Success Stories in Focus at YLS Event

In 2012, United Way’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) began featuring young, interesting, compelling and successful Chicagoans in a series of question-and-answer pieces on the YLS LinkedIn page. This initiative culminated April 18 with a Success Stories From Chicago’s Young Leaders panel discussion generously hosted by Leo Burnett. Nearly eighty people attended the compelling discussion, which focused on entrepreneurism but was applicable to anyone looking to succeed in their career. The panelists included: – Pam Netzky, co-founder and president of SkinnyPop. Pam has taken SkinnyPop from infancy to more than 1500 stores nationwide. She was named this year as one of Crain’s 40 Under 40. – Matt Matros, founder of Protein Bar. With a motto of “We do healthy, healthier” and without skimping on good taste, Protein Bar is on a fast-growth trajectory with plans to keep expanding in Chicago and also into Washington D.C. – Adam Hirsen founded his first business when he was in college — a taxi company at Miami (Ohio) University. Adam is deeply interested in mobile technology, and his next venture is SparkReel, a site designed so that people can share mobile video. He currently works at Sterling Partners and spends a large portion of his time as director of strategy and finance for one of the firm’s portfolio companies, the Meritas Family of Schools. – Brittany Martin Graunke, founder of Zealous Good. Brittany, formerly United Way’s strategic engagement manager, founded Zealous Good to connect people with extra items to local charities with matching needs. – Chase Bassignani, a founding mentor at Moneythink, an organization that sends highly trained college mentors into high school classrooms to reach financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Moderator Ellee Pai Hong, host of Comcast Newsmakers, expertly guided the conversation and seamlessly facilitated a free-flowing conversation among the panelists. All five panelists are passionate about what they do and explained why that is a prerequisite for building a new business. Several panelists said the tipping point for forging ahead with a new idea is when you can’t get it out of your head, when you are thinking about it 24/7. Some significant takeaways from the discussion included: – Dealing with criticism and trying to find at least one piece of truth in what you are being told. – Staying humble and showing older colleagues you are willing and eager to learn. – Finding work-life balance and the importance of sleeping on an idea or thought. – It is only by proactively putting yourself in a position to be mentored that you can build great mentor relationships. –  Demonstrate to the person whose advice you are seeking why it is worth their time to invest in you. – The only bad mistake is the one you make twice. – Find people who share your passion and build your business with them. – Give employees ownership of specific parts of the business and show them they can grow with you. Following the panel, the conversation continued over drinks in the Leo Burnett Star Bar Lounge. On the way out, everyone was treated to complimentary SkinnyPop popcorn, compliments of Pam Netzky. YLS wishes to thank Pam, Matt, Adam, Brittany, Chase and Ellee for a memorable and intellectually stimulating evening and to all who engaged in the discussion in person and on Twitter. Pictures from the evening can be found on the YLS  Flickr page. Read the full Q & A with all five panelists.

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