Portrait of creative people series

May 20, 2024
Heather is an artist living in Highland park, Il

Portrait of creative people series

Apr 19, 2024
This is a portrait of Niko Ewert who has a wedding video business

Portraits of Caregivers

Mar 1, 2024
This is a portrait from an annual report shoot I did for Erie Health Care

Portraits of People together

Feb 6, 2024
This is a portrait of my son Milos and his buddy Nigel. I started shooting a shot of Nigel and Milos on the first day of school starting with freshman year up through senior year. It is so great to see them grow up.

Portraits of Working Moms

Jul 20, 2023
What's Important to me by Lisa Royal
Field Sales Associate at W.L. Gore, Inc.

Attitude and Gratitude: In our home, we do not take our blessings for granted. Despite the hurdles we may face, we have a choice to wake up, and tackle what the day will bring. I choose optimism, and instill that in my children. Additionally, the gratitude I have for our support network is immeasurable. Our tribe of wonderful parents, friends, and family make our life balanced, and complete.
Health and Wellness: To me are critically important. If these pillars are altered, everything else can be affected. It is a privilege, and honor to do what I do for a living as a surgical sales associate for W.L. Gore & Associates. Not a day goes by that the health care professionals I work with don’t amaze me. The passion, commitment, and education I receive at work fuels me; as well as the love from the 2 pictured here.
Connection: I take a tremendous amount of pride in the network of relationships that surround me. To me, it is important to give back to those that take care of you throughout life. My success has been largely built by offering resources or suggestions that help others prosper too. Life gets busy, but I do my best to stay connected.

Portraits of Working Moms

Jul 20, 2023
What's important to me by Farissa Knox
Farissa Knox is a Strategic Marketer, TV Show + Documentary Producer and Author.

In the past 10 months, I have lived through some of the hardest discoveries, realizations, decisions and circumstances of my entire life. Family members I thought represented safety, turned out to be perpetrators. I realized I had learned how to see with rose colored glasses instead of with the clear vision of reality. I made the conscious choice to end my 13 year marriage. I sold our family home. I closed the business I owned and ran for 15 years.... and when I paused to breathe, I realized that although it felt like I had nothing, I had everything. I had the clear vision to see that what happened next was 100% up to me. It was in my power how the next 42 years of my life would play out and it all started with the decisions I made right now. How I put one foot in front of the other. How I showed up for my daughters. How I recreated myself as a professional. How I dared to go make all of my dreams come true. And this is what matters most to me right now. Knowing this. Remembering this. Walking in this. Being this for my children and letting people watch me while I do it.

portraits of Working Moms

May 30, 2023
What's important to me by Laura Johnston
Chief Creative Officer & Founder, Twin Persimmon LLC

It’s what you don’t see in this beautiful photo that matters most. My amazing partner of 20 years who keeps me grounded and real, challenging me as a business owner and mom. The wise, generous tribe of dance/soccer/baseball/school moms who jump in, listen openly and bring the fun as we all ride life’s roller coaster. Powerful female co-workers and clients who’ve become mentors and friends, teaching me the value of vulnerability in life and work. My own parents who modeled what it looks like to show up, authentically, in whatever endeavor you choose. This photo is lovely evidence of the personal and professional communities that prop up my very existence. It’s the people you don’t see who contribute not only to my happiness and success, but also to the vibrancy and happiness of these two very important people I’m hugging.

Portraits of working moms

Apr 23, 2023
What's important to me by Tania Wendt (she/her)
SVP, Strategy & Engagement at The Marketing Store (integrated team at We Are Unlimited)

Connection is important in everything I do. 

I think it is because we must be kind, curious and attentive to do it well. And those are the best gifts we can give to someone. How we give is immaterial, as long as the person feels it; taking time to make a phone call, listening and/or helping with a problem (or celebrating!), crafting and re-crafting an idea or perspective, playing a video game you clearly don’t comprehend, taking a nature walk…it’s the space to honor someone and demonstrate you see them. It also includes your relationship with yourself and the world around you.

Connection is about learning, absorbing, evolving and growing – that will always be needed.
The best part of what I do is connecting with people – as a woman, mother, strategist, daughter, sister, friend…as a human.

Portraits of working moms

Apr 18, 2023
Geneen Harston
Broadcast Media Professional | Assignment Manager | Content Strategist | NewsTalk Producer | Media Consultant

Portraits of Working Moms

Mar 20, 2023
What is Important to me by Kate Weidner (she/her)
Founder, CEO SRW

I think a lot about my legacy. My dad died just shy of his 64th birthday, but his life was so full. Like me, he was an entrepreneur and a parent of three. In so many ways, I find I’m following in his footsteps…but I’m also blazing a completely different path.

When he died there was a line around the block of friends, colleagues, and people who barely knew him that wanted to come tell my family how he touched their life. I realized then how special it is to be able to be just as amazing at home as you are out in the world.

What’s important to me now is leaving that world and its inhabitants better than I found it. My biggest contribution is through my family. They will always know they are loved beyond measure. And as an entrepreneur, I also get to create a springboard to help other people accomplish their dreams, and shape businesses that make the world better, too.

(I know that all women who have children work in the home, in my new portrait series I am featuring women who work inside and also outside the home.)

portraits of Successful Women

Jun 14, 2022
What success means to me by Shibani Baluja
Founder & CEO, lil’gourmets baby & toddler food

Early in my career, I thought success was an impressive title; I wanted that even more than a large salary. I look back at that time and realize that it was because the young, unconfident me needed the validation and recognition I thought a title would bring.

As I’ve aged and been fortunate to have so many impactful mentors and an incredibly supportive husband, my definition of success has dramatically shifted. I’ve left behind cares of a title and am chasing my passion and purpose to improve food choices for our kids. I hope to make a real impact on the health of our youngest eaters and push the food industry, that I was a part of for so many years, to do better.

Success for me now is instituting change for the better. It’s teaching my kids they can chase their dreams, be confident in themselves, without worrying about the validation of others. And finally, success is inspiring and mentoring women to realize their value and push for equality in their careers, just like my mentors did for me.

portraits of Successful Women

Jun 8, 2022

What success means to me by Marlena Stark (Dziwir)
CEO Dexpro Dynamics

I believe success is not just about work or money. Success can be having a great family, a well-balanced life, or doing what you love. Or it can come from owning or running a business. Whatever success means to you, it requires a lot of hard work and dedication.

