the mission to “teach a billion kids to code.” Katy is the recipient of the Smart Cookies Award by Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, and has appeared on Forbes, NBC, Inc, WGN, Huffington Post, FOX and, amongst others.

Follow Katy and Codeverse Here –


Ryan Williams – “Hard Work and Reinvention Equals Success”

Born on September 7th, 1973, in Dyersburg, Tennessee, Williams was the son of a single mother who fled the prejudices of the south in search of better opportunities.  The Williams settled in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood in the early 1980’s which at times seemed more challenging than the southern town they were accustomed to.  At that time, Englewood was quickly becoming one of the most dangerous cities in America. Although his surroundings were dangerous at times, Ryan gravitated towards education and avoided the gangs and drugs that plagued the city.  Ryan Williams began working at the age of 14 while maintaining an excellent GPA. He continued to work and graduated with honors from high school in 1992. After completing high school, Ryan continued his education and started a successful real estate company at the age of 23.  Then there came the economic housing crash in 2006 which spun out of control and caused the demise of Ryan’s real estate companies. With the same determination he had as a young boy and a love for high end vehicles, Ryan began his first Chauffeur Company Private Landing and hasn’t looked back.  Ryan’s motto, “I put God first, work hard and everything else falls into place. 

Visit Private Landing:



Dr. Kris Sargent  “The Passionate One” 

In Her Own Words

Hi! I’m Dr Kris Sargent. I opened my Functional Medicine clinic, over 27 years ago, to SPARK health transformation at the soul level. I want you to know, you REALLY CAN do ANYTHING with the right tools and mindset. Healing your body is no different.

The stuff you might want to know and that I am proud of… I have more credentials than can be listed here…I attended undergrad at the University of Central Florida, graduating with Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Psychology, then went to National University of Health Sciences, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. While practicing full time, I returned to National University to complete a two-year, postdoctoral Master’s of Advanced Clinical Science, making me one of less than 100 physicians who have completed this program. I have completed 1000’s of continuing education hours in Nutrition, Internal Medicine and Functional Medicine over the course of my career, plus the 7000+ patients I have moved into optimal health.

 My passion is coaching women, leading with health first, to create new healthy lifestyles and mindset.  These changes will result in healthy thyroid and hormone balance, overcoming adrenal fatigue, clearing up irritable bowel and digestive issues, creating permanent weight loss, and eradicating pre-diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes. Once your health is in order it’s easier to the rest of your life in order.

 On the personal side I’m a single mom with two teens, Kallan and Cooper. I am just as busy as anyone else. I love to blog/vlog, speak professionally, workout – running half marathons is a new love –  and stay in optimal health so I can run 4 businesses – my private functional medicine practice including a Concierge and Corporate level as well as individual care (virtual and in person), a separate weight loss and optimal health program and soon, online courses – for people with less access to a personal  FM Doctor. I self published my book, Simply Functional Medicine, in March 2018. I am working on my second book called Slow Down to Power up: Let Slowing Down Be Your Super Power to Create the Life and Health You Want!

Visit and learn more about Kris at:


Eric Gordon  “The Mover and Shaker”

Eric Gordon is the owner of Rhythmic Elements Entertainment, LLC. and has been creating/hosting contemporary jazz and Chicago Style Stepping events in the Chicagoland area since 2014.  He also is the host of the Rhythmic Elements Smooth Jazz show on every Tuesday evening.  His resume of entertainment at community efforts has now stretched across the country. 

 He has also taken a course of action in 2016 to become a part of Toastmasters, a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills though a worldwide network of clubs. 

In 2017, he became an intricate part of the non-profit organization Infinity In Motion, which seeks to secure financial contributions and provide scholarships to deserving youth in major cities across the nation. 

 In 2018, he was selected to be a part of the largest steppers organization in the country, The Majestic Gents, to help build a community presence that will create a stronger health and financial vision for African Americans in the Chicagoland area.

