Panel Planning: 8 Tips From Our Etsy Evening by Julie Schumacher

crowd copy We'd been kicking around the idea of a panel for some time and on July 8 Forth we hosted our first public event. A sold out crowd of current and someday Etsy store owners gathered to learn from five Forth alum who are veterans in the world of Etsy and/or ecommerce.

Here are some panel planning things we kept in mind as we got our Etsy on.

signageChoose a topic that matters.

A conversation between some Forth alum in a Facebook group about some challenges of Etsy had us thinking that if they could have an exchange that dynamic over the internet there'd be some sparks and magic in person, and some very valuable information for interested parties. I've never had an Etsy store but even I was curious about what they were talking about. That, my friends, means people who are invested would be interested.

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Find people who know their stuff and have opinions and questions.

Our panels are opportunities for the women of Forth to showcase their talents. Each brought a unique voice and area of expertise. Before the event, we asked each to share some tips and from those gave each a topic to ruminate on more in depth. Being a panelist can be nerve wracking so letting them get their public speaking sea legs with a topic they were prepared to talk about made sense. Picking people who know their stuff and are curious about how other's are doing it means a natural flow to the conversation instead of an back-and-forth between the moderator and a panelist.

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Ask people what they want to know.

Because the panel was open to anyone, whether they owned an Etsy store or not, we wanted to be sure the evening had value for everyone who attended. Eventbrite allows you to contact people who've purchased tickets. By writing each of them and saying "Hi! What are you curious about?" we were able to generate some broad topics for us to talk about and let attendees know they were in for a good evening.

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Pick a space that inspires.

Finding a space is hard. You need it to be big enough but not too big. You need it to have a layout that makes sense for the evening's flow. We talk about spaces all the dang time when we're planning the private salons. Our space host, Design Cloud, had up (as they always do) an engaging and beautiful show. We couldn't have picked a better venue. (And if you are looking for a space to cowork from, they do that too!)

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Reach out.

I don't like to ask for rides to the airport, so asking people to pitch in or donate or support is hard. I was nervous asking the panelists because, heck, they are all busy and fabulous. Bolstered by their enthusiastic yeses we wrote Penrose, a new brewery in Geneva to see if they were interested in being a part of the night. And you know what? They were enthusiastic and excited and so ridiculously helpful, too. And the beer! We were lucky to sample some of the first bottles of Penrose's Proto Gradus and P2. The worst a business or organization might say is no. And, we found, they often say yes. If you can present your event's WHY clearly and articulately, share why it might be of value to sponsor, and be as accommodating as possible you too might have delicious beer a-flowing.

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Make it feel special.

This is kind of the key thing we do at Forth. Women sitting around a table talking is great and all...but what makes the salons different is that we plan for a beautiful evening from start to finish. Here was no different and here that mean some tasty snacks to pair with the beers. Chocolate and cheese go well with Belgian beers. It was a low effort, high yummy way to make the evening special.


Get butts in seats.

A panel without an audience is wildly depressing. We tried a few things to help get the word out, and some of it involved the "just ask" approach. We had the support of the 50+ women who've attended a salon. Many of them shared the event with their communities. It was another instance of asking. We asked the panelists to share in their networks and asked everyone we could think of to point us to potentially attendees. We wrote to local design and events blogs and asked to be added to the calendar. We drafted press releases and contacted people who sold at local art fairs and popup shops who also had an Etsy presence. It was a ton of work but the result mattered.

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Get out of the way.

I like being in front of an audience. A lot. But even I know there are limits to my charm. After a Q&A we gave people time to talk. To talk to one another or to seek . Building connections and community is what we're all about. So while I would have liked another 20 minutes of rapt attention, dedicating time to organic conversation is a very good thing too.


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Give folks something to take away.

We took the top three tips from each expert and Lisa prepared a nifty takeaway for guests. Efforts like that make a difference.

We're working on getting audio up and available, so stay tuned!

Curious about something? Have a panel you think our community could rock? Let us know.




Forth Meetup: Kane County Flea Market by Kelly Allison

A couple weeks ago we hosted a Forth meet up at the Kane County Flea Market, and boy, was it a doozy. If you've never been to this hot spot in the western suburbs, let me paint a picture for you. Treasures amidst junk, novelty, quirk, and ephemera abound. It's really worth the trek and the $5 admission fee to get in. There are such a myriad of offerings, from tablewear and textiles to furniture and toys. And if you have the time and the patience, you're surely to find some great loot. Kane County Flea Market

Here are some tips & recommendations on how to shop the market:

1. Start with wine.

We sent a note to bring a sack lunch and a snack to share, and the offerings were bountiful. Macarons, cheese & fruit, rice krispy treats, stroopwafels, and of course, wine. As with all Forth outings (or most all) there must be a bit of alcohol to initiate the festivities.