My definition of success in business is to stay true to your core. It is the ability to stick to your ethics and follow the rules. When I worked in corporate America, I often was pushed to make uncomfortable choices. As an entrepreneur, I have my freedom and other people don’t get to make decisions for me anymore. In the business world, breaking those rules becomes not only something accepted but at times even admired as a way to get ahead. I think it is possible to succeed while keeping integrity.

For me, success is the ability to walk away from unhealthy environments. And it is about choosing to take on successful projects and take a pass on opportunities that, outside of financial gain, would not benefit clients or inspire good work. Success is doing what you love, making a difference, and surrounding yourself with people you enjoy and admire.

Portraits of Successful Women

May 1, 2022
What success means to me by Lisa Conboy
Surgical Sales Associate at W. L. Gore & Associates, Occupational Therapist, Mom of 2, Community Activist

Success to me is a personal feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment. 
I am a mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter, yogi, community activist, a surgical sales associate for W.L. Gore, and I keep busy. I live. I get up and get after it, even when times are tough. To maintain success there should be balance. Self-care is critical, and I know my own personal limits. Success means more to me than winning an award, it’s also recognizing when to take pause, and creatively adapt.  
In my experience, certain individuals can handle more than others based on life experience, and circumstance- respect and honor this, always be humble.   
Wherever you are at in your life, it’s important to find a role/responsibility that you’re passionate about.  
“Culture eats Strategy for Lunch,” think about that…I am fortunate to work for an organization that puts culture, and their employees first-hand. More fulfilled/happier employees produce more in my experience. 
It’s an earned privilege to be afforded a position that can be impactful.  For sustainable success in such a role, it’s your personal responsibility to continue to learn, and educate yourself throughout your journey. 
Make those proud around you personally, and professionally-family, friends, mentors, etc. 
To establish a next level of success; do not deter from being Fear-less, Fear-less is knowing there is fear is doing something but doing it anyway. 
Grow, Volunteer, Read, Travel, Hike, Take That course, whatever it is for you- Trust Your Instinct. 
photo by Steve Ewert

Portraits of Successful Women

Apr 11, 2022
What success means to me by Kate Weidner (she/her)
SRW Agency Co-Founder & CEO, Expectant Mom for the Fourth Time in Her Career

The word success is synonymous with an internal sense of fulfillment. When I think about the periods in my life during which I’ve truly felt most successful, it’s been based on my own internal barometer and the joy I’ve been able to share with those closest to me.

The whole world knows when you win a client, launch a great campaign, make a good hire or achieve a new position. But 99% of them have no idea what you went through to get there, and it means so much more to share your joys with those that do. For me, that includes my husband, my best friends, my early colleagues, my long-term team members and my family (who frankly won’t think I’ve lived up to my potential until I have POTUS as my Instagram handle).

Success, to me, is making myself and those people proud. It’s knowing that I desired something, I sacrificed for it, and I achieved it - or achieved something even better.

Portraits of Successful Women

Mar 22, 2022
What success means to me by Sherry Valentino Davenport
Strategic Marketing Leader | Inspiring Customer-focused Cultures & High-performing Teams, HERE Technologies

When I think of the definition of success I think about my dad. The first thing he said when I entered the business world was “Don’t try to be a woman trying to be a man.” I knew then he was encouraging me to be true to who I am – to be my authentic self. What I didn’t realize at the time is that throughout my life it would be a constant reminder applied in so many ways whether at home, at work, or with friends. As a role model of being his authentic self, my dad helped to shape my view of success.
For me, success is confidently bringing my unique self in every aspect of my life. It’s pursuing my passions. It’s persisting through the bad to get to the good. It’s achieving goals and overcoming obstacles I never thought I could. It’s learning from accomplishments and failures. It’s leaving behind something better than when I got there. It’s inspiring others to be their authentic self.

Portraits of Successful Women

Jan 25, 2022
What success means to me by Carrie Zalewski
Chairman at the Illinois Commerce Commission | OMS DER Liaison

Success is taking on new challenges to effect great impact.

I’ve always invited challenges, striving to make every organization better than how I found it. I endured my rigorous engineering major while helping establish a new study abroad program for my major in Africa. I ran a marathon and welcomed motherhood. I cut my teeth as a litigation attorney and created a 5K run to raise funds for a local YMCA. I walked into public service as an environmental compliance attorney, adjudicated complex environmental cases and now Chair of the Illinois Commerce Commission at arguably the most challenging and consequential time in the agency’s 100-year history.

And my story isn’t unique. I am surrounded by everyday heroines — strong women doing tough jobs with grace and grit. I continue to witness the observation made by Eleanor Roosevelt: “Women are like teabags - you never know how strong they are until they get into hot water.”

Portraits of Successful Women

Jan 13, 2022
Monika Turner, CPC (She/Her)
Performance, Leadership and Transition Coach

As I live through different experiences, I have come to realize that the definition of what I believe success to be, has evolved and changed. I formerly believed that being successful meant you have achieved tangible accomplishments. Those accomplishments can range from you achieving multiple degrees, climbing the corporate ladder, being financially well off, having the home and white picket fence etc. I have now come to realize that my definition of success is more intangible. Self love and self care are at the top of my list. To me, self love and self care is when you are able to connect with your higher self and listen. Becoming conscious of your thoughts, the way those thoughts make you feel, and the actions you take as a result of those feelings is the ultimate guide to having complete control over understanding who you truly are, what you truly desire, and then taking action to get there. That’s ultimate bliss, happiness, satisfaction, success. It’s knowing that whatever you define as success is what you want in life, and not what the world expects of you.