 His 2020 vision is to bring together a health fair in Chicago for the African American community, which will include a panel of professions from the health, wellness, and financial markets.  He will also start the creation of a Stock Investment Program for African American youth to better qualify them for a stronger financial future.

Check out Infinity In Motion


Vania Perry – The Healthy Aging Tree

In 1991, Vania Perry suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. The treatment of MRIs and cognitive testing went on for a decade before being cleared of any further deterioration of her brain.  The condition forced her to make overall health and lifestyle changes as she was faced with increased possibilities of early onset dementia as a result of the condition. she dedicated herself not only to her business but to improving her overall health.  The marketing expert founded her own agency Sweetness Communications and for several years she led promotions and sponsorships for large and small companies and events including the Expo for Today’s Black Woman.

Once she decided to jump back into corporate, she led marketing efforts for companies like U.S. Cellular, Hertz, and the American Medical Association, Harley Davidson, United Airlines and 220 Communications.

She continues to pursue her passion health and wellness. In 2016 She founded The Healthy Aging Tree Movement which provides customized exercise and nutrition programs for individuals with long-term chronic conditions such as TBI, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, the Hearing Impaired, Diabetes, Lung Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis. She works part time at Wellness House for Living with Cancer as an Oncology Education Associate is responsible for planning, facilitating and maintaining a range of programs under the direction of the Program Manager, including education events, special events.

Never one to really rest she continues her freelance marketing endeavors as she was appointed Director of Corporate Sponsorship for the 2021 Puddingstone Creative Film Festival in Boston.

This February, for the ninth year in a row Vania will compete in Hustle Chicago where she’ll climb 1,632 stairs to raise funds for the Respiratory Health Association.

You can support Vania’s run at:


Vanessa Cabrera – “The Badass Boss”

Vanessa Cabrera is an award-winning online marketing consultant and a dynamic speaker who travels the country helping passionate entrepreneurs understand how to use social media to skyrocket their online visibility so the world knows who they are!

 Born to be a Badass Boss, Vanessa has proven that it does not take a monster team, a huge email list or 10k Instagram followers to profit from your passion.

 The ultimate creative at heart together with her unique ability to clearly see how her clients can become absolute online Rock Stars is what makes her a force to be reckoned with. Entrepreneurs turn to Vanessa when they’re ready to turn their likes into sales and their followers into customers.

The fact that she’s mastered how to multiply money using LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram is what makes her an absolute powerhouse. She’s the creator of the ATM – All Things Marketing, her group consulting program that teaches clients how to put their social leads on steroids using the biggest social media platforms on the planet.

She’s also the founder of the Money-Making Marketing Blueprint. Her signature 1:1 private consulting program where she lays out the money brick road by creating an online marketing plan customized and designed exclusively for one’s persona and business goals.

 A one-woman show, Vanessa built Cabrera Consulting to a thriving business in just 3 years! Now well known for her contagious energy, feisty no BS consulting style, Vanessa has also become a sought after speaker where she shares her personal success story of how she started her consulting business after losing her 6 figure Director of Marketing corporate position, becoming newly pregnant and left to raise her child on her own as a single mother.

Her ultimate passion is being able to guide, support, encourage and empower others to become incredibly successful online entrepreneurs. She hopes her story will empower women to become badass bosses in their own right. 

Her message is if she can do it…so can YOU!

She jams every one of her sessions with countless (NO FLUFF) online strategies to which attendees are able to implement immediately upon leaving any one of her sessions. Vanessa refers to herself as a #singlemompreneur who’s an avid Kickboxer, a bit of a Beer Buff, but her true passion and hustle come from her 5-year-old son, Matteo.

 She’s brilliant, bold, unapologetic and the ultimate master at digital marketing.

