The social, business, political and philanthropic rock stars that make up my "12 People to Watch in 2012" list come from various backgrounds and are motivated by their own unique purposes. But they all have one thing in common: They exhibit the signs of greatness we associate with people whose names will remain on our lips for years to come.
From health and wellness experts, to social media gurus, to charitable organizers, fashion designers and public figures, the "12 People to Watch in 2012" are comprised of survivors and overachievers who are all-around awe-inspiring. Don't take your eyes off these talented individuals.
Vernell Bradley: Gabb Inc. - "Looking Great, Loving Life"
“There has always been two loves in my life – Fashion and Fitness”, says Vernell Bradley CEO of Gabb Inc.
When Vernell started going to the gym to work out, the fitness crowd's attire looked more like a uniformed class of black and white, she says. But Vernell’s fashion sense and free spirit wouldn't allow her to just settle for the norm. She began working on a fitness clothing line that would not only celebrate color but also provide style and comfort. She began sampling different colors and materials and fell in love with the combination of solid colors blended with tie dyed items. She was inspired to launch her own collection of fitness fashions called Gabb, which stands for "Great Abs, Buns & Biceps."
While still working as a sales and marketing manager in mortgage banking, Vernell started Gabb with only a concept for bandanas and T-shirts. She would give these items away to friends who frequented fitness facilities. Soon, the Gabb name became popular among others and she created the Gabb online store. Since then, Vernell has developed a brand and a name by collaborating tie dyed with modern femininity in versatile designs. She only uses superior materials that are comfortable yet durable for all sizes. These materials stretch up to 500 percent and snap back to their original shape with ease. This makes Gabb garments seem as though they were customized just for you.
Vernell is a southern girl from Moscow, Tennessee, who had a dream: Inspiring women to reach their goals of total body beauty. She creates designs that look sexy on every woman, with a keen focus on active moms.
Vernell admits it’s hard work, but says she is excited about what the future holds. She has opened her first exclusive boutique in Bolingbrook, IL, and looks forward to new challenges each day.
Top Goal for 2012 : Creating a Mens Line for Gabb.
Fun Fact: Vernell is a sponsor for WOW ( womenforwomen.org ) supporting women from war torn countries. Her sponsored sister is a wonderful lady from Democratic Republic of Congo
Randy Shipley - "Social Media Engineer"
Randy (4th from right shown with his family) has over 30 years of experience in sales and business development across multiple industries, including 10 years as an executive for large publicly-owned companies. He was the Chief Revenue Officer for Carrier Access and helped take the company from pre-IPO status to a $2 billion market cap on the Nasdaq. Randy led teams that grew sales from $5 million per quarter to over $40 million per quarter in 18 months. For the past five years, Randy has been heavily engrossed with social media and social networking. When you talk with Randy about his life's achievements, he will spend hours talking about his family, including his wife of 36 years, their four children and grandchildren. Randy and his wife support numerous charities including Susan Komen in honor of Randy's mother-in-law.
Top Goal for 2012 - The successful launch of Social Gravity, a new network that allows individuals, organizations and businesses to engage in online social networking, events and crowd funding for their charities and causes.
Interesting Fact - Randy started playing bridge at the age of 7, and became a senior master before he was 10. While he quit playing competitively to take care of his family, Randy now finds time each day to play a few hands online with his mom's friends.
Sandria Washington - "A Work In Progress"
Sandria M. Washington is simply a writer, one whose lifelong passion and gift for storytelling spans books, magazines, fashion, theater and the blogosphere. By day, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign graduate (B.S. Advertising, 2002) is a senior communications editor, ridding a top-ranked global company of mayhem such as bad grammar and improper comma usage. By night, Sandria uses the power of the pen to write acclaimed and amusing posts on her ChicagoNow.com blog, "My So-Called Writer's Life."
In October 2011, “the blog about the fabulosity, trials and not-so-random musings of a writer who sometimes does more living than writing – all to custom make my dream job," was recognized as one of the top 10 "Best Posts of September." When not telling stories in print, Sandria tells stories through modeling (1st Place award-winning natural hair model), acting ("The Vagina Monologues: South Shore"), poetry (featured spoken-word artist, "My Black is Beautiful" Tour, 2009) and helping others find their own voices and stories, particularly girls and women, through community volunteer initiatives and workshops.