Portraits of Successful Women

Jan 3, 2022
Angela Chaudhari, MD
Gynecologic Surgeon. Women’s Health Leader. Executive Coach.
Chief of Gynecology and Gynecologic Surgery
Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Success, to me, means finding joy and thriving in the work that you feel most passionate about while realizing its impact on others.
I have had the opportunity to find joy in so many arenas of my work: providing collaborative care for my patients and seeing the improvement in their lives after surgery; serving as a teacher, mentor and coach for so many trainees; running a physician peer support program designed to aid colleagues with professional burnout; and, leading a service line where I am able to influence surgical quality and safety for patients across the hospital system.
The numerous patients I operate on, the surgeons that I educate, and the colleagues and patients whose lives my work impacts every day all remind me of the privilege that it is to do this work. They make up the foundation of my success and continue to remind me of my purpose.

Portraits of Successful Women

Dec 5, 2021
Erica Borggren
Rhodes Scholar & West Point graduate, former Army Captain & combat veteran, and sustainability leader.

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing,” a certain Rough Riding former US president once espoused.
In a career of chapters that could seem unrelated, this is my red thread and the lens through which I’ve evaluated every opportunity: is it meaningful? Does it allow for leadership of an effort that will create true impact in people’s lives?
For me, when the answer to that is yes, success is in the doing itself.
This has been my experience – and, yes, something I’ve had to preach to myself when the going gets rough – whether leading soldiers in Korea, advising and speechwriting in Baghdad, leading veteran support efforts in government, or advancing clean energy options in Illinois.
Someone always has more rank. And there is always another battle to fight…another milestone to achieve…another community to help access energy savings.
Success is simply being in the arena, leading well and working hard at work worth doing.

Portraits of Successful Women

Nov 23, 2021
Alison Fragale
Organizational Psychologist & Professor | Keynote Speaker & Workshop Facilitator | Negotiation, Power, Influence Expert

Success sneaks up on you. You spend so much of your life working for it and never feeling like you’ve “arrived.” But then someone asks for your advice, or tells you how much you have helped them or inspired them. You realize in that moment that you have been a success for a long time, and the best evidence of that is that you have led others to be successful. When women tell me that they try to “channel their inner Alison,” I feel proud that I have become the voice in their head and hope that the voice is steering them to their own greatness. When I was a kid I would tell my dad that I wanted to be successful like he was, and he would reply: “Don’t be like me, be better than me.” At the time I didn’t understand, but now I do. Knowing that you can help propel a person to even greater heights than you achieved makes you feel more successful than anything you could accomplish yourself.

Portraits of Successful Women

Nov 9, 2021
What success means to me by Adriana Marzullo
Owner of ZULLO'S INC.

What does success mean to me? I've never really given it much thought, but if I had to answer that question in a few words I would have to say. . . taking a simple thing from a fond childhood memory (cooking with my mom and grandmothers for the holidays) and turning it into a career; For me it's cooking and entertaining. Something I had never thought I would do professionally but found myself thrust into it as a mid-life career change. With a huge learning curve (cooking for family and cooking for hundreds is a whole different ball game!) and a daunting endeavor ahead of me I had to take the first step and pushed myself with every additional step to learn, grow in order to reach the moment when I knew I was a contender. It's not always been the easiest avenue but it's been extremely fulfilling when all the effort put forth resulted in feedback like; "this was the best food I've ever had at a wedding"; "you always deliver creative and delicious food"; "we are so happy to be working with you again". To me, this is success!

Portraits of Successful Women

Nov 9, 2021
Laura Johnston
Chief Creative Officer & Founder Twin Persimmon LLC, Certified Yoga Instructor

To me, success is gratitude. For people. Small wins. Big wins. And breathing.

As a yoga instructor, I see students who’re hard on themselves, worrying about what’s missing or what they can’t do. It’s my role to change that narrative—and help students find gratitude for things like breathing, showing up and even laughing when they tip over. Through those small acts of gratitude, they discover success on their mats.

Creative leadership is similar. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to both professions. While many people focus on big ideas and wins, I’ve found that appreciating the small wins, and people you work with along the way, that’s given me a stronger sense of accomplishment.

Yes, it’s hard to do big things. A handstand. Win an Effie. But the real challenge, and ensuing success, lies in also appreciating the small steps along the way.

So pause. Take a deep breath. And inhale a little success.

Portraits of Successful Women

Oct 11, 2021
Lisa Kolavennu
Executive Director of Wellness House

The meaning of success has been difficult for me to define. As a working mother who stretches daily to balance family and career, more often than not I can point to my shortcomings rather than positive results. And yet, for me, acknowledging my flaws and digging into the hard work has freed up me up to pursue success. Being genuine as a leader as well as honest about both my strengths and weaknesses sets me up for success. Knowing that the small “wins" along the way are more important than a final score lends itself to continued success. The meaning of success, then, is a feeling that comes from knowing I’ve given my best to do my best and recognizing the joy that comes from it.

portraits of Successful Women

Oct 5, 2021
Julie Colbrese CPCC, MCC
Master Certified Coach/Founder, Hot Coffee Coaching

Success is only part of the equation. For my clients (and myself), I am always asking what success, satisfaction and joy looks like. What is it that you long for? Some of my clients struggle to dream. When you’re in the thick of things, dreams can feel like an unaffordable luxury. They’re not — they’re free and plentiful and having them is the first step to getting everything you want in work and life. A successful woman is one who has let herself dream and then relentlessly pursued those dreams. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and I get to do it every day. That’s part of what makes my life so satisfying. 

portraits of Successful Women

Aug 18, 2021
Megan Lopp Mathias (she/her/hers)
Founding Partner at Lopp Mathias Law | Candidate for Alderwoman of the 45th Ward of Chicago
Success happens right where grit and gratitude meet. I speak about this in my Gratitude Series (https://www.loppmathiaslaw.com/the-gratitude-series). What does that mean? It means that being successful is just as much about having appreciation for where you came from as it does being resilient in your accomplishments. 
As a first-generation college student, success used to mean becoming the best lawyer. Now it means that, but more.