Follow Vanessa:




Myrtis Randolph  “Youth Motivator”

Myrtis is the author of the children’s book series Yoyo Don’t Play That!  The series teaches children how to deal with issues they face daily from a biblical perspective.  The books address such topics as fear, bullying, lying, stealing, low self-esteem, etc. Myrtis has had book signings in various Barnes and Nobles and at locally owned book stores within the United States, and in schools and churches in Accra, Ghana and Johannesburg, South Africa.  Parents, church officials, and school administrators have given rave reviews on both the Fear and Bullying books; noting they have seen a positive change in behavior from the youth who have read them.

Myrtis is currently working on an interactive app and planning to develop a cartoon series for Yoyo Don’t Play That!  She is also opening a non-profit youth center for under-privileged children to learn STEM and life skills during their Summer break. Myrtis hopes to motivate children around the world to see themselves as the Creator of the Universe sees them and to live their best lives. Her work is inspired by the biblical scripture in Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (New International Version).

Check Out Myrtis’s Collection of Work


Rujanee Mahakanjana – Filmmaker, “Creative Quirkiness”

Rujanee is an award-winning filmmaker based in Chicago. Her work is often thought-provoking with some degree of quirkiness. Her directorial debut was a long-form architecture documentary, Man and His Erections, which was premiered at the Gene Siskel Film Center in January 2009 as part of “Stranger Than Fiction” documentary series. Since then, she has written and directed a number of short and feature films, some of which were screened at festivals like Festival de Cannes and American Documentary Film Competition. In 2018, after the death of her beloved cat of 18 years, she decided to dedicate the rest of her life to using art and film to promote self awareness and enlightenment while also synergizing the community as a whole.  Rujanee is a Northern Illinois University alumni, with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Fine Art emphasis on Interior Architecture, Sculpture, Installation, and Performance Art. She is also the founder of Shortcut 100 International Film Festival , the creator of Chicago Film News , as well as a licensed real estate broker and a fan of meditation, David Lynch, Elon Musk, Carl Sagan, Doraemon, and “space whales”.

Check out Nebula Creatives


Shawn Taylor  –   Writer, Entrepreneur, Master Storyteller 

Shawn Taylor is gearing up for a marquee year in 2020.

She has one book under her belt and three to go. “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Closing the Deal,” (220 Publishing) co-written with Melody Spann Cooper, president of Midway Broadcasting Corp., was published last June. She is currently writing the biography of a renown media and beauty mogul for Harper Collins. And soon she will have exciting news about a crime/drama book series she is co-creating with a popular TV talk show host.

A self-described nerd who wrote short stories and poems in grammar school and charged kids on the playground a quarter apiece to read them, in 2006, Shawn tapped into that entrepreneurial spirit to found Treetop Consulting, a boutique communications firm, following a successful career in newspapers that spanned the Midwest. She spent 15 years at the Chicago Tribune and held several positions including copy editor, cops and courts reporter, business writer and weekly columnist, and feature writer. She also worked for the Kansas City Star and Detroit Free Press as a copy editor, and interned at the St. Louis Post Dispatch, which awarded her its minority journalism scholarship in 1984 to attend the University of Missouri – Columbia’s top-rated journalism school.

Still a journalist at heart, Shawn has employed her interviewing and research prowess to tell an story impacting Black families — the early deaths of black men and the social, emotional and economic impact on families and communities. Last October, she graduated from Kartemquin Films’ Diverse Voices in Docs program for aspiring filmmakers and is currently fundraising to complete her debut film, “Gone Too Soon: America’s Missing Black Men.

Shawn has built a reputation as a skilled writer and master storyteller, developing content for individuals and organizations on a range of topics including social justice; gender and racial equality; equal pay; equity in education; entrepreneurship; small business financing; the manufacturing and aerospace industries; restaurants; labor and management issues; and healthcare and risk management. She has helped produce content for the Chicago Public Schools and Cook County Risk Management, and developed web content, event scripts, press materials, as well as speeches, Op Eds and keynote addresses for organizational leaders at the Chicago Urban League and global researcher Nielsen.

