Message from Montie

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Photo Gallery: Commonground's 40 Under 40 Chicago Crain's List honoree reception, Chicago adventures

Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at

This past week, I was honored with interviewing two of Crain's 40 Under 40 professionals, Sherman Wright and Ahmad Islam from Commonground, a marketing agency that embraces multiculturalism. I think it's so respectable how they're building a bridge to encourage diversity where there was none. Other marketing companies are jumping on the bandwagon slowly but surely, but I knew about many of Commonground's products before I'd ever heard of Commonground so to find out that they'd achieved the honor of Crain's Chicago list for 2009 wasn't a surprise. I talked with these two entrepreneurs about social networking, diversity in marketing, their advertising and marketing background, and the economy.


And on Monday, Nov. 23, I was flattered to be invited to their 40 Under 40 Honoree Reception at a Chicago bar and restaurant called Clutch, located at 459 N. Ogden Avenue, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.




When I usually attend events like these, I eat first because as a vegetarian I'm about 90 percent positive there won't be anything I can eat besides the chips, but Commonground once again encouraged diversity. When the chicken trays came out, so did the vegetarian appetizers (tomato bruschetti and hummus) with a variety of bread, tortilla chips and free liquor. The location was just large enough to fit a reasonably large crowd at Clutch, and the staff was absolutely pleasant. I was also bobbing in my seat to some good music, including Michael Jackson and Jay-Z.


But more importantly, the crowd was a really positive, polite and professional bunch. Keeping a positive and beneficial circle of friends and family around any entrepreneur is key, and from the choice of location, ambiance and the friendly greetings I got from the Commonground team and other guests, there's no doubt in my mind that Commonground will continue to be as successful as they are.


When Sherman Wright and Ahmad Islam gave their speeches about what it was like starting their own business and thanked family and friends for being by their sides, I knew they really meant that. Anytime someone branches out on their own, they're taking a risk. It's always pleasing to see people who are in an entrepreneur's professional and personal corner. And Commonground is doing quite nicely too. This company started in 2004, reached an $8 million mark and is headed to $11 million. I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing more from them.



Want to know more about Commonground? Visit the following links:


My Adventures on the Way to the Reception:

  • My buddy who came with me hadn't been on public transportation in years. She was terrified and looking at everybody crazy. The more she panicked, the harder I laughed.
  • A cop sped towards us on the wrong side of the street because he gave us the wrong directions. Before that, he told us the address we were going to didn't exist, but when I said it was called Clutch suddenly he remembered.
  • A CTA representative kept squinting his eyes at me while I was asking him for directions. Finally he went, "Do you write a blog?" I was so surprised that somebody recognized me from my Message from Montie blog, but when I grinned about him reading it and told my friend, he goes "You're not famous." Tore up my self-esteem. I was "something like famous" for 2.5 seconds though. (Mike Epps' fans will get that joke.) No, but seriously he was a very friendly and funny guy, and he helped us out a lot. Go CTA!
  • One of the Macy's representatives also recognized me walking around in the department store and was very happy to see a quote about the Queen Latifah visit on November 28. I always love it when my interviewees are happy, especially when I can get new fragrance ideas.
  • The religious guy on State Street yelled out to people walking by, "If you want to save yourself from sin, move to the north side." I fell out laughing. The north side is not full of angels either.
  • A dog ran by my leg and tried to push me towards some restaurant on our way off the #65 bus. I thought it was so weird, but we walked around for ten minutes trying to find Clutch. It turns out the dog was pushing me in the right direction. See, this is exactly why I've always been a dog lover.
  • For the first time I realized there was a connection between "Food, Inc." and Chipotle restaurant after stopping in there for a vegetarian bowl.
  • I saw this very entertaining sign about marriage on the #65 bus that added to my theory that marketing companies are making their ads more diverse.
  • My guest for the Commonground event was a very good high school friend of mine who I hadn't seen in nine years and just saw by accident on my father's birthday last month. I love those friends that you lose touch with but when you get back together, you two are still just as cool. Those don't come around much. Appreciate those folks!



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