Inspirational Women at Blue Buddha Boutique

At last week’s pop-up opening we had a lovely tour of the Blue Buddha Boutique facility and got to meet some fabulous entrepreneurial ladies.


Rebeca Mojica started making chain maille jewelry 12 years ago when she saw a cool belt that she wanted to recreate. She purchased 1000 jump rings that turned out to be 16 gauge galvanized steel, but she persevered and made a belt.


Then she started playing with her remaining rings. At Caravan Beads she learned how to make clasps, and when that teacher left she began teaching classes. On her first day she sold $300 of supplies and felt she was on to something.


She started a web site to let students place orders in February 2003 with the values of creativity, empowerment, community, kindness and chocolate. In 2007 she opened her first storefront, which in 2013 moved to the Granville location.


The storefront now houses 73 artists and ships 30 to 80 chainmaille packages a day from the warehouse in the back to 50 states and 40 countries. We were given a tour of the vast back area of the boutique, where a variety of colors, metals and sizes of jump rings are stored for shipping. Employees gather supplies from pick lists, ranging from bulk orders to project kits that are then shipped.


In the back is also where niobium is colored. The precious metal is placed in a bath that is linked up to cathodes.

Niobium bath

As the voltage increases, the color of the niobium changes, creating a rainbow of colored rings.


During our tour we were introduced to Kathmandu Yogi, which sources meditation cushions, malas and clothing from Nepal. Natasha Casanova’s vision was to bring meditation cushions to retail stores for people to try in person rather than ordering them online.


Natasha’s suppliers who hand brocade the fabrics used in the products didn’t lose their homes in the recent earthquakes but their neighbors did, and the purchase made from Kathmandu Yogi directly support the residents in the disaster area.


Next to Blue Buddha Boutique is AVP Beads, founded by Ana Pizarro. Ana worked at Caravan Beads for more than a decade until they closed.

AVP Beads

In need of a livelihood, she and her sister used a tax refund and credit cards to start a bead store on Elston and Irving Park (3960 N Elston Ave). In July, the second location next to Blue Buddha Boutique was opened. AVP beads is a family business supporting a niece and brother-in-law, who each have roots in Ecuador.

woven beads

AVP offers project tables where you can get help on a beading project you are working on. Ana loves bead weaving but does a variety of beading projects.


Ana’s Wonderwoman Cuff was featured in Creative Beading.


The beads come from all over the world, including nuts and seeds from the Amazon, African glass, precious stones and more.


Blue Buddha Boutique was hosting another pop-up on opening night: Tulia’s Artisan Gallery. Karen Torres named her business after her grandmother. Her mission is to bring Colombian art to the Chicago area.


She sources her statement pieces for the home from a Wounaan family forced out of the Darien rainforest into Bogota 13 years ago (due to territorial conflicts). That family has since built a larger home to support additional migrants and help them get started in a new city.


The refugee community comprises an extended family of weavers, carpenters, and silversmiths.  The family creates baskets and bracelets from palm leaves. They do the hand dye-ing and thread making themselves and it takes one day to do one turn of a basket.


Another women’s artisan group preserves ancestral techniques of the Guane indians of central Colombia. Growing cotton, cleaning, dyeing and handspinning are all done according to tradition and a museum has been established by this group to ensure this art form isn’t lost. Scarves are available via Tulia’s Artisan Gallery.


I couldn’t resist picking up a butterfly clip made from “fique,” a relative of the agave plant.  These are hand made by women in central Colombia who work from home.


We also met the founder of LiftUpLift, an online marketplace for women. Corielle Heath crowd funded her business after realizing there was no marketplace for women owned by a woman. She carefully selects the businesses reflected on the online shopping site to ensure that the work is authentic and matches her mission and vision. We had a lovely time chatting and I am exploring the online shopping interface.


I did a little make and take during the evening and made this lovely keychain pull in 20 minutes.


It looks nice on my purse from the Geneva Swedish Days.

pepped up bag

Pop in to Blue Buddha Boutique and view our Edgewater Artists In Motion pop-up through December. A variety of artists are on display with gift items the whole family will love.

