Creating a More Conscious & Inclusive Chicago Business Community

Over the last 10 years, I’ve had a front row seat to the growth and transformation of the Chicago business community, and in particular the tech and entrepreneurial scene that’s emerged. During this exciting time, I've been fortunate to witness this transformation both as an investor and founder of several fast-growth startups. I’ve come to love the people, companies and trends that influence our business ecosystem: a focus on revenue & sustainability, gritty midwestern values, and hard work and resiliency. Characteristics that are reinforced by withstanding brutal winters and demanding investors.

But as I look forward to the next 10 years, it’s become clear to me that the only way we’ll continue this growth is if we invest in creating a more conscious, diverse and inclusive business community.

As the complexities of the future workplace continue to unfold through an increase in digital technologies and the gig economy, employees will have more choices for employment. The demand for highly-skilled talent will therefore increase, and companies will thrive only when they provide more of what this talent is looking for (and what is right): purposeful work and an inclusive work culture. The workforce of tomorrow will be defined by this - in fact, according to Zogby Analytics, 85% of millenials are looking for work that is enriching for themselves and the world. And Deloitte found that millennials view inclusion as a mandatory part of corporate culture, valuing “inclusion as a critical tool that enables business competitiveness and growth.”

Acknowledging and acting on the need for this more conscious and inclusive work culture will require dedicated investment. The rise of conscious capitalism, purpose-driven leadership and a proliferation of impact-focused summits and conferences are all part of this movement demanding that business be a force for good in the world - and it’s growing.

Here in Chicago, we have a significant opportunity to lead and shape this movement. But it will require visionary leaders who understand the importance of placing people first, of investing in purpose and making inclusion a priority. We need more mainstream investors prioritizing this and demanding it in the companies they place their bets on (check out Larry Fink’s letter to CEO’s if you need convincing). After all, the business outcomes for doing so are clear:

Here at Ignite, we’re extremely proud to be a part of this movement through our experiences that elevate purpose, promote inclusion and cultivate leaders. My co-founder Rich Johnsonand I, are excited to bring the same elements of our international journeys (leadership development, community engagement and team connection) right here to Chicago through the launch of our 1-day leadership experience: Fostering Inclusion, co-facilitated by D&I expert Alida Miranda-Wolff. This experience will weave together trainings on diversity, equity & inclusion, one-on-one engagement with refugees and immigrants through our non-profit partner Upwardly Global, and an incredible ethnic culinary experience. Participants will leave with an increased ability to respond to colleagues and situations with empathy, to recognize and value diverse perspectives, and to articulate and apply DEI strategies to help influence a more inclusive company culture.

We believe these shared experiences will help create a more conscious and inclusive Chicago community - one that fosters a dynamic business ecosystem for years to come.

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