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EmpowHER: A Celebration of Female Entrepreneurship

March 28 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm | $20


The Hatchery Chicago
135 North Kedzie Avenue
Chicago ,IL 60612
United States

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“Companies with more than 30% female executives are more likely to outperform companies that don’t”
– Luisa Zhou

Women-led companies accomplish tremendous work to create lasting, positive change. Let’s keep the movement going by exploring ways to continue to remove barriers and increase opportunities. Join an insightful morning of empowering female leaders in entrepreneurship, with an inspiring panel of female founders, industry expert insights, and resource sharing for your success. Discover and sample woman-owned brands and network with peers during this exciting session.



Welcome and Opening Remarks

Natalie Shmulik, Chief Strategy and Incubation Officer at ICNC | Make City + The Hatchery, will share valuable insights on why celebrating and supporting female entrepreneurship is crucial for fostering diversity and inclusivity.


Session 1: Fireside Chat Discussion on Sustaining Profitable Growth
Learn from female founders on how they have experienced sustainable growth through strategic use of data, analysis, and impactful partnerships with a focus on the bottom line.


Cynthia J. Johnson is Director of Established Business Services at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC). In this role she leads the programs for established business owners that are designed to increase contract opportunities for certified women-owned businesses with WBDC corporate partners. Cynthia’s specific area of focus includes planning and delivering relevant programs and procurement events with WBDC corporate partners to help women-owned businesses build capacity and sustain profitable growth. She is passionate about utilizing her expertise to accelerate the growth of diverse businesses. 

Session 2: Workshop – Creating a Supportive Network for Women in Business
Learn why it’s important to keep existing clients happy rather than finding new ones and use happy clients to generate more business through referrals. We’ll also cover relationships with banks and other financial institutions, keeping a strong position in negotiations, and how to best leverage community partners for lasting relationships that maximize their resources.

Session 3: Let’s Talk Womxn Panel – Pushing the Frontiers of Innovation
Let’s Talk Womxn panelists share their expertise about their culinary innovation, new service models, evolving formats, experiences, and myriad innovations to stay cutting edge and grow.


Leigh Uhlir, Dean of Kendall College at National Louis University, where she earned her Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality and Culinary Management in 2002. She has over 18 years’ experience in the restaurant industry, working for some of the nation’s leading hospitality companies and restaurants: Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago, Lettuce Entertain You—Las Vegas division, and Fidelio—MICROS division. During that time, she worked in some of the most notable food and hospitality cities in the US: Austin, Chicago and Las Vegas. In 2008, she shifted her focus to training and education, joining Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago, where she taught and led faculty for 6 years. She joined Kendall College in 2014, where she played a pivotal role in building the college and leading it through its merger with National Louis University. She continues to use her leadership skills to innovate and advocate for the restaurant industry and allied hospitality businesses in the hotel, events and tourism sectors. 


Taylor Mason is the owner of Taylor’s Tacos Chicago. The business was officially launched in 2018 and now consists of a taco shop + catering kitchen location, an event space location and a NFP called Tacos Create Community. Taylor fell in love with street style tacos while attending college in southern California. When she moved back to Chicago, she decided to bring the flavors of the west coast to the west side of Chicago. As the only black, woman, and LGBTQ owned taco shop in the United States, she takes pride in creating universal events through interaction, connection, and qualiTAY ingredients! Do yourself a flavor and try Taylor’s Tacos today! 


Geri Hernandez, co-founded of Savory Crust, founded Butter Bella LLC, a gourmet cookie company, in February of 2006, Be Good Baking Co. in 2015. In addition to being a serial entrepreneur in the food and healthcare sector, she’s led a successful career in sales and recruitment for the last 24 years across several industries from technology, finance, and pharmaceuticals and has sharpened her diverse business acumen at some of the largest companies such as Reed-Elsevier, Bank of America, AON Hewitt and lastly 7-Eleven. Without financing from family, friends or outside investors, she financially built Butter Bella from the ground up. Geri has a penchant for developing products and is deeply passionate about bringing great food to market. Her networking and sales and marketing skills have allowed her the opportunity to develop and grow several start-ups. 


Korina Sanchez is Vice President and General Counsel of Third Coast Hospitality, a family-run restaurant group that manages restaurant/bar and entertainment venues in the city of Chicago including Moe’s Cantina, Old Crow Smokehouse, Treehouse Chicago, Tunnel and La Luna. Korina has been involved in the restaurant industry from a young age, learning all positions that make a restaurant successful. Currently, Korina oversees all facets of the business including daily operations and business development and expansion. Korina is a licensed attorney with a concentration in transactional matters, regulatory compliance, and conflict resolution, specifically in the food and beverage and hospitality industries.Korina serves on the board of the Illinois Restaurant Association and the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

Networking, product sampling, and refreshments throughout.

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