Lira Luis : "Making Architecture Socially Relevant , Sustainable and Hot"
Lira Luis (AIA, RIBA, NCARB, UAP, CeMA, LEED-AP BD+C) is a global American architect specializing in organic architecture. She graduated with a master’s of architecture degree from Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin and a bachelor’s of science degree in architecture, cum laude, from the University of Santo Tomas. She holds multiple licenses in Asia, North America and a Chartered Architect designation in Continental Europe. She has designed an impressive number of diverse and socially-relevant building typographies in Asian and U.S. markets from the small-scale award-winning Portable Transient Shelter Pods to large-scale designs for several U.S. Fortune 100 companies. In 2010, National Geographic and The Aspen Institute selected her as Environment Forum Scholar. In the same year, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) selected her as recipient of the AIA Athena Young Professional Award. In 2011, she represented the A&D community as one of four winners in the Reign In Spain Competition by Tile of Spain. She was selected as one of the 2011 Suite 16 Top Picks. For 2012, she is named “Top 20 Under 40 in the Midwest” by Engineering News Record. A design correspondent, Lira contributes articles as a resident blogger for Chicago Tribune's ChicagoNow.com, Benjamin Moore's Expert Architects, and AIA KnowledgeNet.
Top Goal For 2012: Push the design society forward through sustainable and socially-relevant projects
Interesting Fact: Won by a landslide, the title "Hottest Architect" at Curbed.com
Beth Jacboson: "Trainer Beth"
For more than 15 years, Beth has managed corporate fitness centers in the Chicagoland area, while maintaining an in-home personal training business. In 2010, Beth decided to retire from corporate fitness management to pursue her passion for personal training and group fitness. She currently provides personal training services to the residents of downtown Chicago, Chicago's North Shore, Northern California and Southern Florida. You can find her teaching Fit Camp, Boot Camp and cycling at Morton Grove Park District, the Glenview Park Center, as well as on the annual Tampa Bay Yoga (& Fitness) Cruise.
Beth works with clients of all ages in the water or on land. She holds a bachelor’s of science degree from Northern Illinois University in physical education, emphasizing cardiac rehabilitation and fitness leadership from. In addition, she is a certified personal trainer through both National Academy of Sports Medicine and American Council on Exercise. Other certifications & affiliations include Cycle Rebook, Reebok Strength, Precision Cycling, AEA instructor, hydro-fit instructor, American Heart Association CPR & AED, and is a member of American College of Sports Medicine.
Beth's philosophy: “We save for our future or rainy day with our 401K, but if we don't take care of our house (our bodies), we will never be able to enjoy our future or rainy day savings.” Therefore, fitness isn't a destination, she says, it's a journey.
When she isn't training clients or teaching, you'll find her fundraising for City Of Hope's Walk for Hope to Cure Women's Cancer event in Chicago as event chairperson; riding her bike around town; participating in triathlons and the El Tour de Tucson; and spending time with family & friends.
Top Goal For 2012: To publish one if not two pocket sized books
Interesting Fact: "I'm addicted to Scrabble Online"
Tamika Martell- Price: "Changing the Style Game"
Tamika Martell-Price is the founder of A-line Chicago (formerly A-line Style Services), an award-winning Wardrobe Styling & Personal Shopping Consultancy in Chicago. Tamika has provided clients with polished, quality looks to compliment their budgets, body types and busy lifestyles since 2008. Tamika has been seen working her style magic on the nationally syndicated daytime TV show, "The Rachael Ray Show" and NBC 5 News, and through multiple appearances on WCIU's "You & Me This Morning." She was named one of the "Top 40 Under 40 Game Changers" by Black Enterprise Magazine.
Tamika also has a sincere passion to help homeless mothers and children that grew from her own experience with homelessness as a child. She is the creator of "Dangerous Curves Ahead," an annual charity fashion show and women's expo that empowers women of ALL shapes and sizes. The event has received national media coverage from The Tom Joyner Morning Show and Sophisticate's Black Hair Magazine. Proceeds for “Dangerous Curves Ahead” go to her not-for-profit organization, the A-line Foundation, which provides mothers in homeless shelters with no-cost therapeutic counseling, mentoring and head-to-toe makeovers.
Top Goal For 2012 - completing my book on women's style
Interesting Fact - I am addicted to lip gloss & pizza:-)
Monika Rydzewski - "Videopreneur - Visionary - Inspiration"
Videopreneur at Chicago Web Video Marketing. Monika has over eight years of media and marketing experience, with a background in broadcasting. She is currently finishing a video blogging e-course that will be offered in colleges throughout the U.S. She coaches, trains and consults with small business owners and entrepreneurs on how to effectively incorporate video into their marketing strategies. She has been referred by the Chicago Tribune as an "overall video marketing expert." Her passion is capturing people’s inspiring stories and sharing it through video.
She is also a co-producer and host of Connect.Inspire.Grow.TV, where she interviews business owners who are making things happen and share their valuable tips on how others can grow their own success.
