Created by Kayvan Daragheh, Artist Relations Director at Genius Media
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Hotshot #16

“I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. My family was really into horseback riding and we owned a few horses, so that’s what kept us there. We’d always say, “We don’t want to move the girls!” But despite having a great group of friends and family, I never felt I was where I was supposed to be. I always had this image of living in a big city. It took my a while, but here I am, in Chicago!

I was coming into Oklahoma State right as the recession was ending, and I think that put some fear into me to choose the right major. Ultimately, I decided to pursue a business degree and along the way I took some entrepreneurship classes. During this time, @Toms was becoming popular and I was really inspired by their story. So I started making backpacks with a similar strategy, donating a backpack for every backpack sold. The idea wasn’t a huge success, but it was still a great learning experience.

For a while after graduating, I thought, “Oh no, what did I do?” I had an awesome time working for @TrekBikes in Wisconsin and getting into the cycling world, but still wanted to pursue something artistic. So after Trek, I moved to Tennessee to work for Blackberry Farm’s design team and work as a horse trainer, and both were an incredible experience. Eventually, I wanted to freelance with illustration and graphic design, so I decided to move somewhere with more opportunities and where I could go back to school. And somewhere colder, like Chicago.

I started illustrating a few years ago for friends’ weddings. I was always drawing when I was little, sometimes even on the walls and getting into trouble. Now I’m taking classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. My style has been influenced by apparel design. When I was at Trek, I was learning what it took to make graphics for apparel and I even used to sell baby onesies with my illustrations.

I just started drinking coffee in January, but now I probably drink way too much! I love the atmosphere and the friendliness of everyone. I love trying new drinks, so I tend to ask the barista to surprise me. One of my favorite coffee shops to work at is @ColectivoCoffee.

- Holly, Illustrator
Founder, Lava Coffee Club
Conducted an interview
Wrote an article

Hotshot #15

“I was born and lived in Bogota, Colombia until I was 8, when my family moved to New Jersey and then Indiana shortly thereafter. My junior year of High School was spent in Joigny, France. Junior year in France is specialized, so I chose Life & Earth Sciences, which influenced me to study Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University.

At Purdue, I embarked on a journey of research: a nano-satellite project with NASA, studying microgravity and plant cells; a biomechanics lab to study osteoarthritis; a co-op at Cook Medical working on minimally invasive devices; and designing circuits for wirelessly powering implantable devices. The cherry-on-top was going to Los Angeles to test our prototypes on cadavers with surgeons!

During my undergrad, I studied and researched abroad in Lucerne, Switzerland for a Fall semester – focusing again on space biomedical research. I was living by the Swiss Alps next to the beautiful Lake Lucerne – it all looked like a fairy tale! I was considering dropping out of Purdue and transferring, thinking, “I could live the rest of my days here.”

I came back to Purdue and started Purdue MIND, a club, to grow the biomedical engineering community. We then decided to start a company – Predictive Wear LLC (@predictivewear). We identified heart failure and its toll on patients and caregivers where we could make a positive difference. We develop medical wearable technology, beginning with a “smart” compression legging to monitor heart decompensation with sensors in the legging – preventing rehospitalizations and increasing care transparency.

In starting Predictive Wear as students, we found ourselves being contracted to implement our abilities for product development in other companies. This led us to, recently, start another endeavor called Crowd-U, which is a crowdsourcing platform for industry to sponsor contest or contract challenges with college students.

The life of a startup founder is always in a state of flux, wearing multiple hats, so whenever I need a chill place to work with amazing coffee, I always choose @SawadaCoffee!

- Pablo, Biomedical Engineer & Entrepreneur

Founder, Lava Coffee Club
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Hotshot #14

“I always say I just discovered playing the piano. One day I sat down and had these songs in my head and just started playing, figuring it out by listening. I grew up shy about the whole music thing, but my senior year in high school, I randomly tried out for the musical and got the lead!

Being self-taught, I was always insecure about my ability. It wasn’t until college that I started to play my own music; in coffee shops, Borders, and around NIU. I was studying to be a Spanish teacher, so music was my creative outlet, never something I saw as a career.

In college, there was a shooting in the class I was supposed to be in the next day. That whole year became very tragic, it hit me hard. So, the following year I wrote a song honoring the students that passed away. It was the first song I ever shared on the internet. I realized the impact music had on people.
After graduating, I started teaching, still doing gigs. One ‪Friday evening‬, my class asked me to write a song for them for Monday. I had been wanting to write more, so I was like, “Okay, challenge accepted”. I wrote a song and made a video, and they loved it and said I should make it into “Music Monday”. I agreed and in the back of my head, as a crazy disciplined person, I was like, “I’m going to do this for a year”. I kept it going for 98 weeks!
Someone came up to me at a show recently and told me that my “Music Monday” project inspired them to start doing a “Film Friday”. Those little stories tell me I have the capacity to make an impact in a way that’s not just making songs, but sending a message.

I first recorded something professionally in college and I had no idea what I was doing! Since then, I’ve recorded a 6 song EP, and I came out with my first full length album last year! I’ve kind of crossed over into the country realm. I feel like country music inspires me the most, because it’s heart-felt story telling, and that’s how I write.
I’ve always loved coffee shops because I’m a coffee addict, but also because it’s where I started playing music. They were always open arms and open doors, and ‪@LaColombeCoffee‬ is one of my favorites!”