Carpe Diem Mini Poster2 11x17

Join Our Treat Yourself Meet & Munch

Guess what? The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is back! With the unpredictable winter weather we decided to take a hiatus since long commutes are no fun. But now that spring has sprung and birds are chirping we are ready to connect with women business owners throughout the Chicagoland Suburbs.


Our next event is coming up on Wednesday, a Chocolate Meet & Munch. We’ll gather at Let Them Eat Chocolate to pamper ourselves with delicious treats and discuss why we should indulge ourselves.

The high-powered businesswomen present will address the Return On Investment of treating yourself and creating strategies around being the best boss ever when you’re self-employed. If you can’t be your own best boss, who will be? There will be ample time for mingling to get to know each other and make business or personal connections.


“Treat yourself as well as you do your business,” advises We’ll tackle the best strategies by sharing experiences, wisdom, and questions as women entrepreneurs while we indulge in delicious chocolate. This lovely venue also offers paninis, baked goods, Italian soda and a jolt of caffeine with various coffee beverages.

Treat Yourself: Chocolate Meet & Munch will be held on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 from 2 to 4 pm at Let Them Eat Chocolate, 5306 N. Damen Ave., Chicago. For $5 per person, you can delight in advice, support, and sweetness. I’m looking forward to this treat and exploring Andersonville a little bit more. Andersonville was named by real estate site Redfin as the 7th hottest neighborhood in the country – attributing the ranking in part to the “abundance of charming small businesses”.


Let Them Eat Chocolate is a high-end all natural chocolate shop and lounge. It offers Belgian and vegan chocolates as well as cozy chairs and gelato that is most commonly reviewed as “amazing.” Tickets for this event are $5. Each participant pays for her own chocolates and refreshments from Let Them Eat Chocolate’s Menu.

Graphic courtesy and photos courtesy Let Them Eat Chocolate.

NEW – The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is a group of Chicagoland business women who are upgrading business networking with fun and creative events that inspire attendees to work together, refer each other and most of all cheer each other on as the membership succeeds. Events rotate around various suburbs on a semimonthly basis, usually the 2nd Wednesday and 4th Thursday of the month. RSVP for our upcoming events at Meetup, or like us on Facebook and check up on the calendar there.


Sipping Tea at Peaceful Parlour

Before Thanksgiving the Network of Entrepreneurial Women gathered in Geneva for a lovely afternoon of chatting, tea-sipping and getting to know each other.


Members from the neighborhood as well as Winfield, the O’Hare area, Elgin, St. Charles, Barrington, Hyde Park, Evanston and Downers Grove introduced their respective businesses.


We sampled the delicious teas and chais at Peaceful Parlour, which was in full swing preparing for Small Business Saturday.


The eco-chic boutique has stocked up on all kinds of environmentally friendly and locally sourced holiday gifts.


So when you are strolling down third street in Geneva, step on down into this cozy store and warm yourself with a cup of tea.


The store holds whimsy and calm for the spirit.


I enjoyed taking home a delicious special blend with Dandelion leaves, which I complemented with some goodies from The Sugar Path.


Due to the holidays we won’t be meeting in person in 2014, but we have plenty of locations in mind to gather every 2nd Wednesday and every 4th Thursday of the month next year.


Photos copyright NetworkHoncho and Maike’s Marvels.


NEW – The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is a group of Chicagoland business women who are upgrading business networking with fun and creative events that inspire attendees to work together, refer each other and most of all cheer each other on as the membership succeeds. Events rotate around various suburbs on a semimonthly basis, usually the 2nd Wednesday and 4th Thursday of the month. RSVP for our upcoming events at Meetup, or like us on Facebook and check up on the calendar there.


Charmed by books

Last week we celebrated Women’s History Month at the quaint Town House Books in St. Charles.


It was a sunny day and we enjoyed a healthy lunch at the Town House Books Cafe, which was merged (from Al’s Cafe and Creamery) and attached to the building in 1996.


The menu is in chapter format.

menu copy

Owner David frequented this book store during his teens. Formerly the home of St. Charles’ second mayor, the Greek Revival style building was built in 1853. It became an antique shop and then a beauty shop, whose proprietors gave the upstairs its 70’s era decor.