In the office, success looks like advocating for victims, working hard for my clients, implementing innovative legal tech systems, and creating an inclusive workplace.  
Outside of the office, success looks like quality time with my kids, serving on the boards of organizations such as LifeSpan (fighting domestic violence) and FLASH (Force of Lawyers Against Sexual Harassment), being the elected chair of my kids’ school council, and building a campaign as hopeful first female alderwoman of the 45th ward of Chicago. 
Success means being a good human, a good parent, a good friend, a good boss, having positive impact, and uplifting my community.

portraits of Successful Women

Aug 3, 2021
Sheila Rugege Dantzler
Real Estate Broker at Jameson Sotheby's International Realty

How blessed I am to do this work that brings me so much fulfillment. As a trusted advisor serving as the guide to one of the largest purchases or sales of one’s lifetime – I often learn very intimate details of my clients lives. I’m so grateful that many of my clients have become great friends.
Success is the fulfillment of the work I love, then that the work I love reaps both personal and monetary rewards. Those personal and monetary rewards enable me to be a better woman/wife/mother/friend/daughter/sister full of empathy and gratitude.
Success is the freedom to choose how long and where I work, when I wake, sleep, vacation, volunteer, when I clear the calendar for fun times with my daughter or quiet lunches with my husband. It’s also reflecting on all the hard things I’ve done to enjoy the freedom and fulfillment of being my authentic self that lives out loud, didn’t let fear hold me back, filled with genuine happiness. Victory is so sweet.

portraits of Successful Women

Jul 13, 2021
Kimberly A Cook,Esq.
Divorce and Family Mediator | Podcast Host

Success is freedom. The freedom to make decisions without concern or reliance on the financial impact of those decisions.
Success is humility. The ability to recognize that we are not successful without the help of others and that to be truly successful we must also help others.
Success is love. The love that is reflected in the sacrifices we make to build a better life for our loved ones.
Success is maturity. The maturity that comes from knowing that being successful is not based on material wealth but on the wealth of love in your life.
Success is resilience. The resilience to keep striving for freedom, humility, love and maturity.

portraits of Successful Women

Jun 21, 2021
Meena Banasiak (she/her)
Vice President, Quality and Corporate Social Responsibility at PHOENIX

Success is a shapeshifter. It masquerades as wealth, status, title, or property in an effort to be construed as happiness. It dares to be the absence of failure, but it is not: PERFECTION is the absence of failure, and I can’t be perfect.

Success claims to be the antithesis of failure, but it is not: success oftentimes IS a failure whose sharp edges have been filed and softened; a failure whose identity I have rotated, reflected, and reconstituted as many times as necessary for me to be able to see it differently; to see it emerge from where it shelters beneath a cloak of grace and self-compassion.

Where success appears is in my willingness to accept a variety of outcomes – not all of them favorable – for the inherent value each possesses somewhere along the continuum of pass-fail. That value (if I’m courageous enough to unveil it) promises to enrich my life (if I’m humble enough to allow it), especially as I walk the path that weaves between aspiring to fulfill outside expectations and examining my own intrinsic satisfaction and motivation.

One thing I’ll never find success to be:

An endpoint.

portraits of Successful Women

Jun 18, 2021

Aleksandra Y. Efimova
CEO of FLX® Stretch Training, Russian Pointe & 5.6.7.EIGHT Podcast | Harvard Business School

Success is knowing that outside opinions and forces do not define my character and values. Success is feeling that regardless of the ups and downs, I will always have mental strength, a strong work ethic and a sharp intellect to identify the path towards my greater goals. Success is having passion, curiosity, and inspiration to learn, try and discover new ways to think-- and better approaches to solving problems. Success is giving without expecting anything in return, thinking freely, and loving unconditionally. Success is creating and living the life that I have dreamed of living.

portraits of Successful Women

Jun 8, 2021
Susan Guthrie
Co-Founder at Mosten Guthrie Academy, Online Mediation Expert, Creator of the Learn to Mediate Online ®, Award-Winning Podcast Host

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” – Maya Angelou

For me, this quote sums up what success truly is, although for many, accolades, riches and possessions are signs of success. I have spent a great deal of my life seeking to achieve, to reach higher and higher pinnacles and to succeed in accordance with society’s perceptions of that term.
The older I get the more I realize however, that success is not an external thing, but in fact it lives inside us. Success is a feeling and an inner knowledge that our lives are in balance and that we are loved and loving. That we are supported and that we support others. That we are grateful and express that gratitude and that we appreciate it all.
When you have that balance, then you are a success.

portraits of Successful Women

May 17, 2021
Jill Kouri
Chief Marketing Officer, Americas at JLL

Success is giving it all during the work day and having time to sit down with my husband and kids for a family dinner.
Success is being someone my friends and colleagues can rely on, turn to and trust.
Success is lifting up people I mentor and showing up for my community.
Success is being able to carve out time in the day to exercise both my mind and body.
Success is fulfillment; setting and resetting goals and objectives and enjoying the journey to get there.
Success is embracing vulnerability; having the courage to press on when I can’t control the outcome.
Success is finding joy in the little things, from watching Schitt’s Creek to curling up with my cat, to laughing at my kids’ latest TikToks.
Success means being my true self; being authentic.

portraits of Successful Women

May 15, 2021
Bela Gandhi
Founder / Dating Coach at Smart Dating Academy

Success means having it all, just not “all at one time.”   I am a daughter, wife, mother, entrepreneur, leader, friend, sister, aunt, and like so many women, many other roles.  Some days I’m more mother, some days more entrepreneur, some days more friend – just depends on what’s happening that day and who needs me. 
Being successful is feeling content, grateful, and excited.   Successful means keeping promises to others and myself.  Success is watching the relationships around me blossom.  Success is helping put more love on the planet.   Success is being the person that supports, cheerleads and believes in the people around me.   Success is relishing the small moments of the journey, that turn into the big moments.  

portraits of Successful Women

May 3, 2021
Sharmila Fowler, MBA, MCPC
Champion and Advocate for succeeding through Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Cultural Intelligence in all facets of our lives
When you surround yourself
With the pinnacles of success
You’ll find ample inspiration
To fulfill the dreams you possess

My dreams…
…maximizing my talents, interests, personality, motivations, and skills in order to identify the best mountain for me to climb
…understanding your experiences and passions in order to support you on your journey to the top
…empowering those less fortunate than me to believe in themselves and build the confidence they need in order to rise up  
My inspiration… 
…self-awareness and cultural identity to shape my goals and overcome obstacles 
…social-awareness and curiosity to appreciate your stories and stretch my mind 
…compassion and empathy to embrace diversity and create greater good

My success…
…appreciating the climb to the top but also recognizing when to switch mountains
…knowing that I was able to provide you a helping hand along the way 
…applauding those who worked hard to find their mountain and begin their ascent

portraits of Successful Women

Apr 26, 2021
Alexis Rago
Marketing Mana LLC, Big Kahuna

Success happens when I focus on what I have, instead of what I don’t have. I became an entrepreneur in 2018 to solidify marketing strategy for small businesses through action plans focused on goals and customers. I gained control of my time and my choice of clients. I am fulfilled when I guide my clients in the right direction for their business, having a difficult conversation as needed, as I stay true to my mission by choosing pono (acting righteously). I remain authentic through my interactions, volunteering, supporting other women entrepreneurs, and being present for my family.

