Ari Krzyzek, a longtime designer and co-owner of Chykalophia, an Evanston-based design studio, wanted to connect with more people in Chicago’s creative community. But she quickly found (as likely many in the creative and tech space would agree) networking events can be pretty overwhelming.
“Every single time I go to an event that has more than 20 people I’m like, ‘Ok where do I start…should I just talk to people over there, or here?'” Krzyzek said. “And it’s just so awkward for me. I wondered if there was a more intimate event that I could go to.”
So she decided to start one.
Krzyzek is the founder of Creative Women’s Co., a monthly series of intimate networking events and in-person workshops. Events are kept purposefully small–just eight to ten women, either sitting down for brunch or cocktails–and feature workshops on creative entrepreneur topics such as marketing hacks and social content creation. The idea is to create an intentional space for learning and connecting, rather than making a mad dash through a crowded room hoping to run into the right person.
“It’s so much easier to connect,” she said. “We’re hoping that out of the event [attendees] just get to know other women in the room and learn something from the event and hopefully they can spark a collaboration.”
Since launching in 2015, she’s hosted over 22 events and expanded the monthly meetups to Seattle early last year. There’s also a Facebook group with 262 members where women can discuss projects and challenges, and a newly-launched webinar series where women from around the country who don’t have the chance to attend in-person meetups can virtually dial in to discuss topics that range from legal protection for small business and how to find purpose.
While Krzyzek said that event attendees and members of the Facebook group are about 80 to 85 percent creative entrepreneurs, it’s not limited to those who work in the industry: the rest of the attendees are simply interested in doing something creative or finding out more about how to launch a career in the industry.
Events cost between $18 and $25 and tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Creative Women’s Co. also just launched a membership option in January, where people can pay between $9 and $25 per month for access to events and resources (Creative Women’s Co. is owned by Krzyzek’s design studio Chykalophia).
While there’s likely a need for both genders to have more intimate networking opportunities, the idea to focus on creating a community specifically for women came from the support that Krzyzek received from her own mother, while growing up in her native Bali, Indonesia (she settled in Chicago after marrying her husband who grew up in the area). While friends and family questioned her mother’s choice to support Krzyzek as she continued her studies through higher education, her mother retorted “I will still put her in school [to pursue] higher education and whatever she chooses to do later on, that’s her choice,” Krzyzek recalls.
Now that she’s more embedded in the creative community, Krzyzek said she believes through sharing stories over social media and in-person events, more women will feel empowered to make the leap into the creative industry as well.
“If I meet a woman and hear her story, I think, wow if she can do that, I can do that too,” Krzyzek said.