In 1974 Mary Lou Kelly opened the book store, which became David’s dream. He asked “Mrs. Kelly” if she would consider letting him take over the store if she was ever interested in retiring, and the answer was no.


After some time, however, Mary reconsidered and in 1992 David took on full ownership while Mary planned to stay on for one year. David learned everything about the book business, and over time modernized from the pain-staking paper-based inventory tracking to computerized equipment, while maintaining the traditional book store charm.

 TownHouseBookstore copy

Mary retired in 2013, after having reduced her hours over time. The book store was awarded 1999 “Best of the Best” by the Sunday Post Magazine.


After our delicious lunch Barbara Joan Zeitz presented a fabulous program which warrants another post. Her books are located in the Women’s section at Town House Books.


On Thursday we raise pints to St. Patrick and our latest accomplishments at Shannon’s Irish Pub in Glen Ellyn. Join us from 6 to 8 at 428 N Main St, Glen Ellyn and enjoy some speed networking.


NEW – The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is a group of Chicagoland business women who are upgrading business networking with fun and creative events that inspire attendees to work together, refer each other and most of all cheer each other on as the membership succeeds. Events rotate around various suburbs on a semimonthly basis, usually the 2nd Wednesday and 4th Thursday of the month. RSVP for our upcoming events at Meetup or Facebook.


Brainstorming at Aurora Rose

This week I picked the warmest and sunniest day to make my way to Aurora Rose Boutique in Lemont and freshen up my inventory (look for the earring and pendant sets next time you’re there).


It was nice to come out of hibernation and be inspired by the creativity of the other 40+ vendors who have spaces here. These seashell flowers by East Coast Shells make me feel quite beachy.


The boutique has just announced its first monthly trunk show, which will be held on the fourth Saturday of each month. The calendar of in-store vendors presenting at these shows is filling up fast. You’ll be able to get to know the vendor, place custom orders, and learn about their creative process.

MoJo purses

The first trunk show will be held on Saturday, February 22, 2014 from 1 to 4 p.m. at 111 Stephen Street, Lemont with MoJo Re-Creations, a mother-daughter team  that creates purses, wallets, gloves and hats out of used garments. I have my eye on their Pixie purses, which beat designer labels in quality, uniqueness and price, and look forward to placing my customized order in the near future.


At last week’s Tea Women and Wellness event my cheap department store gloves almost gave me frostbite getting into the below-zero car, so I immediately gravitated toward the felted mittens made from old sweaters and lined with fleece. My fingers are now toasty warm whenever I venture outdoors.


Butterduck Farms is next on the trunk show list in March, and their lip scrub and balm is healing my peeling smile as I type this.


Owner Kim Peters and I brainstormed events and promotions for 2014, which promises to be an exciting year for our customer base. My trunk show will be in June.


You’ll find lots of gifts with heart at Aurora Rose Boutique this February, including my heart-shaped pendants that are all $5 off until 2/28. Kim received my ‘Write’ pendant for Christmas.


Keep up with Aurora Rose’s Facebook page to check their opening hours in this shifty winter weather. If you’re too far to make the trip look at their inventory online and see if Kim or Amber can make shipping arrangements with you.


Warming up with Tea in Geneva

“We each have gifts and we should explore them.”
~ Flying for Hope

Last week a few fired up ladies braved the cold to warm up to tea, entrepreneurial inspiration, and some ecochic shopping at NEW’s Tea Women and Wellness event.


Our energetic attendees included holistic wellness experts, charity founders, storefront managers and technological innovators.


Shari Ralish introduced us to three of her favorite blends: Smokey Chai, Peaceful Synergy and Romance. We also had snacks to complement the teas.



As we gathered in the circle, we learned how each woman reinvented herself from a wide variety of backgrounds, and were inspired by the vast amount of ideas and occupations in the room.


“It was very inspiring
to hear of all of the new business adventures taking off.
I was also very impressed with all of the women
who braved the cold and showed up ready to talk business and network.
Very professional.”