Success takes strength, persistence, and focus. Mental strength takes daily practice through mindset, gratitude, and recognizing the smallest wins that can get drowned out by other realities. We are stronger than we realize; we are powerful as we support one another and share “We’ve got this”.

portraits of Successful Women

Apr 17, 2021
Dena Perry, MBA. CSR certified
Author, model, inventor

Success is the journey of self love. When you choose self love, don’t be shocked at how the universe will move with you once you’ve decided to make a change. Surround yourself with family, good friends and the peacemakers. This energy will sustain you in making lasting changes. I will get to where I need to be. Taking one day at a time, I strive to be the best version of myself. I may hold onto old habits but I can make incremental lifestyle changes for better balance. To create better balance, I love to pray and meditate. Share my truth. Be patient. Be present. Be ready to do the work in order to learn, earn, give, and grow stronger in my self love journey.

portraits of Successful Women

Apr 12, 2021
What success means to me by Margaret M. Mueller, Ph.D.
President and CEO at The Executives' Club of Chicago

Living true to your standards of integrity, and at the best and highest use of your purpose. We each have gifts that we bring to this earth.
I am big on leading from your towering strengths. What is the one thing that is unique to you that you do better than most people? Find out what that is and then be that everywhere you go.

People often say they want to find jobs or companies to work for that are purpose-driven. In the meantime, find the purpose within yourself and then bring that to whatever job you have at the moment. You can live your purpose almost anywhere. For me, it’s creating connection. I’m a connector in all ways. There are lots of ways I have lived that purpose over the course of my life. I connect ideas. I connect strategies and tactics. I connect problems with solutions. I connect people. Anytime I create a connection where there was empty space, I am living my purpose. To me, that is success.

portraits of Successful Women

Apr 12, 2021
Fernanda Brasileiro
Versatile, Results-Driven Director of Demand Planning & Replenishment

Success to me means setting goals for myself, working towards those goals and then achieving them. It's not always easy and sometimes the goals transform into other goals that I didn't even realize I wanted. It gives me a big sense of achievement when I can look at my plans, review what I set out to achieve and say: "yep, I achieve this!" It's also important to be deliberate and intentional about what I want to improve in my life and to understand the why. This motivates me to try strategies and ideas to help me achieve my goals.
This past year of pandemic crisis has shifted the paradigm of what's important to me and it made me reevaluate my idea of happiness. I became much more intentional about connecting with those that matter to me, seeking out to see if they need help or simply to bring them some joy and positivity. In the summer, I’ll move to a warmer area of the country with the intention of escaping Chicago winters and being closer to the

portraits of Successful Women

Mar 22, 2021

What success means to me by Emma Farrell
Senior Research Chemist at McCrone Associates, Inc.

Any day that I can contribute to society is a successful day, and my method of choice is the elegance and objectivity of science. Though often seen as an individual pursuit, science is built on the cumulative successes and failures of countless other scientists. We are an intrinsically connected and interdependent community, and together we are much greater than the sum of our parts. We cannot practice science without engaging in this greater sense of purpose. The success of one of us is the success of all of us.

Portraits of Successful Women

Mar 13, 2021
What success means to me by Kandice Henning
Founder and CEO of the nonprofit Alive Center.
Entrepreneur and change-maker that loves to empower others to be their best selves.

Success to me means living your best life. I believe that we were all born with unique gifts and talents, with ways that only we can contribute to the world. When we focus on sharing our own gifts with the world, we thrive. Unfortunately, so many people get caught up in who they think they’re supposed to be rather than focusing on who they really are. Societal pressures and the quest for material success too often win out over living our best, most authentic life.

Imagine a world where each and every person is living their best life, sharing their gifts and talents each and every day. Not only would everyone be happier, leaping out of bed each and every day to do what they love, but their contribution to the world would be so much bigger as they would be bringing passion and purpose into what they do. Oh what a beautiful world it would be!

That is what success means to me, living a life that makes you come alive. So what makes you come alive? That is the question we should all answer.

Portraits of Successful Women

Mar 8, 2021

What success means to me. Danielle Norman
Mother, Wife, HR Exec, MBA Student with a passion for making things better, construction skills, dog owner.
While I have achieved some very cool things, my true success has been finding happiness. Genetically, I was born just the opposite, with a mental illness that pulls me into the deepest dark depths of depression so I had to learn how to be happy. I’m so grateful that God placed some wonderful mentors in my life to help teach me. Happiness is a choice we make despite our circumstances – rich or poor, fat or thin, employed or not, married or single, healthy or sick. It doesn’t mean everything is always perfect but rather that you can still be content during both wins and losses. Sometimes we have everything but are missing the one thing that matters – happiness. Sometimes we have nothing but the only thing that matters – happiness. I’ve learned we can always choose to be happy despite what is going on with us or around us. Learning to choose happiness is what made me really feel successful.

Portraits of Successful Women

Feb 12, 2021
What success means to me by Laticia Thompson, MSMOB
Founder & Chief Legacy Partner at Legacy Blueprint, LLC | PhD Candidate, Business Psychology | TEDx Speaker

If you would have asked me that question 15-20 years ago, my response would have been something like have a great career, accomplish my goals, be comfortable financially, raise children who contribute positively to society, etc, etc

As I’ve gotten a little older (a little more seasoned ?), I’ve discovered that true success isn’t the stuff we acquire or obtain. The kind of success I’ve grown to appreciate doesn’t have a finish line. Success, to me, is doing the hard work of peering into the inner most part of self, honoring the core of me that’s amazing, acknowledging the ugly that doesn’t serve me or others well and being deliberate about addressing it. Success is being able to look in the mirror, love and adore what’s looking back. Is all that other stuff great to have? Absolutely!! It doesn’t mean much, though, when you’re smiling on the outside to the world, but your heart and soul are weeping. Success is the doing the work that challenges me to be a better version of myself every day.