She is senior strategist Chicagoland for nonprofit talent accelerator LeadersUp and a former board member of Creative Cypher, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the careers of diverse talent in television and film. She’s a trained flutist and master of the Hoola Hoop.

What’s the future hold for Shawn? Could be an entrée into comedy – perhaps as the author of a series or producer of a comedy short. “I’m in the most creative phase of my life, and I’m loving it.” Her mantra: “Start at the top.”

Visit Shawn’s Company Website


Creative Organization to Watch – Inde TV  –  A “triple threat” production/distribution collective

Inde TV combines top notch production facilities, an experienced team and a growing streaming network.  The unique “one stop shop” has enabled them to create a lineup of original content as well as bring on quality independent programming. Stil in its early stages of growth, the production/streaming network model has helped them to be able to provide something most studios in the area can’t the ability to create and distribute without needing to farm out any of its services. Inde is becoming the best option to support the growing film/television industry in the area and its programming is drawing attention both nationally and internationally.

Take a free look at Inde TV Programming Here




Julio Carrasco “An Attitude of Gratitude”

Julio Carrasco is, in his own words a Chicago Rican that speaks Spanglish and not Spanish. Born and raised in Chicago, this 35 year old millennial has a passion for being an Entrepreneur that grows more each year as he contributes his time to many different nonprofit organizations volunteering with organizations such as St. Jude, UNICEF, Action for Healthy Kids, Big Shoulder Fund to name a few. His heart is big on servitude when it comes to the philanthropic arena. Now with his very own company he just recently got his LLC established summer of 2019 looking to debut his very own Event Planning Business with a Twist in the 1st Quarter of 2020 he looks to hopefully create something new and different in the event planning world. His business TRN Event Society LLC looks to combine both chamber of commerce association and philanthropy together for event planners of all areas. He is also big on personal growth development which in his bookcase you’ll find books from Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, Darren Hardy and John Maxwell to name a few. What does his 2020 lens look like for him? His answer would be”to make an impact in this city with an attitude of gratitude and servitude one person at a time.”

Network with Julio


Joyce Dawkins –   She “Rocks it” For All Women


Joyce Dawkins the Founder and CEO of She ROCKS It and creator of the social media group I AM SHE.

I have a BA in Political Science and Sociology a Masters in Organizational Leadership/Higher Education and a Degree in Executive Career & Life Coaching. I am a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.,

I have been featured on The JAM Morning Show, in COFFEA Magazine; Voyage Chicago Magazine; Sistah’s Place Magazine and Love-Black-Chicago Magazine. I am a recipient of A Phenomenal Black Woman Award and G.E.M.S. Award.

She ROCKS It is an organization that host event experiences purposely designed to honor and empower women. My brand is know for several signature events including:

The She Lounge Experience which is my spin on a talk show. I bring women together and gather a panel of successful women who shares who she is and how she got here, the purpose is to inspire and empower other women to go out and follow their dreams and be empowered to just do it after hearing the panelists.

The Girlfriend Gathering which is a ladies night with a twist of empowerment. This event has hosted over 250 women each event. We gather and shop with vendors, eat, laugh and enjoy powerful words from guest speakers. It’s not a conference it’s not formal it’s a free to be who she is type of event.

Celebrating Women Who ROCK Awards Gala is our annual event held for the past few years at The Bolingbrook Golf Course. This event honors women from across the Chicagoland area and beyond. The women are acknowledge in area such as entertainment, education, community involvement and leadership to name a few. We also honor organization that help women live beyond their past and focus on rebuilding their future. The guest are treated to a 3 course meal, entertainment and vendor shopping. 2020 Gala May 23rd.

Lastly is our SRI Community Day of Service. Were we partner with organizations that service women. We provide resources that help the organizations meet the needs of the women they serve. A signature event is Walk a Mile in Her Shoes where we walk one mile to raise Awareness about homelessness among women in the Chicagoland area.