~ Peaceful Parlour


Of course we couldn’t resist shopping Shari’s fabulous eco-friendly, locally bought and fair trade products, which includes children’s toys that don’t require batteries, earth friendly home goods and decor, and energy clearing items.


With National Hot Tea Month in full swing, the tea accessories were abundant as well, including the hand-blended teas to fill them with.


Shari also offers energy healing workshops, such as Feng Shui for Romance on February 9, followed by a Downton Abbey inspired Jewelry Show that day, Animal Communication on March 22, Crystal Singing Bowls on April 22 and regular psychic medium readings.


It was a wonderful evening filled with numerous dates for future connections, and we look forward to our next Meet & Munch on February 12.


Hats were not required for this tea party, but the ones in Peaceful Parlour are quite adorable.


“Memorable experiences are
when you go to places that are different from the rest.”

~ Geneva Smiles


Photos by Maike’s Marvels and

deliciousness around the corner

Right before Thanksgiving we had a new pie and coffee shop open in Evanston.  On my first visit there hey didn’t offer pies by the slice yet, but their third month into the venture everything is operating smoothly and pies by the slice are abundant.


Hoosier Mama Pie also offers mini-pies, which are going to be a danger for me.


It is a fun new place to meet friends in addition to the lovely Main street venues. I’ve been there twice this week for some quality girlfriend time.


Here’s to deliciousness to warm up to during this frosty weather.


Have a sweet weekend.

Shop unique. Shop local. Support artists and artisans.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday. We have to face that Thanksgiving kicks off a commercial craze that is hard to ignore.

While I am spending time in gratitude for my family, others are lining up at mega-stores to get the latest gadget at a discount price. What I personally don’t get is why someone would stand in line for hours for something that is mass-produced. It’s not like the stores won’t restock before Christmas.

As I immerse myself further in the handmade and artistic market, I see the blood sweat and tears that go into creating unique pieces, one-of-a-kind works of art that will not repeat themselves in the exact same form again. So here’s my roundup of those artisans, whom I support, whose art I own or have wishlisted to own.

  • PerficalSense Studio will host an Artful Giving Holiday Sale with pieces from the Salon Show and additional local art works during a Wine & Cheese Opening Friday, November 30,  6 to 9 pm, or Saturday, December 1, 10 to 6 pm, Sunday, December, 2, 10 to 5 pm
  • That show will include items from fiber artist Danny Mansmith
  • Alexis Oritz offers ceramic pieces
  • Vitruvian Fine Art Studio is offering Gift Boxes for the holidays, including a Gift Certificate for any drawing or painting class at the studio, and select drawing or painting materials for the class – all bundled-up in a festive holiday package!

If you’re looking for jewelry (other than mine, of course):

  • Rebecca Zemans offers lovely sculptural pieces
  • Suze Weinberg hand-beads necklaces with unique finds
  • The Pieced Together Artist offers bits and baubles to create your own jewelry with
  • I’ve got a bridal bouquet trousseau I’m hoping to send Princess Lasertron’s way someday (even if I pull a Sue Sylvester and marry myself!) but she also offers brooches and pins and other cute felted items

For a bigger budget and those looking to adorn walls, I recommend one-of-a-kind art by the following:

Got a sweet tooth?

  • Chicago Chocolate Tours offers a perfect sampling of fine chocolates while touring Chicago neighborhoods. One of my favorite things to do with out-of-towners.
  • The Sugar Path bakes wonderful cupcakes and pies I have sampled at various WIN events. They’ll open a storefront in Geneva, IL soon.

Not everyone makes things, of course, and I also give props to these solopreneurs and entrepreneurs whose services are tailored and customized for you, and whose storefronts consist of hand-picked items intended to make your life easier.

  • Also in Geneva, Peaceful Parlour has handpicked environmentally friendly and unique products for your household
  • Ten Thousand Villages offers fair trade creations by artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East
  • Hello-Holiday has me revising my clothing budget to incorporate their joyful inventory of vintage and retro style dresses, tops, jeans, shoes and accessories into my wardrobe
  • ThriveYourTribe helps small businesses create an online brand presence with design and copywriting services

What local shops and solopreneur ventures do you recommend? Let’s support local, hand-made, and small ventures, shall we?