- Dina, Musician
Founder, Lava Coffee Club
Wrote an article
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Hotshot #13

“I’ve always been a reader. When we were little, my mom would read Harry Potter out loud to us while we sat around her. And my dad would read Where the Wild Things Are to me all the time. So reading was instilled in me at an early age. I also remember my mom would get calls from my math teacher, because I would sit in the back of the class and just read books while they taught.

I grew up in Grand Blanc, a tiny town in Michigan. It was a great place to grow up, but I was really excited to leave for college. I went to Loyola for English and Criminal Justice. At some point, I thought I was going to be a criminal defense attorney, but after a few years, I realized it’s really not for me. I speak in a very roundabout way, so I don’t think I could be concise enough. So, I added on an English major about half way through!

I was rereading a book that I had SparkNoted in high school, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I started thinking about where the book came from. I read the spine and saw the little icon, so I started Googling it and I discovered the world of publishing!

In college, I had 4 unpaid internships, all in publishing at indie presses or academic organizations. I loved those internships, hated being poor, but just accepted that as part of my life, since publishing is notoriously underpaid. After the last internship, I got the full time job I have now in academic publishing.

About 2 years ago, I discovered book Instagram. I didn’t have anyone in my personal life that liked books as much as I do. So it was so great to find a community of people that loved bookstores and really wanted to talk about books all the time. It took me a couple of weeks to think of a name. I’m so bad at naming things, my first blog was called Eye Liner and Extra Frosting. I cycled through a bunch of bad names and finally landed on The Spines, because I really like the spines of a book, but also the imagery of a skeletal spine.

I consider coffee shops to be a place of community. I especially love @EverybodysCoffee! I always joke this place is like my home office. It’s a comforting home-away-from-home.”

- Megan, Book Blogger
Founder, Lava Coffee Club
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Hotshot #12

”In 2012, my family moved to London, but I stayed to go to Elmhurst College. I went to school for theatre and Spanish education, with a minor in dance. I quickly realized that I needed to be dancing and creating, and not just in a classroom setting. I always had a ton of support with dancing from my family; all of them are good dancers. But when I started doing musical theatre, my family was apprehensive and having a hard time relating since I was constantly coming home in tears from criticism from my teachers and peers. For a while it gave me a chip on my shoulder; trying to prove to people that I could actually succeed and make a career of it. But now, I dance and teach for my pure intentions. It fills my cup and reenergizes me.

After graduating, I had a friend reach out letting me know that their high school needed a choreographer for a musical. It was my first show and I fell in love with it. I got to be the dance teacher that I never had, telling them, “You can do this. It’s going to take some work, but you can”. That’s the role I’ve now stepped into, telling people that they can do it. I’m going to motivate them, and motivate myself in the process, and we’re going to keep helping each other grow.

A year and a half ago, going through customs on the way back from London, the officer asked me what I do. When I told him I was a choreographer, he said he and his fiancé were looking for someone to choreograph their first dance. So I wrote down my information on a ripped off customs form and they ended up being the first couple that I choreographed a wedding dance for! I’ve since done 5!

Now, I’ve choreographed 15 shows. After every show I think, “Damn, I didn’t know I could do that! Hell yeah!”. I feel so energized after working with my students and clients and watching the shows, I just feel like I’m ready to conquer the world and they are too! Dancing brought me that feeling and I'm so grateful.

I love going to coffee shops to plan out my routines! I find a lot of inspiration and fresh perspective in their different atmospheres! Star Lounge is one of my favorites in the city!”

- Brenda, Choreographer
Founder, Lava Coffee Club
Wrote an article
Conducted an interview

Hotshot #11

“My grandma was always wearing hats and I adored it. When she passed away, it was something that reminded me of her. I grew up in Slovenia and moved around Europe after college. Eventually, I came back to Slovenia looking for my passion. I couldn’t find any hat brands on the market that I really wanted to invest my money into. Everyone thought classical hats were worn by old people, so brands were stuck to the basics. I was going to fashion week and I couldn’t find a hat that I was into, so I went to a hat maker in Slovenia and we designed one hat just for me for fashion week. I got so many compliments and people asking me where I got my hat! I had found my passion and my business. In December 2016, I started my first hat line.

Eventually, I felt I outgrew my market in Slovenia, so I applied for the Professional Fellowship Program with the State Department and WorldChicago. They brought me over to learn more about business and expansion. I met so many amazing people and loved Chicago! When I got back to Slovenia, I decided it’s time for me to do something bold and take the next step, so I chose to move to Chicago permanently. I said, “Whatever, it’ll be a great learning experience or it’ll be a huge move for what I do!”.

My pieces are designed with the best materials. Everything is handmade in Europe. My company is all about being unique and creating a piece that is designed with the customer, to create exactly what they want. Going against the trend of fast fashion, I think we can make an impact in the industry by creating something timeless and that lasts forever. I want my pieces to be passed down generation to generation.

Slovenian people are very conservative, so every time you say that you’re an entrepreneur, you’re already standing outside the box. Even today, after achieving some success, people still think I’m crazy for what I do. They see me moving to the US and think I want too much. But, Coco Chanel was my idol and actually started with hats, so there’s proof it can be done!

I love to hangout at cafés with friends and drink a nice, strong coffee. @Intelligentsiacoffee is perfect for that!”

- Sara, Entrepreneur

Founder, Lava Coffee Club