My organization is all about creating a platform where I can share who she is.

Check out Joyce’s organization:


Ariel Neal –  The “Cocktail Culturalist”

Ariel E. Neal is leading today’s cocktail culture one pour at a time. The Chicago native first fell in love with the hospitality industry while serving tasty libations as a bartender. Now this social entrepreneur and multicultural hospitality influencer is also a community advocate, and making her mark from behind the bar and beyond.

As the CEO of beverage events company Leira Knows Cocktails & Events , Neal designs cocktail, wine and spirits-driven social and corporate events. With a laser-focus on education, inclusion, hospitality and professionalism, Neal and her team wow guests with sustainable cocktail demonstrations and a curated lineup of signature libations.

In response to the challenges she and other hospitality professionals of color experienced, Neal co-founded a non profit. As of May this year she is no longer Causing A Stir but Exceeding The Bar instead. Through education, mentoring, leadership training and immersive travel programs Neal is transforming bartenders into hospitality professionals with skill sets that allow them to indeed exceed the bar.

Neal’s motto: “Connecting people through cocktails,” stems from her mission to make wine, spirits and cocktail education accessible and approachable. A lifelong South Sider, Neal believes in the power of exposure to foster economic growth and development. Neal believes hospitality shapes society and is doing her part to include the narrative of multicultural accounts by hosting industry events in various cities that encourage individuals to explore overlooked neighborhoods within the city’s thriving food and beverage scene. Additionally, Neal educates her community on cocktail basics with the goal of motivating young adults   Into considering a career in the Hospitality Industry .

To get Neal talking for hours, just ask her about her two passions — the hospitality industry and educational travel. You can find her nerding out with other hospitality professionals in various events nationwide. Neal has been featured in Ebony Magazine, Food and Wine, Cocktail Swagger and many more publications.



Yanni Brown – Author, Relationship Educator, TV Show Host, “Lover of Love”

“I think that love can saturate your soul, cure the common cold and restore balance when everything around you is falling apart.” Yanni Brown Yanni Brown is an author, blogger, relationship educator, speaker, storyteller and a lover of love. As far back as she can remember, Yanni has always been a passionate observer of relationships, intrigued with the dynamics of what works for some and didn’t work for others. Her signature offerings include the “Dare to Love You” Challenge, “What every bride should know before saying “I DO”, The Touch of Love workshop for couples, and Making Love Better TwoGether, a series of marriage and relationship education workshops designed to assist couples as they navigate through the challenges that accompany love, intimacy, relationships, marriage, and the pursuit of happiness (which has evolved into a TV show on streaming network Inde TV)  The Yanni Brown Making Love Better TwoGether brand was birthed from what some would say wan an unsuccessful marriage and learning from past relationships that enlightened her on how to infuse education, research, love, passion and purpose to create better relationships. Yanni’s writings on love, life, balance and pursuit of happiness have been featured in Essence, Rolling Out, the Six Brown Chicks blog, and Black and Married With Kids, and Ebony Magazine. Best known for her appearance on OWN “Iyanla: Fix My Life, Season 1(Fix My Backstabbing Friends)”. As a speaker Yanni has served on key note speaker at “She Rocks It” The Girlfriend Gathering, “A Cup of Gratitude Tea” The Friendship Factor, “I Am Light” Women’s Conference, DePaul University E3 Speakers Forum, Served as a Panelist at the Black Women’s Expo,, The Wealth Experience, 40Under40, BRKN Conference and more. Yanni is a member of the BOSS Network, NARME (National Association of Relationship and Marriage Education) an Honorary Color Girl for the She’s In Color campaign, and former Chief Chick of the Six Brown Chicks. She has been featured in various podcast and blog talk radio shows.