Start with Wine

2. Bring someone who knows.

Lucky us! Kelly of Nimble Well joined in this adventure, so we had pro collector and master guide in our midst. From educating us on the art of bartering, to identifying time period and recommended value of our goods, Kelly was an invaluable pal.

Shop Flea Markets with an Expert

3. Look for oddities.

One of the best parts of a good flea market is that you'll find all sorts of crazy stuff. So much of the fun is just in the looking, and in the giggles that ensue. Want to learn to build a house of straw & catch a water polluter? The Mother Earth News has you covered. Need a battery operated smoking bear? Look no further, friend. Have a hankering for a new vinyl collection & 80s hair bands are at the top of your list? Done!


Heck, we even found a golden & glittery accordion fit for Liberace.

Flea Market Finds

4. Buy in groups & look in groups.

Buying matching goods is great fun, even if just to compare Instagram photos tomorrow. Or let your friends know what you're hoping to find, so you'll have extra eyes peeled for your desired loot.

Flea Market Fun

5. HAVE FUN! The best part of the market is the part where expectations are low, laughter is high, and good friends abound. Make that your mission, and you're sure to have a successful trip.

Shopping Flea Market



When all is said and done, gather up your goods, style them into a pretty bunch, and take a picture of what you've found. Pat each other on the back--it's been a great day!

Forth Flea Market


*Many thanks to fellow Forth gal pal & pro photographer Dev Enarson for shooting along with us. All photos marked with an asterisk are hers, and used with her gracious permission.

Forth Alum Dev Enarson

Persian Inspiration: Beetroot + Rhubarb, Baked Falafel + Chamomile Hummus by Kelly Allison

Whenever possible, our menu items are selected based on recipes that best showcase the current season's bounty.  For the unusual pairings spring salon I wanted to incorporate early harvest rhubarb, and Julie had already tackled a delicious sweet rhubarb tart for last summer's event. I also had spring beets on the brain, and was inspired by the idea of combining the earthiness of the beetroot and the bright tang of the rhubarb. Luckily, my google search told me that I wasn't alone in thinking these two could pair together successfully. rhubarb, chamomile, and pomegranate molasses

Borrowing some ingredients from this post I found on The Guardian, and incorporating a few of my own flavor preferences, I mixed up this yummy salad that is vibrant both in looks and flavors.


2 bunches baby spring beets, any variety 3 - 4 firm rhubarb stalks 1 t granulated sugar 1 small bunch curly parsley 1 small red onion 1/2 pint kumquats 4 oz gorgonzola -- for the dressing -- 1 T sherry vinegar 1 T fresh lemon juice 1.1/2 T pomegranate molasses* 1 T pure maple syrup 3 T extra virgin olive oil zest from one lemon salt + pepper to taste

Preaheat oven to 350˚. Remove beet greens, if any, and use to make either this or this. Wrap beets tightly in foil and bake in a rimmed pan for 40 - 50 minutes, or until fork tender. Peel beets once cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Wash rhubarb and slice very thinly on a diagonal. Sprinkle with sugar and toss to coat. Wash kumquats and slice into thin rounds, removing seeds as necessary. Slice onions into thin ribbons and soak in ice water for 10 - 15 minutes to remove bitterness. Mix beets, rhubarb, kumquats and onions together in a large bowl.

Combine sherry vinegar, lemon juice, molasses, syrup, and zest in a small bowl. Mix to incorporate. Drizzle olive oil into the bowl in a slow stream while whisking constantly. Continue whisking until desired emulsion is reached. (Alternately, put all ingredients into a jar with tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to create emulsion.) Season with salt & pepper.

Drizzle dressing over beet mixture and toss to coat. Can be served immediately or refrigerated for 1 - 2 days. Just before serving, mix in coarse-chopped parsley & crumbled gorgonzola.

* A note on pomegranate molasses: Don't skip it! Don't substitute! This simple condiment is delicious, complex, and might just become your new favorite ingredient. Look to find it in grocery stores who stock Persian/Mediterranean items.

beet rhubarb salad with kumquats


Continuing on the Persian-esque flavor profile, we had also planned to recreate Mark Bittman's baked falafel, one of Julie's tried & true. But as the theme was unusual pairings, we thought the traditional accompaniment of tahini or hummus would be too mundane an offering. Again, my brain set to work and I wondered how the addition of chamomile, a Mediteranean staple, might play. And again, I used Google to double check that I wasn't the only person who'd tried to mix tea into their hummus. I wasn't.

steeping chamomile tea


2 cans chickpeas, drained & liquid preserved 3 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 c tahini (sesame paste) 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil juice from 2 - 3 lemons 2 T dried chamomile 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste smoked paprika for garnish

Steep chamomile in 1c boiling water for 5 minutes. Cover to ensure release of essential oils. Strain chamomile tea and set aside to cool.

