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Proud To Be WOB: Inspirational Women Leaders, Funding Strategies and How to Become a Certified Women Owned Business

March 10 @ 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm | $50

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Proud To Be Women Owned Business: Inspirational Women Leaders, Funding Strategies and How to Become a Certified Woman Owned Business

In honor of International Women’s Day we are partnering with the Women’s Business Development Center to provide an evening filled with information and resources for female entrepreneurs! We are bringing together the Wonder Women in the Food and Beverage Industry. We will be hosting a panel of successful Women Owned Food concepts and leaders, as well as focusing on financing opportunities and becoming a certified Woman Owned Business.

The WBDC will be providing more information about becoming a certified Women Owned Business and the fantastic programs and initiatives available to female entrepreneurs. There will be a great networking opportunity as well as delicious snacks, beverages and products highlighting the trailblazing women and emerging female entrepreneurs.

Food, Beverage & Support Provided By:





About the Trailblazers Panelists:

Katrina Markoff, Founder, Vosges Chocolates

Founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, Katrina Markoff has been fusing spices, nuts roots, herbs and liqueurs from around the world with premium chocolate. A pioneer of the exotic chocolate movement, Markoff travels the world in search of best-in-class ingredients at the pinnacle of their taste profile. Through her chocolate creations, she seeks to harness the power of storytelling through the medium of chocolate and open minds, spirits and palates to new ideas. Markoff is the recipient of numerous accolades including Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40, the Bon Appétit Food Artisan of the Year Award, and being named “THE innovator in chocolate to lead the US through the next 30 years” by Food & Wine Magazine.

Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart, Co-Founder, Koval Distillery

Prior to opening KOVAL Distillery, one of the largest independent and woman-owned craft distilleries in the US, Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart spent over a decade as a full professor in both the United States and Germany. In 2008, she gave up tenure in hopes of a different quality of life; one that would afford an opportunity for her to work with her husband, give up commuting, and return to the city she loved: Chicago. As owner and president of KOVAL, she has spearheaded product development, distribution, and marketing, turning her family business into an international presence with availability in over 55 export markets. Sonat is also involved in a number of philanthropic organizations, was recently named Illinois Business Person of the Year by the National Small Business Association, and has also been inducted into the Disciples d’Escoffier.

Cheryl E Crockett , CEO and Owner, Crockett Cookies

Before becoming the founder and CEO of Crockett Cookies, Cheryl’s career as a businesswoman was strengthened by years of work experience in the corporate world, including as Executive Director of a not for profit.  She also worked as Development Director for a major Media Arts college where she was successful in her primary assignment of raising large funds and securing key corporate relationships. Along the way in her career, her interest in business also led her to complete a 13 week certification in entrepreneurship. Cheryl decided to start baking her delicious cookies in her own kitchen, which led to selling them wholesale, as she expanded to Kitchen Chicago, a shared commercial kitchen space for small businesses growing their brands. Now Cheryl operates Crockett Cookies out of her own location, a leased 4,000 square foot facility in the W. Fulton Market area.  Over 5000 cookies are made there per week to fulfill orders at almost 300 Walgreens and several Whole Foods across Chicagoland, both city & suburbs. She has been featured in Crain’s Chicago Business, Chicago Tribune and WGN TV.

Jenny Yang President, Phoenix Bean Tofu/Jenny’s Tofu

Jenny Yang is president of Phoenix Bean Tofu, which also markets under the label of Jenny’s Tofu. Phoenix Bean has been a premier supplier of tofu to the Chicagoland area for more than 30 years, and is currently expanding to a $3.7 million, 10,000 square foot facility on North Broadway in Chicago to meet booming consumer demand and compete with companies on a national scale. Phoenix Bean’s factory in the Edgewater neighborhood was one of the first local sources of fresh tofu, and began by supplying local Chinese restaurants and Asian grocers. Each batch of tofu was handcrafted daily to ensure the freshness and authenticity demanded by an immigrant community (Jenny was born and raised in Taiwan) longing for the tastes of their homeland. Phoenix Bean is now commonly found in Whole Foods Market stores, Mariano’s, and Green City Market in Chicago.