Visit/Talk With/Book Yanni


Jermaine Anderson –  “The Gentleman Businessman” 

In recent years, Jermaine Lawrence Anderson Enterprises and its founder have educated and empowered many clients and businesses alike to discover their purpose as they journey to achieve personal and professional success. Jermaine is an Independent Brand Specialist that develops and implements marketing activities to increase the value of signature brands across many different industries. Jermaine has been the force behind many exclusive brands, products, and record breaking live events. As a young man, Jermaine became a young entrepreneur and sought out to become his own boss. At a very early age he enrolled in entrepreneurship classes alongside junior high students and developed superb desktop publishing and artistic design skills. While in these classes, Jermaine created coffee mugs, key chains, and posters for many buyers in school and in the local community. These creations allowed him to place first in the school business fair and led to him placing 51 out of 100 among Youth Owned Businesses in America by his sophomore year in High School. These early accomplishments catapulted Jermaine into the arena of public speaking. Jermaine began to share his story of success around the country. These speaking engagements allowed him to be featured in several publications and media outlets. Possessing a sharp eye for men’s fashion, Jermaine is known as the gentleman’s grooming and styling specialist. Jermaine has established himself as a fashion consultant for men wishing to take their image to the next level. He is the owner and designer of Neck Appeal, an online based retailer specializing in designer neck wear for men. Neck Appeal’s unique line of neckwear and accessories uses distinctive textiles and are made with the finest eco-friendly materials. This neckwear allows clients to show off their individual style. Using his on time style tips in a weekly fashion blog, successful men of all ages can sharpen their looks with his information. His blog has become the “go to” resource for the urban professional male. Jermaine Lawrence Anderson makes appearances on television, print and radio outlets giving his expertise, fashion tips and styling knowledge to viewers. In 2014 Jermaine Lawrence Anderson launched The Chicago Gentlemen’s Brunch. The Chicago Gentlemen’s Brunch is the beginning of a movement uniting men who are socially conscious and share values on male responsibility. During the brunch, Jermaine leads candid conversations around style, character and mentorship of young men. In the spring of 2015, Jermaine launched the I AM A GENTLEMAN, INC. foundation. The mission of I Am A Gentleman, Inc. is to engage, enrich and empower young men for successful careers, healthy lifestyles, marketable skills and well-balanced relationships. The foundation provides mentorship and leadership development to young men ages 14-21 around the country. © JERMAINE LAWRENCE ANDERSON ENTERPRISES Chicago, IL I AM A GENTLEMAN, INC. is best known for its flagship program, Project Gentlemen. Project Gentlemen collects suits, sport coats, dress shirts, neckties, bowties and gently worn shoes to give back to young men graduating high school and to men re-entering the workplace. To date, more than 2,000 young men have attended Project Gentlemen and were all clothed for their special day. Since the inception of Project Gentlemen, this movement has taken root in 3 cities across America. Jermaine is also the President of Kingdom Resources, a faith based and ministry consulting firm. Kingdom Resources effectively assists churches and ministries move closer to their goals. Kingdom Resources assists pastors and ministry leaders in propelling their ministries into greater levels of excellence. As a contributing writer for Streaming Faith, Jermaine uses leadership training and group consultation to enhance existing ministerial productivity as well as increase ministry visibility. Streaming Faith is the world’s largest online Christian broadcast portal. Kingdom Resources has created dynamic resources and training materials that has been used for support staff, adjutants and senior level ministry leaders. In his travels abroad, Jermaine enjoys speaking to leaders, business professionals and students aspiring to be leaders. His passion is to develop leaders with a fresh perspective on moving to the next level. Jermaine Lawrence Anderson currently resides in Chicago, IL and serves on the Executive Leadership Team for the 6,000+ member Apostolic Faith Church. Recently, Jermaine Lawrence Anderson was recognized by Real Times Media Group as Someone You Should Know (Who’s Who in Black Chicago, March 2012) and was recently appointed to the NBC5 Community Action Board in Chicago. In addition, Jermaine was named as a 2016 Man of Excellence by the Chicago Defender Newspaper. Jermaine will help you move from acceptable to exceptional.