Stephanie S. Green -
" Social and Cultural Networker"
Stephanie S. Green is a full-time commercial real estate attorney and the editor and publisher of Soleil's To-Dos at www.so-LAZE.com. Soleil's To-Dos(pronounced so-LAY) comes from the French word for "sun" in homage to Stephanie's nickname "Sunshine." It provides a central hub for a wide variety of cultural events, including theater, live music, politics, black tie, festivals, dance, comedy, family and children, fitness and more. It's like a Reader or TimeOut focused on culturally-diverse activities. Also, through a calendar widget, Soleil's To-Dos provides or exchanges calendar content with other websites, thereby creating a network that delivers increased event visibility.
Top Goal For 2012 – From June through September, 2011, Stephanie appeared weekly on WCIU’s You & This Morning, providing event information for their “Weekender” segment. In 2012, Stephanie would like to share information about upcoming events on a regular basis through television and radio stations appearances throughout the year, because there’s always something To-Do!
Interesting Fact – I can still do a backbend – and raise myself back up!
Takara Beathea- Gudell - "Inspiring Women Through Fashion"
How do you want to feel when you walk into the room? For Takara Beathea-Gudell, the answer to that question has been the guiding principal behind a 35-year career focused on the innovative design -- and selection -- of clothing and accessories for "The Forgotten Woman." A lifelong fashion trendsetter and artisan, Takara began designing and making her own clothes in her teens. She had no formal training and never used patterns. Equipped with only a pair of scissors, a sewing machine and an eye for beauty and style, Takara crafted an elegant brand of free-flowing, architecturally-inspired clothing and accessories unique in their individualism and loyal to the concept of self-defined feminine beauty.
Takara is president and CEO of TAKARA Designs, the cornerstone of a fashion business enterprise that includes three specialty women's boutiques (Takara, Shoe Soko and Croix) located in historic downtown Oak Park, a custom design and fashion consultancy, and a pop up store on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Born to West Indian parents and educated in Los Angeles, Takara first gained attention in the design world with her earthy, dramatic and ethnically-inspired jewelry and accessories made from natural products such as cowry shells and palm wood. In 1988, she responded to a cattle call for designers by Bullocks Department Store, landing her first deal with a major retailer. The retailer picked up her unique earring designs made from hot press paper, a process she devised and perfected at her kitchen table. In ensuing years, the personable young designer knocked on many department store buyers' doors to get attention for her wares. Her persistence paid off. Takara sold her jewelry to several major catalog houses and to retailers such as Nordstrom's, I. Magnum, Marshal Field's, and JC Penny's. She created 40,000 pairs of earrings for Sears. Today, her boutiques are distinguished by eye-catching, figure-flattering fashions and accessories that are not carried by major department stores. What's more, the clothes are as comfortable as they are beautiful.
After years of wearing her own creative designs, Takara began designing clothing for other women about 15 years ago. She was motivated by frequent and impassioned pleas from friends and onlookers who admired her style and wanted to capture her look. TAKARA Designs are defined by the artisan's love of organic, elegant and free-flowing fabrics to create 'event pieces' that are unencumbered, yet designed to fit the body. Inspired by the origami paper-folding technique, Takara uses daring shapes and asymmetrical lines to make bold-statement jackets, coats, blouses, dresses and skirts that fold out into beautiful images. Architectural lines permit a layering of TAKARA Designs in the lagenlook ("layered look") style that is popular in Germany.
She designed her first oversized shirt - the Takara top - without a pattern. She cut the fabric on top of her bed and sewed it on her kitchen table. At the time, she did not know how to put elastic in the waste, so she held the fabric together by adding ties and wrap-around belts. For the first several years, her fashions had no buttons, snaps, or zippers. Takara has a knack for dissecting one design into multiple incarnations. The Takara Top would later inspire 15 separate garments. It also helped the young single mother pay for college and care for daughter, Miya. One day, a customer inquired about a skirt to go with the Takara Top, and the artisan went to work, experimenting with textiles and design techniques. In those early days, she would use a giant bobby pin to pull the elastic through the skirts. She later worked with a seamstress to perfect the process and produce more pieces. Today, TAKARA designs comprise 25 percent of the brands she carries in her boutiques. Takara's warm disposition and personalized service distinguishes her brand and is a signature of her custom order design business.
Takara names her designs after friends and famous women she has admired throughout her life. There is the Oprah Shirt and the Grace Jones Skirt, and the Erica Blouse and Judith Jumper, named for honored friends. Takara has created art programs for Chicago Public Schools and taught an art class at Columbia College.
Interesting Fact: In the late 1990s, Takara became the first African American woman to grace the cover of Crain's Chicago Business magazine. She was featured in an article on an entrepreneurship program through Hull House, graduating its star pupil.
Ashvin Lad: "Survior, Adventurer Leader"
Ashvin Lad is the Director of the Invest Illinois and The Illinois Funds divisions in the Office of the Illinois State Treasurer. In these roles, Ashvin oversees economic and community development initiatives, as well as agriculture programs and a technology-focused venture capital fund all focused on a strong rate of return on investments of taxpayer dollars and job creation. In addition he manages a $6 Billion pooled investment fund program consisting of monies from public entities.