Portraits of Successful Women

Feb 8, 2021
What success means to me by Anita Knotts
Senior Executive in Wealth Management
Advocate for women, wealth & leadership

Success to me is purely defined by how I feel about myself at any given moment. Did I make an impact today? Did I help someone? Did I overcome a challenge? When I look at myself in the mirror just before I go to bed every night, am I happy with what I see? Personally, I am at my happiest and feel successful when I take calculated risks in life and come out on the other end still standing – sometimes failing, but always growing. I need to feel that the work I’m doing is making a positive impact in some way. I am blessed to work in an industry – financial services – where I can help people in such a meaningful way. I am now finding that I can use my experience as a woman of color in this male dominated field to help other women navigate their career and achieve financial stability. It took me a while but I finally found my “why” and along with that comes success!

Portraits of Successful Women

Jan 27, 2021
Erika Gerdes
Former Google leader turned Authenticity
Advocate, Speaker & Executive Coach

What success means to me by Erika Gerdes

I used to think success was about checking boxes and collecting gold stars: I was a corporate-climbing mom who could "do it all and do it with a smile". It looked great on the outside. But, on the inside, I felt hollow and like I was never doing enough. There was always more to do/be/achieve. When my infant daughter had serious spinal surgery 7 years ago, it made me reevaluate how I was living, and for whom. Thankfully, she’s healthy, but it became the pivot point where my life has since become before and after.

Now I know success means having the courage to create a life of authenticity and impact. By letting go of who I think I should be, it freed me up to embrace who I am and who I am to become. 
We are most impactful when we’re most authentic so, ultimately, success is living into my full range and building a life aligned with my values, purpose and gifts in order to inspire others to do the same. # #success #inspiration #motivation

Portraits of Successful Women

Jan 18, 2021
Dr. Karen Bartuch, MA
Former Chicago Police Officer turned business leader & adjunct professor

What success means to me by Dr Karen Bartuch

Success means crushing your goals, right? Wrong. I’ve learned that success comprises several critical factors: unconditional self-acceptance, personal growth, meaningful relationships, purpose and authenticity. All of which also lead to psychological well-being (aka happiness). There will always be ups and downs and wins and losses in business. Rather than chasing that next big win or major achievement – I focus on enjoying the journey, connecting with others, learning from the experience, pursuing my passion(s), and staying true to myself. So at the end of the day, success for me is about happiness. 

Portraits of Successful Women

Jan 13, 2021
Diana Leviton Gondek
American and International Artist

What success means to me By Diana Leviton Gondek

Success to be me comes from continuing growth. A personal journey. From there the reward is the opportunity to continue without barriers. My artwork is inspired by real and imagined images. I work primarily with oil on canvas, but use mixed media if the work requires it. Observations of human nature. The work shows a certain kind of genetics, and even sometimes transparency, to color and uncomplicated straightforwardness. My own visual vocabulary. If as an artist I can be true to myself I am truly successful.

Portraits of Successful Women

Jan 11, 2021
Portraits of Successful Women 2020, by Steve Ewert
I want to thank all the women who participated in my portrait project in 2020. I enjoyed working with all of you, and hearing what success means to you. Lily Liu, Brandis Griffith-Friedman, Cindi Ferrara-Elstien, Laura Chavez, Kate Sullivan, Bela Moté, Lynnette VanDien Bertolotti, Dominique Jordan Turner (DJT), Dolly McCarthy, Vicki Reece, Candace Jordan, Nicki Anderson

One of the reasons I worked on this project is that I believe that the leadership of women is crucial for the well-being of the world. I wanted to support that idea by capturing images of strong women and posting what success means to them along with their portraits.

I dedicate this portrait series to my mom, Claire Ewert, an activist for the rights of women, who was ahead of her time.

Portraits of Successful Women

Jan 2, 2021
Suzanne Muchin
Founder Bonfire.
Faculty / Kellogg School of Management

What success means to me by Suzanne Muchin

It took me a long time to figure out what was mine to do, and longer to design a life where it became my “work.” We are our best selves when we can spend our days not just “doing a job that”, but “being a person who.” So what is mine to do? I quarterback ideas that matter. Sometimes those ideas are products. Sometimes they are social change strategies. Sometimes the ideas are people. Therefore, success, to me, is doing what is yours to do, and then becoming known as “a person who (does that).” Success is richer when you are clear about your why. Mine has always been: in order to make the world more beautiful, equitable, sustainable or enlightened. Enjoying my success and getting better at what I do is the result of having a 2+ decades long business partner (Rachel Bellow). And my family? They are a given. I don’t mention them in response to questions like these because it would be like mentioning breathing if you asked me what “health and wellness means to me.” My husband, my children. They are the oxygen in my success tank. 

Portraits of Successful Women

Dec 16, 2020
Nicki Anderson
Director of L.E.A.D.S., Women’s Leadership Program at Benedictine University
Author, Entrepeneur
Tireless advocate for positive change for the good of all

What success means to me by Nicki Anderson

For me, success starts with knowing that there is absolutely nothing I can’t do if I set my mind to it. Nothing. The exclamation point on success is pushing through the barriers, coming out on the other side, knowing that I worked hard to accomplish what I set out to do, and didn’t let challenge slow me down. Whatever the goal is, success doesn’t happen without failure which is why reaching stated accomplishments are so much sweeter. Ultimately, success is the realization that I’ve overcome, and I’m still standing, with a smile on my face and an eye out for the next opportunity!