Terese McDonald-Chief Candy Officer & Candy Manic, Candyality

Whether it is the memories of the penny candy counter at her childhood five & dime, the creation of the “Jelly Belly”, or perhaps the overall “magic” that is evoked by the sweetest commodity known to man, local entrepreneur, Terese McDonald is aiming to uncover your personality connections to your confections in her small chain of candy emporiums.  Candy is universal-it crosses cultures, ages, race, religion, and economic status…it speaks to everybody, and pretty much everybody loves it, as did the group of International trainers who unanimously accepted the module as a worldwide training tool. Once in awhile an opportunity comes along where one gets to write a new chapter in their life.  Terese a tried and true Chicagoan, dreamt of putting a retail store in her neighborhood, it seemed only natural what she learned from her training experience that the concept of Candyality would be just what her neighborhood and Chicago needed. Opened since 2007, Terese hopes that Candyality will become a concept as widely accepted as reading your tealeaves, tarot cards, and maybe even your zodiac sign.

Moderator: Natalie Shmulik, CEO The Hatchery


Access to Capital Panel:

Lotika Pai is the Managing Director of Access to Capital at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) in Chicago. She works with both start-up and established business owners helping them with their capital goals. She understands that access to capital is critical for small business success, especially for those in underserved markets and in low-to-moderate income communities. She manages the growth of the WBDC direct loan fund and building the organization’s capacity to place debt and equity growth capital by leveraging partnerships with the government and traditional and non-traditional financial institutions. Lotika has a diverse professional background. She is a successful entrepreneur, a former investment banker at Lehman Brothers and Barclays Capital, a global supply chain management consultant and an engineer. She is an active mentor with the Ascend 2020 Small Business Growth program run by the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center and the University’s Office of Civic Engagement, helping create local support ecosystems for neighborhood-based inner-city small businesses in Chicago. Lotika is a 2008 graduate of Chicago Booth.

Kathy Herbert, Former Executive Vice President of Human Resources, Albertsons

A seasoned executive with more than 35 years of business, human resources and board of directors experience who enjoys working with new ventures, small business start-ups and publicly traded boards of directors. Her previous work with Albertsons and serving on various boards including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, gives Kathy the opportunity to offer practical advice and experience to solve complex, cross-functional business problems. She presents a unique approach to address a wide-variety of challenges especially in the areas of human resources, operations, merchandising and financing. 

Ashley Thompson, Co-Founder and CEO, MUSH

Ashley Thompson is the founder and CEO of MUSH, a health food brand based in Chicago. MUSH manufactures and markets products that provide high quality sustenance, taste delicious, and make you feel good. Their first product line consists of ready-to-eat overnight oats made with simple, clean ingredients and zero added sugar. Ashley graduated from Columbia University in three years with a bachelor’s in mathematics and economics. She started her career as a trading analyst at Goldman Sachs, where she met her former business partner, Kat Thomas. Most recently, Ashley was named to the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 List for Food & Beverage.

Eva Brown, VP CED Lending and Investment Manager

In this role, Brown works to develop, manage and execute Community Economic Development Lending and Investment programs that drives success in achieving an outstanding CRA rating.  Previously, Brown was Regional Community Development Manager at U.S. Bank overseeing a team that worked to position the bank as a leader in the community as well as focus the bank’s lending, giving, investment and volunteer efforts where those resources are needed most.  Brown also served as the Director of the Access to Capital Program for the Women’s Business Development Center in Chicago.  In that role, Brown provided financial business counseling and training to WBDC clients and managed all aspects of the WBDC loan program.  She brings a wealth of experience working in the banking industry with a focus on small businesses as well as a passion for assisting minority and women-owned businesses.  Brown has also held positions at BMO Harris Bank where she managed a large loan and deposit portfolio of business clients.  Brown received a BS in marketing from Northern Illinois University.


How to Become a Certified Woman Owned Business Information Session: 

Cynthia J. Johnson Director, WBDC Established Business Services
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.


Jess Price: Cofounder & CEO of Real Made Foods

Jess Price is excited to be starting something from scratch. In her years at Snapple and Quaker, she helped good brands become even better by providing consumers with more nutritious solutions. Her work included the development of premium chicken sausages, the launch of white teas and the writing of a nutrition philosophy around the goodness of oats and breakfast. She has a passion for developing marketing strategies, launching new products, managing day-to-day business operations, elevating brands at retail, and turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.


(312) 283 - 5767


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