A fashionable morning at Cerato Boutique

“It’s not networking, it’s connecting.”
~ Fernanda Hopkins 

On Friday, while I will be slaving away on a deadline, my leading Ladies of WIN will gather at another monthly Innovation Circle. These are held every third Friday of the month, with a buffet breakfast while masterminding business strategies, followed by a private shopping event in a local boutique.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

“We believe in networking and having fun.
Why not have fun with what you do?”

~ Erica Thomas, Massupdater.com

April’s Innovation Circle was held at Cerato Boutique on Southport in Lakeview. I tend to pass through this area, but had no idea this community had such fun places to shop and munch at.

Greens and oranges are trending, right in line with WIN’s organizational colors.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Cerato was founded in May 2010. Named for a flower that is meant to build power, the boutique focuses on Chicago fashion designers. The aim is to build recognition that Chicago fashion is on par with New York and Los Angeles.

Guest speaker Lara Miller, recent winner of a Chicago Online Marketing Contest award, is one of those Chicago-based fashion designers.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Lara Miller with a sampling of her collection

After her first fashion show in Wicker Park in 2002, Lara applied for a job at fashion boutique P45. “They didn’t have a job, but they liked what I was wearing. They asked if I did production. I had no idea what that meant, but I said yes,” said Lara.

Her first trunk show sold out, and her clothing line was in six boutiques by the time she graduated from the Art Institute. In 2005, Lara worked at her business full-time and 2008 was her strongest year. However, the economy did impact Lara’s business, and in 2009 30% of her boutiques closed.

“It is hard to stay positive when the money is not there,” Lara said.

Lara benefited from microlending organizations like prosper.com, ACCION Chicago and JVS Chicago throughout her business growth.

As of 2009 she also supplemented her income with a position at the Chicago Fashion Incubator, from which she was recently able to step down to return to her business full time.

Environmentally conscious, Lara Miller knitwear is handloomed in Chicago and made from recylced materials: organic cotton, hemp, vegan ahimsa peace silk, organic wool, linen, lyocell, flax and soy fibers, hand-loomed bamboo, and recycled organic cotton.

However, “customers don’t have to sacrifice, it can still be luxurious,” said Lara. Her colorful garments indeed feel soft and flowy.

To make up for the price differential of not manufacturing in China, Lara’s pieces are quite versatile; they can be reversed, wrapped or flipped. Lara demonstrated how the sweater she was wearing changed into a dress by wearing it ‘up-side-down’. More tailored pieces can be worn backward or forward to where the collar-line changes. Her look-book is available here.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Valerie Beck sharing Money Mindset Tips

Addressing the financial constraints everyone faces at some point in their business, Valerie Beck shared her five exercises for a positive money mindset. These include:

1. “All the money you want is already in circulation, you just need to attract it into your bank account.”
a. Be positive: when you raise your happiness level it raises your “deserve” level
b. When you wake up say: “I am having a great day.” Then look in the mirror and say “Good morning beautiful.”

2. Direct your money thoughts. As posted at a chocolate tour stop in Geneva, fear is mismanaged imagination. “We get what we expect.”
c. Write down what you believe about money (It doesn’t grow on trees)
d. Write down what you would like to believe about it (getting rich is easy)

3. Direct your self-talk
“We are either the building crew or the wrecking crew of ourselves. … Create a positive affirmation about your financial picture, such as ‘I love being great with money’.”

4. Be grateful
e. List 5 things you are grateful for every day

5. Track it
“We get what we measure, and success breeds success.”
f. Set financial goals
g. Donate
h. Imagine: add as many zeros to your bank account to get you excited

One guest added that we should also reward ourselves every time we meet a financial goal. Another guest mentioned that mint.com allows you to track your finances securely.

Following that inspiration, some of us assisted Cerato’s bottom line with additions to our Spring wardrobe.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Now I want to fill my closet with Chicago-designed garments!

“What WIN really brings to me is a lot of possibility.
WIN has a good energy, a good vibe. There is solidarity.”

~ Yasmina Marie Bacon, Belle d’Argane 

ADDENDUM: As of March 10, 2013, I no longer support the WIN Board and its actions. However, I do support small business, women-owned businesses, and the gracious hosts of past WIN events.

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