Portraits of Successful Women

Nov 5, 2020
Dolly McCarthy
Publisher of Park Ridge Living and Be Local NW Chicagoland magazines;
Host/Executive Producer of The Dolly McCarthy Show
Former News Anchor CLTV News
Mother of 5
Sister to 13

Only you can write your own definition of success. Many people chase career titles, money or social status and don’t feel successful when they get those things. That’s because your success is your own. Whatever makes you happy, fulfilled and gives you purpose is what success means. Success means doing what you love with your whole heart and soul. It means taking your passion which is essentially you and sharing it with the world around you. It means being vulnerable, taking risks and opening yourself up to challenges that force you to grow, become stronger –mentally, spiritually and professionally.

If you have a happy life, no matter what you do, or how much you make, you are a success!

And there’s no deadline. You can be successful at age 24 or age 82. Here’s to your success!

Portraits of Successful Women

Nov 2, 2020
Vicki Reece, Founder and CEO of Joy of Mom
Photo of Vicki and her daughter Robin

What success means to me by Vicki Reece

“What success means...” is so beautifully unique for everyone. For me it means showing up and standing up for what you believe in. Digging deep and being as brave and courageous as you need to navigate challenging tides and weather scary storms. It's how you live your journey, your story. Especially as you fight the good fight. It's a feeling, a passion, a commitment that you live everyday, asking yourself before you go to sleep at night "have I done all that I can do today to protect, guide, enrich and empower my mission”. I connect with millions of Moms daily on Joy of Mom. It's the greatest privilege and honor being able to do so. To help positively impact one another’s journey. Being there for the good and the bad, the celebrations and the unthinkable. Staying true and real to your mission, your passion, your calling…that's success to me.

Portraits of Successful Women

Oct 24, 2020
Dominique Jordan Turner, CEO Chicago Scholars, Obama Fellow

What Success means to me by Dominique Jordan Turner (DJT)

In very simple terms, success to me means the ability to choose and have personal agency over my life. To be able to do something because I enjoy it rather than being obliged. So many people are waking up everyday going to jobs that they hate and doing things that don’t align with their purpose, gifts or talents because they have to pay the bills. Everything I do, I want to choose it freely. Freedom to me is synonymous with success

Portraits of Successful Women

Sep 30, 2020
Bela Mote, Chief Executive Officer at Carole Robertson Learning Center

What success means to me by Bela Mote

There are attributes of success that are defined by societies and cultures across the globe—what career you’ve chosen, how many degrees you hold, how much you earn—and most people feel successful when they continue to check these prestigious boxes and ascend.
So one could look at me and say ‘yes, she seems to fit the bill as a successful and accomplished woman’, and I wouldn’t disagree. But success to me as the CEO of the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, as a woman, as a mom, as a child of immigrant parents, is deep and personal. Success requires a moral compass, thoughtfulness, righteousness, values, and will. Success is when I have arrived personally and professionally at my destination and learned something on the journey that can be shared with others in the world, but that also fuels me to do more and to do it better.
Life is short. One’s career and the success attached to it is even shorter. Ultimately, success to me means that I leave whatever it is that I worked on or cared for better than when I first found or received it.

Portraits of Successful Women

Sep 16, 2020
Kate Sullivan, Host/Executive Producer of To Dine For with Kate Sullivan

What success means to me by Kate Sullivan
The definition of "success" is a funny thing for me because it's always changing. At different points in your life, your definition of success changes and evolves.

When I started TO DINE FOR, success was just getting it on the air. That was a huge accomplishment for me. Now, it's much bigger. Every episode is intended to inspire the viewer. Every season shows a diverse collection of stories of creativity and innovation and going after "the American dream." I want to tangibly improve the life of the viewer through these stories. Success for me is using every bit of talent God has given me to tell incredible stories of tears and triumph of uncommon success and service. Success is serving others, helping others, inspiring others in small and big ways. It's the ability to find joy in small things and gratitude in all things. It's a beautifully prepared meal for my family and it's also a fast food burger to-go with a great friend. It's making moments that matter. Saying something that matters. Finding ways to help the world in small and big ways. It's making my kids laugh. It's dreaming big and inspiring others to do the same....that's success to me.

Portraits of Successful Women

Sep 15, 2020
Laura Chavez
Partner and Executive Producer Exit19

What success means to me by Laura Chavez
When I was young, my parents asked my sister and me one question when we were struggling: “Who does the world belong to?” While this is a large question for anyone, let alone a kid, only one answer was accepted. When they asked, we answered, “The world belongs to those who can make decisions and carry them out.” This question is the baseline for how I approach success.

My outlook on success stems from having the strength and the courage to make a decision and carry it out with conviction. Risky or safe, those decisions are mine and once made, I commit. No matter the choice, each path has pros and cons, but the opportunity to try is always the genesis of success. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? There is power in deciding and owning something. I saw this in the women who mentored me in the past and it's something I emphasize to the women I mentor now. You don't need to be an Executive, a CEO, or President to believe in your gut.

So for me, success is being brave enough to make a decision and focused enough to carry it out. After all, your world, no matter how big or small, is shaped by your decisions and your drive to carry them out.

Portraits of Successful Women

Aug 28, 2020
Cindi Ferrara-Elstien
President - People by CFE
Board Emeritus – Chicago SHRM
Imerman Angels - Mentor

What Success means to me by Cindi Ferrara-Elstien
Success for me is realizing my full potential as an individual and as a professional. The world of Human Resource Consulting and HR Best Practices has allowed me a career of growth, success, and personal satisfaction. Growing as a person and helping others grow and understand how they judge themselves as human beings is a commitment and part of my life’s aim.
I decided early on to mentor people in organizations in realizing their potential as individuals and as part of their career growth emphasizing the “Human” in Human Resources.
I also find a great satisfaction in mentoring women who have gone through or are going through their medical journey of treatment for cancer. This gives me so much happiness in helping someone as I am a breast cancer survivor and have great empathy!

Portraits of Successful Women

Aug 23, 2020
What success mean to me by Lily Liu
Managing Member at Lidi Real Estate L.L.C.
President at Lily’s Talent Agency Inc.
President at F.A.M.E. (Foundation of Artists Mentored in Entertainment)

My passion for real estate began in 1979, when I sold my first property for a significant profit just three years after I purchased it.  Since then, investing in both residential and commercial properties has become an exciting hobby and lucrative business. 

When I started my talent agency in 1983, I thought that success meant achieving my business and financial goals.  I worked hard and the agency prospered. 