In a food processor mix tahini & garlic until well combined. While the blade is running, slowly add chickpeas and process until smooth. Add chamomile water (& reserved chickpea liquid if needed) to keep the mixture from getting too thick. Mix in lemon juice & olive oil in a slow steady stream, ensuring even incorporation and emulsification. Season with salt, mix well, and adjust salt/lemon juice as desired. Spread onto a flat dish and top with a sprinkling of smoked paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with baked falafel (recipe here).

chamomile hummus with baked falafel

Note: If you must use cumin, as is typical with traditional hummus, use a light hand. The bold flavor will overpower the delicate notes of the chamomile, making its presence virtually unnoticeable.




4 x Forth: Anne Truppe by Natalie Pavela

Each Friday we're highlighting one of the lovely women in our community by learning about her favorite Chicago places and restaurants, hearing what websites she's all jazzed about, and gaining some inspiration from destinations she's dreaming of traveling to next. It's time for 4xForth.


Today we've got photographer and Creative Director Anne Truppe!

Her 4xForth after the jump.


Anne's Picks:

Places I frequent in Chicago: 1. Heritage Coffee & Bikes 2. Hoosier Mama Pie Company 3. Montrose Harbor 4. Neighborly 

 Places I’ll go someday: Choosing 4 is incredibly hard, but I'll try. I'd love to go just about anywhere. 1. Thailand 2. New Zealand 3. Spain 4. Norway

Best bites in Chicago: 1. Spacca Napoli 2. Publican Quality Meats 3. Nhu Lan's Bakery 4. Royal Thai

Sites I lurve: 1. School House Electric 2. WELOVEAD 3. Designspiration 4. Sprouted Kitchen

Thanks for the tips Anne! We're really digging everything on School House Electric. PQM's fantastic sandwiches and Hoosier Mama's pie definitely breed loyal customers. Once the nice weather comes around, we can't think of many better places to enjoy the sun than from Montrose Harbor.

Follow Anne's visual storytelling work at Tru Studio and as Creative Director of Forma Collective, a publication about the exploration and appreciation of a creative life. Find her on PinterestInstagram, and Twitter too!

4 x Forth: Paige Worthy by Natalie Pavela

4xForth Chicago Paige Worthy Each Friday we're highlighting one of the lovely women in our community by learning about her favorite Chicago places and restaurants, hearing what websites she's all jazzed about, and gaining some inspiration from destinations she's dreaming of traveling to next.

It's 4 x Forth Friday

First up: storyteller & writer Paige Worthy!
Paige's Picks:

Places I frequent in Chicago: 1. The Starbucks in Lincoln Square — it's my Cheers, but with caffeine instead of booze 2. Pastoral in Lakeview — they have some of the best sandwiches I've eaten in my life. Oh, and my fiancé is the beverage director there (bonus!) 3. Grind Chicago — I hit up this coworking space on LaSalle in the Loop if I really want to get things done downtown. Chic space, blazing Internet, FREE COFFEE. 4. Gene's Sausage Shop — walking in, you feel like you're in Europe! This two-story grocery store has gorgeous cuts of meat, a small selection of fresh produce, and an incredibly fun assortment of imported ingredients and sweets (chocolate for days!)

 Places I’ll go someday: 1. French wine country — we're planning our honeymoon there as we speak. I minored in French in college, so I look forward to flexing those language muscles again, too. 2. Napa Valley — sensing a pattern here? Two words: French Laundry. 3. Morocco — I can't think of anywhere more exotic and enticingly foreign to me. The COLORS of those open-air markets! 4. Vietnam — a friend is vacationing there right now. Her photos are exquisite, and I so want to experience it myself.

Best bites in Chicago: 1. Gather — our friendly neighborhood Michelin Bib Gourmand! Approachable farm-to-table fare, including a burger with simple ingredients that form the perfect flavor combination. 2. Nico — I just about fainted when we tried out Paul Kahan's newest spot in the Gold Coast's Thompson Hotel. Each dish was somehow better than the next. (I don't even love fish, and the branzino was to die for.) 3. Reno — all three meals at this restaurant are spot-on: Chewy bagels for breakfast, gorgeous sandwiches for lunch, heavenly pizza for lunch. And startlngly inexpensive, really good wines by the glass. 4. Spoon Thai — my favorite local Thai spot. It's across the street, and the loveliest green curry with chicken lives there.

Sites I lurve: 1. Eater Chicago — can you tell I love to eat? 2. Giphy — I use animated GIFs to express emotions in emails, so this site is a must-visit for my searches 3. Real Simple — this is my stumped-on-dinner go-to. Always something fresh and yummy to try! 4. Jezebel — at its best, this is where I go for my daily dose of injustice-fueled rage. Other times, it's good for cheap laughs and eyeroll-worthy cattiness.

