10 Influential People in Chicago You Should Know About

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Chicago is really having its moment. We elected our first African American, female, and openly gay mayor; we are the beer capital of America; and our reputation as a pioneering tech hub is ever-increasing. We are also home to an incredible list of innovators, risk-takers, influencers, and change-makers.

Here, we’re showcasing 10 Chicago professionals on our radar for doing some pretty rad things that are making waves. If you don’t know about our picks, now is your chance to catch up, so take notes.

Who: Mandy Lancia

What: The Glossary Co and Twice Nourished

Why: Highlighting creative women and supporting small businesses


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Lancia is a self-proclaimed “lover of small business,” and her supportive profiles and events with The Glossary Co highlight creative women in a beautiful way. Lancia digs deep into women-owned businesses, many of which have a noteworthy sustainability or social-impact component. She recently co-founded Twice Nourished with Lady January Studio, a collaborative event series that brings women together to connect and create a meal from start to finish, including florals and table set-up. Lancia also just joined Bide Market, a sustainable luxury shopping experience, as their Brand Director.

Who: Dave Seidler

What: Muros

Why: Working within communities to drive business through art

Chicagoans You Need to Know: Dave Seidler
Photo courtesy of Dave Seidler.

If you’ve admired an art mural recently, there’s a good chance you have Seidler to thank for it. After identifying a gap in the process, Seidler co-founded Muros, an agency that connects brands and businesses with local artists to create impactful spaces, experiences, and mural campaigns. Muros has facilitated art installations around the U.S., and recently brought new life to abandoned retail spaces at Fox Valley Mall in Aurora and Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills. These murals draw in their fair share of fans and Instagrammers, and get people engaged in this new twist on advertising. 

Who: Elaine Frei

What: Luft Balloons

Why: Elevating events with creative balloon installations


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Luft Balloons is all about bringing the joy (literally, that is their tagline). Founded in 2014 by Frei, Luft is known for their in-demand balloon installations at parties, corporate events, weddings, and more. If you can dream it, Frei and her team can build it. Seriously, these works of art are big, impressive, and the talk of any event. Frei’s balloon art was even featured in one of the Wndr Museum‘s experience rooms. If you want to pick up a smaller bouquet of balloons, Luft has set up a home base at the colorful Festive Collective in Logan Square.

Who: Margot Greer

What: Woven Hair

Why: Helping women feel confident through accessible and fair-trade quality extensions

Chicagoans You Need to Know: Margot Greer
Photo courtesy of Woven Hair/Margot Greer.

Greer founded Woven Hair, a fair-trade hair extension business that helps women with all types of hair loss, after she found a gap in the marketplace. When she was 20, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and could not find a suitable, fairly-sourced, and affordable wig, which she hoped would help boost her self-confidence during a vulnerable time. Through her personal experience she founded Woven Hair and now helps women from all ages and backgrounds feel confident. She also gives back and for every piece of hair that is purchased, a woman who needs hair is helped.

Who: Tanya Lozano

What: Healthy Hood Chi

Why: Fighting to bridge the life expectancy gap through fitness and education

Chicagoans You Need to Know: Tanya Lozano
Photo courtesy of Tanya Lozano/Healthy Hood Chi.

Lozano is a dancer, activist, and founder of Healthy Hood Chi. Through her fitness studio in Pilsen, she is bringing accessible, affordable, and quality dance and fitness classes to the underserved. “There is currently a 20-year life expectancy gap in Chicago between communities such as Pilsen and suburban or higher-income communities,” Healthy Hood Chi states. Working with the Youth Health Service Corps, Healthy Hood strives to close the life expectancy gap by hosting educational classes on how to prevent disease, maintain a good diet, and have fun being active.

Who: Paul Octavious

What: Eye Eaters Society

Why: Combining the culinary and visual arts into a buzz-worthy social gathering


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You may already have photographer and videographer Paul Octavious, with his huge social following, on your radar. We are just slightly obsessed with Eye Eaters Society, his newest project, and the magic that it creates. Eye Eaters Society is a “not-so-secret society bringing together culinary and visual artists to create an elevated social gathering.” The events have highly curated themes, such as “Eating Rainbows,” and are inspired by art, using local chefs, artists, and venues.

Who: Luce Angel

What: Luce Ends

Why: Connecting people through creative cultural programming


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Angel seems to have touched all of our favorite events and businesses this year (Drink Chicago Style, The Wing Chicago, and The Hoxton are just a few). Her cultural programming and event production agency, Luce Ends, focuses on “connecting people and brands through thoughtfully curated experiences.” A very proud Chicagoan, Angel previously worked with chefs Stephanie Izard and Paul Kahan and fashion designer Alexander Wang. With the focus now solely on Luce Ends, Angel will continue to bring her hospitable and thoughtful approach to cultural programming and event production to Chicago’s buzziest events.

Who: Lesley Roth

What: Englewood Brews

Why: Bringing craft beer to Englewood


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Chicago may be the craft beer capital of America, but you won’t find a brewery in Englewood. Along with her husband, Steve Marchese, Roth is changing that and opening Englewood Brews this year. Through their brewery, Roth hopes to become a destination and an anchor in the community that showcases local arts and culture. “We are a catalyst for sustainable community, economic and neighborhood development through the provision of jobs and partnerships with like-minded industries,” she adds.

Who: Johnny Boucher

What: Hope for the Day and Sip of Hope Coffee Bar

Why: Mental health champion


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“It’s OK not to be OK,” is Hope for the Day’s message, led by Boucher. Through his suicide-prevention advocacy group, Boucher is breaking the stigma of mental health and working within communities to educate and bring the correct tools to help those in need. Boucher also opened Sip of Hope coffee bar, along with Chicago’s Dark Matter Coffee, where 100 percent of proceeds support proactive suicide prevention and mental health education.

Who: Jennifer Kim

What: Passerotto

Why: Owner, chef, and restaurant culture activist


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Passerotto, Chef Jennifer Kim’s Andersonville restaurant that serves “fun Korean-flare,” recently celebrated its first year. Besides owning a successful restaurant, Kim has gained notoriety for advocating for better restaurant culture. She is using Passerotto to hold free workshops on topics such as restaurant ownership and is creating a safe place for women and the LGBTQ community, while advocating to eliminate the restaurant “locker room” culture.

Macaire Douglas lives in Chicago with her husband and two sons. She proudly supports Share Our Spare, a local nonprofit that collects goods for children in need.




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