Ashvin began his career working in the healthcare industry developing life saving medical devices and has two patents on devices that are pending. During his years in financial services, upon noticing an unmet need of financial offerings for the underbanked community, he developed and launched a prepaid debit card product for Discover to assist the unbanked move into the financial mainstream.
Having worked in healthcare and financial services, as well as being a cancer survivor, he ran for Congress in the last election cycle with the idea of using those experiences, along with youth and ethnicity, to bring pragmatic solutions to the forefront of the healthcare and financial debate. While understanding that he was a long shot to win in the general election, he nonetheless left his position at Discover and began to campaign full time so that his message of non partisan, practical solutions to these issues would be heard. While earning the endorsements of both major papers in Chicago and many elected leaders, he lost in the primary, but never lost his desire to serve.
When he's not serving the State, Ashvin serves as a cancer survivor mentor for Imerman Angels, and continues to travel the around world experiencing diverse cultures, foods, and sporting events. During his travels of 35 countries he has run with the bulls of Pamplona, dove the Great Barrier Reef, and visited various wonders of the world including the Taj Mahal, Machu Pichu, The Great Wall of China, and the Coloseum, to name a few. However, highlight is having caught two foul balls in one game at Wrigley Field.
Goals in 2012 include enhancing economic opportunities for small business in Illinois, visiting 3 of the remaining 5 states left on his list to visit, attend the London Olympics, and continue to serve the people of Illinois.
Interesting Fact: Cancer Free For 13 years and every year he gathers his friends together in celebration.
Yao Dinizulu - "Champion For The Poor and Disadvantaged"
As founder of the Dinizulu Law Group, Ltd., Yao focuses on serious injury cases and has secured million-dollar settlements and verdicts on behalf of families affected by medical malpractice, corporate malfeasance and nursing home abuse and neglect. His largest settlement for a single medical neglect case was $2.35 million, far exceeding the average award for such cases in Cook County.
With a heavy concentration in tort litigation, Yao is known among his peers as an innovator. He was named a "2012 Rising Star" in Super Lawyers national magazine and one of Law Bulletin Publishing Company's "40 Under 40 Attorneys to Watch in Illinois" in 2007. He also was featured in the March 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine discussing how his firm's integration of cutting-edge technology upgrades have heightened his competitiveness and better ensured optimal outcomes for his clients.
Yao has made bold moves throughout his career, demonstrating his commitment to growing his practice and further distinguishing himself from his peers. As a repeat guest on WVON's Cliff Kelley Show, Yao has discussed a litany of topics, offering advice to callers on how to select a nursing home and to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect. He also has filed litigation on behalf of families affected by the Burr Oak Cemetery scandal.
A magna cum laude graduate of Florida A&M University, Yao earned his Juris Doctorate in 1997 from the University of Illinois' College of Law. He is married and has one son. He enjoys fine dining, theater and speaking to disadvantaged youth. Yao's personal motto, "Never let an opponent out work me," demonstrates his commitment to gaining the trust of each client, representing them with the utmost integrity and working industriously to deliver the best possible results.
Interesting Fact: A U.S. citizen, Yao's name reflects his family's Ghanaian heritage.
Jenaeth Markaj - Keeping Hope, Improving Lives
Jenaeth Markaj is the Cook County Development Associate for One Hope United, a non-profit organization that has been working to fulfill its mission of protecting children and strengthening families since 1895. For the past nine years, Jenaeth has built her career in the non-profit industry, holding positions at several Chicago-based organizations, including the Institute for the International Education of Students and Earn Academy. Her commitment to improving the lives of others led her to supplement her professional work with volunteer positions at a number of local non-profits that include the Women’s Empowerment Program, the Broadway Youth Center, and the South-East Asia Center. In her current role with One Hope United, Jenaeth is building new relationships with individuals, local businesses, arts organizations, other non-profits and foundations to raise awareness of and generate support for their efforts to ensure that every child has a safe place to call home.
Top Goal for 2012: To continuously inspire others to support the children and families in their community by getting involved with One Hope United, an amazing organization that has been bringing hope to our city for over 100 years.
Interesting Fact: When I was young, I was the proud owner of a stuffed animal sheep named, “Narcolepsy.” =)
Tags: 12 People To Watch In 2012, Ashvin Lad, Beth Jacboson, Beth Jacobson, glenn murray, Jenaeth Markaj, Lira Luis, Monika Rydzewski, Randy Shipley, Sandria Washington, Stephanie S. Green, stop look listen, Takara, Takara Bethea-Gudell, Tamika Martell-Price, Vernell Bradley, Yao Dinizulu