Thanks for sharing your picks, lady! We're equally excited about Pastoral's sandwiches, love Gene's (looking forward to warmer weather so we can eat out on their rooftop), and agree that Real Simple always serves up fresh new ideas.

Follow Paige on Twitter and check out all the good work she's doing over on her website.

Forth Follow Up With Jill Salzman by Julie Schumacher

Jill Salzman is currently growing her third entrepreneurial venture, The Founding Moms, the world’s first and only kid-friendly collective of monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs. She's also a sought-after speaker, published author, e-book editor, and podcaster. Jill was a natural fit for our Spring salon focused on starter stories. She starts more things before breakfast than most of us will in a lifetime. Here, she shares how community and business are connected. 20130530_FORTH-6323 (1)

It still baffles me every time someone asks, "Why is building a community so important to your business?" I am nothing without my community. My community is nothing without me. It's such a part of (my) human nature that I can't see a world—or a business—without it. It also seems to be a challenge for many folks to try and conquer. How does one build this thing called "community?" Where do all the people come from? How do you get them there? And why on Earth would they have any interest in what I'm doing?

The first community I ever watched grow like crazy belonged to The Grateful Dead. Their fans were dreaded. And smelly. And so rabid that they created a monster of a brand and sold thousands upon thousands of concert tickets, CD's and t-shirts. One day, it occurred to me that Oprah was doing the same thing. Her audience not only liked her, they loved—even obsessed—about her with a religious fervor that has since only been matched by Justin Bieber's Beliebers.

There was a common thread throughout all of these communities that I was noticing, and as both a music junkie and a Barbra Streisand fan, I knew Babs was right: People who need people are the luckiest people in the world. What she did not sing, though, was that they were quite profitable, too.

In my early entrepreneurial days, I assigned myself the task of helping touring bands grow their fan bases. I became a student of social media. I watched bigger artists' sales methods and applied them to local bands. I became a professional roadie, helping my clients put up band posters around town and selling their CD's at the back table in the music venue. For each and every band I championed, there was a fanbase. The intensity of their love for the artist grew only if the band fed them.

That was the first principle I learned: A community can only grow if there is mutual admiration. Fans can't do it alone, and the "host" (for lack of a better term), can't thrive on adoration alone, either. It's one big happy lovefest of a feedback loop. I took what I learned from those days and have applied it to every business I've started since. It's worked every time.

My latest venture, The Founding Moms, began as a self-serving meetup to help me understand how to juggle running a business with raising a baby. In four years we've gone from one monthly 10-person meetup in one small village to monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs in 41 cities in 7 countries around the world. It blows my mind—still!—that so many women identify with this "entrepreneurial mom" thing and yet it makes so much sense.

So, I spend most of my time getting feedback from our members, building on their needs, and asking for more feedback to continue building. It's really the only way I know how to build a company at this point. As I write this I'm realizing that my mantra really should be: "No community? No company." Let's ™ it just in case.

That's really what drew me to Forth. There are a lot of communities that exist now to help women in business, or that help women help other women. But Forth instills something stronger. Something more intimate. The caliber of person who showed up to my first Forth event was extraordinary. I'd never met such a diverse group of women who were ready, from the get-go, to open up and talk about business issues—and at times, personal issues—so openly. It was refreshing, to say the least. I had a ball. And having run an organization that supports women entrepreneurs for years—it takes a lot for me to find a community-building event refreshing. I'm honored to be associated with Forth. Tickles me pink, actually.

Hip hip to high caliber, diverse, rad women. 20130530_FORTH-6467

Watermelon, Feta & Arugula Salad by Kelly Allison

It's summer! And I love watermelon more than words. So sweet, so juicy, so versatile.

Have you ever thought of watermelon as a savory ingredient? It's high time you gave it a try if you've not done so yet. Here's an easy (and delicious) introduction.


watermelon arugula feta salad with mint
1 small seedless watermelon
1 bunch garden mint
1 shallot
juice from 1 - 2 lemons
1T honey
1 tsp salt
10 oz arugula
drizzle extra virgin olive oil
6 oz feta
generous handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
salt & pepper to taste


Slice the watermelon into large 1.1/2" rounds. Remove rind, and cut the flesh into 1.1/2" cubes. Mince shallot and mint and mix with watermelon cubes. Mix lemon juice, salt and honey until combined. Pour over watermelon and gently toss to coat.

Just before serving, toss the washed arugula leaves with olive oil. Add crumbled feta to the watermelon and serve atop arugula. Sprinkle salad with pepitas and top with a sprig of mint.

If you can find it, add a bit of minced anise hyssop for a subtly sweet licorice/mint flavor.