Find out more about Jermaine


Lina Midla  –  “You are MORE than the sum of your parts”

Lina Midla, founder of The Midla Method and mother of two, is a highly certified fitness & wellness coach on a MISSION to help women move better, feel awesome, and release anything holding them back!

With a decade in the fitness industry, Lina has explored and trained in many fitness modalities across the spectrum, garnering certifications from CrossFit to Zumba. Her current certifications include: NASM CPT, CFSC, Prenatal & Postnatal CES, and DVRT Levels 1 & 2.

After serving as the Chief Training Officer for a national Women’s Fitness Franchise for 7 years, she moved to the northern suburbs, fell in love with functional fitness training, and felt compelled to open The Midla Method —  a semi-private and personal training studio on Chicago’s North Shore dedicated to helping women use functional fitness as a tool for sustainable strength, energy, and confidence.

The Midla Method employs the DVRT (Dynamic Variable Resistant Training) system of functional fitness training to ensure that clients don’t just get tired, sore, or “gym strong,” but create strength that allows them to feel (not just look!) their best. Through the use of the DVRT functional training system, expert-level coaching, as well as mindset & nutritional support, The Midla Method strives to help each and every client THRIVE within their amazing, demanding, and very full lives.

Linda Says:

“If you are ready to ditch the monotonous, time-consuming cardio, reduce aches & pains and build real core strength, and to leave training sessions feeling energized, strong, and capable – not beat-up and tired… ready to join a community of strong, ambitious, happy women, Go to and sign-up for a totally FREE, “Fit Your Fit” Consult call with Lina to learn if training at The Midla Method, is the right choice for you!


Teresa Wilkes-Washington  –  “The Tastemaker”

Style Maven, Philanthropist, entrepreneur and Business owner Teresa Wilkes has an eye for fashion and a flare for detail. Having over a decade of experience in the fashion industry as an image consultant/wardrobe stylist Teresa has helped hundreds of women from all walks of life refine & define their style and image 

Through her hard work, knowledge and expertise Teresa has proven to be a tastemaker in fashion and a savvy business woman and featured in some of Chicago’s well recognized magazines/publications, NorthShore’s Modern Luxury Magazine as 1 of 5 Women of Style, Chicago Defender, Voyage Chicago, just to name a few along with being NBA Chicago Sky 2019 Redefine Possible Women’s Leadership Award recipient 

In addition to her work as an Image Consultant/Wardrobe Stylist and business owner Teresa is very passionate about helping women in Need. In 2011 she Founded Ladies Night out with A Purpose an annual Philanthropic event that brings women together nationwide to provide re- sources to Non-Profit Organizations that share the same vision of helping to make a difference in the lives of women. 

Teresa’s latests endeavors will be her most ambitious yet,Summer 2020 she will launch a Non- Profit for teen girls as well as become an author and publish her first book. 

Check out Teresa’s Fashions



YEP Nation (Organization to Watch) – Building Entrepreneurs in Digital Media

The Mission of YEP (Youth Engagement Program) Nation is to educate young women and men on Digital Media development  skills to create “Positive and Uplifting” media and provide a Pathway to a Career or Entrepreneurship.

There is a rapidly growing sea of negative media and influences that are permeating the youth through various media, YEP hopes to combat that through teaching youth the skills to create responsible content.  YEP services include E-Learning Development, Live Talent Scenarios, 3D Character based scenarios, Video Production, Game Based Learning – WebGL , Mobile App Development,  Mobile Game Development,  Augmented Reality Based Training, Virtual Reality Based Training, PromoBYTE-Mobile Sales Presentation.

YEP provides job skills and work experiences for young women; collaborates with companies on communication projects ranging from workforce training and development tutorials to 3D animation and marketing videos.

Past clients include a who’s who of Fortune 500 businesses including BP, Bank of America, American Express, Boeing, Baxter and many more.

Find Out More and Connect with YEP Nation

















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