Now I realize that my greatest accomplishment was choosing careers I was passionate about that allowed me to raise my three daughters and watch them succeed.

My message to anyone who is willing to take an educated risk is to believe in yourself and don’t let self-doubt hold you back. 

Portraits of Successful Women

Aug 23, 2020
What success means to me by Brandis Friedman
Co-anchor/Correspondent for Chicago Tonight

The definition of success is the accomplishment of a goal. Doing what you set out to do. Technically, I've done that, and am grateful for it. But success is so much more. It's also being in a position to open the door for the person behind me. And, I still have work to do. I still need to learn and grow every day. Success is also difficult for me to claim. I've learned, though, that if you don't claim your power, you can't use it for yourself or others. So, I think success is not only to be achieved, but used for good. I keep trying no matter how successful I may already seem.

Thoughts on Creativity

Mar 7, 2020

"Creativity is my imagination brought to life by the spirit and energy of the children I teach, and the patience needed to proceed one step and day at a time to make dreams come true. It has filled 50 years of work with joy."
Stephanie Clemens, Director, Academy of Movement and Music

Thoughts on Creativity

Feb 20, 2020
"I work in technology and I discovered that solving problems as well as building solutions requires a lot of thought and creativity. I think at times, it is a form of functional art. With technology taking over so many aspects of our lives we can expect that many functions will be replaced by use of AI. However, there may be no way to replace human creativity. Beautiful and creative human minds cannot be put into an algorithm. I think that those irreplaceable aspects will be more emphasized in the future and creativity will be what will set us apart."
Marlena Stark (Dziwir)
Founder, Dexpro Dynamics

Thoughts on Creativity

Jan 13, 2020
"Creativity is a tricky word. It has so many facets and has been packaged in so many ways. But at its essence is the idea of bringing something into being. That's a powerful idea. So naturally you want those new things you're creating to delight people."
Tim Sheridan
Creative Director, Writer


Apr 22, 2019
"Strength training is more than just a job to me. It's my entire life. I live to be as strong as I can be, and by doing what I love I have been enabled to help so many others become strong. That may mean getting a heavier bench press or fixing someone's posture or helping someone maintain a healthy lifestyle. It's all excites me. People like it when I care for them and show commitment to them. I love my job and I wouldn't have it any other way." Matt Heffernan owner Alchemy Athletics and Performance.


Apr 1, 2019
Kelly and Masin have known each other since they were 10. They are the co-owners of Ahimsa Yoga. Kelly told me what makes her happy.
"What makes me happy is creating spaces where teachers and students feel comfortable and safe to practice yoga. I like working with my mom, sister, dad, best friend Masin, and really kind and awesome teachers and managers."


Mar 24, 2019
Stephanie Clemens founded The Academy of Movement and Music in 1971 in her living room. In 1983 the academy moved into its current location in Oak Park. Many generations of students have learned to dance at Stephanie's academy. The Academy classes have always been welcoming to all ages, ethnicities and abilities for both dance and music.


Mar 21, 2019
VonOrthal Puppets is composed of a group a Chicago-based artists dedicated to bringing children and adults quality cultural experiences
in the puppetry arts. VOP has been captivating audiences for over 2 decades with a unique combination of traditional European, Japanese
and American puppetry techniques. The VonOrthal Puppets style blends imagination, music and story with expressively alive characters
and a refined artistic quality.


Mar 14, 2019
Laurie and Lynne Hamilton are the owners of Shirley Hamilton Inc. Their mom, Shirley Hamilton, founded the talent agency in 1962.


Mar 5, 2019

“Immigrants are about twice as likely as natives to start new businesses,” Kauffman Foundation. Steve Cirjakovic president of DMS Industries is a first generation American and 5 of the 6 men in this photo are first generation Americans


Feb 24, 2019
Margaret Sawczuk art conservator in her studio


Feb 24, 2019
Athena Uslander came to this country at 18 alone and speaking no English from Iran. She earned a BS in Engineering Mechanics and a MS in Metallurgical Engineering. She opened Silverland Bakery in 1983


Feb 23, 2019
Jim Lasko (Redmoon ), @Elyse Agnello, AIA, and Mike Healy are making a new kind of social club for building, baking, brewing, and everything in between. www.guildrow.co


Feb 17, 2019
Jim Lasko, the founder of Redmoon Theatre, met Mike Healy and Elyse Agnello at Harvard Design School. Together they are creating https://www.guildrow.co.


Feb 17, 2019
Roy and Walter have been partners in Oak Park for 19 years.


Feb 17, 2019
Deborah Pieritz owner Pieritz Brothers Inc founded 1895


Feb 15, 2019
"Element Worx is a small design-to-build construction company that specializes in remodeling and expanding indoor and outdoor spaces in Oak Park. I love working with clients that want to make something different, something special. Other companies can have the cookie cutter projects, I like to work on projects that require custom creative solutions. Its extremely rewarding to help clients vision of their living space come to life."
Brett Williams owner


Feb 9, 2019
Gabriel Tetrev discovered what he loves to do in High School.
He skipped college and opened GP Tetrev Pottery in Oak Park. www.gptetrev.com

Portraits of Unity Temple staff and Ministers

Feb 9, 2019
Alan Taylor and Emily Gage are the ministers at Unity Temple in Oak Park.
The Unity Temple building is a world class building designed my Frank Lloyd Wright and build between 1905 and 1908

Portrait of creative people series

Feb 9, 2019
Brandis Griffith Friedman is a correspondent for Chicago Tonight


Apr 23, 2018
Ann Scholhamer-Co-Founder and Board of Directors Women's March Chicago.


Mar 28, 2018
Miguel Paloma and Tony Arce- Founders of Red Ivy Studios


Mar 15, 2018
Pat McDonald- Film Critic, Writer


Jan 4, 2018
Pia Singh- Arts Administrator, Independent Curator & Policymaker


I use my blog to post my personal projects. My current project is "Portraits of Successful Women". Other personal projects have been "Small Business Owners", "Portraits of Creative People" and "Thoughts on Creativity". These projects give me a chance to create images where all the creative input is mine, although often the people I photograph have some great ideas too.

-Steve Ewert