Chicago Tech Knows How To Party With a Purpose

You know you’ve thrown a good party when you have to flash the lights on and off to nudge people toward the door to leave. And you know you've thrown a great party when people ignore you—continuing to laugh, hug and dance, even though the music has stopped. That was the situation at BucketFeet’s stylish studio in the Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown, where Startup Institute alumni threw their first Chicago Tech Winter Soiree a few weeks ago. The event was a huge success, and truly the united effort of so many dedicated alumni and community members who dreamt this evening up and saw it became a reality.  [bctt tweet="The 1st ever #ChicagoTech Soiree was a huge success, thx to @slonetastic @TdeMedici + more"]

“Seeing everyone have a really good time was the best part for me,” enthused Erin Slone, Chicago’s alumni committee leader and summer 2014 sales and account management graduate. “And I'd been worried whether people would buy tickets and show up!”

“It was a really good look for Chicago,” stated Tomás de'Medici, soiree co-organizer and spring 2014 sales grad. “We have a community-conscious alumni base here in Chicago, and it was great to see all the cohorts come together around this cause.”

And why not stretch the night out a little longer? It was a friendly, diverse crowd of alumni, friends and significant others, community members and partners who were eager to celebrate together on this incredible winter evening.

The BucketFeet partnership and execution was thanks to their wonderful team and the efforts of Tiffany Roshanian, Hannah Kardux, Catie Clark, Jaida Bentley, and L11. No fewer than three of Chicago’s edgiest DJs and musicians, Rich Jones, Vapor Eyes, and Uncle El volunteered to perform. Fall 2015 web development alumnus Scott Carrick set the party mood with his sax, and traded riffs with the DJs before he had to split for his band’s gig at the Double Door down the street. Friends at ChopShop provided lots of delicious food at low cost because marketing alumna Becca Zefron (fall 2015) jumped in to help, and craft beer from Lagunitas were flowing gratis, thanks to sales alumna Analucia Martinez (fall 2015).

Cooper’s Hawk Winery provided wine tastings and BucketFeet a pair of shoes for a raffle. Bucktown neighbors, and friends of spring 2014 alumnus Mayank Mittal, Art n Spirits, provided an easel and canvas for attendees to write messages for Blue1647 throughout the evening. Hugh Sato (fall 2015 web development alumnus) was keen to lend his creative eye, handling the photography for the evening and ensuring all sound equipment was ready before and in between sets.

Chicago Tech Winter Soiree by Startup Institute alumni community
Chicago Tech Winter Soiree by Startup Institute alumni community

Early on, Leslie Bell (fall 2014 web development alumna), envisioned an event in which the alumni community could “party with a purpose.” Slone agreed and identified BLUE1647 as a nonprofit that the whole community would be excited to support. BLUE1647 is a dynamic tech ed and entrepreneurial incubator serving underrepresented communities in Chicago and other U.S. cities. All proceeds from the soiree went to BLUE1647. That’s how our alumni roll—building community, paying it forward.

BLUE1647 Founder Emile Cambry couldn’t attend the soiree due to travel, but said, “Special thanks to the Startup Institute and Erin Slone for organizing a party with a purpose to support BLUE1647. We don't have all of the resources in the world and it's great when others recognize that every little bit helps. We just make a dollar out of fifteen cents.” Cambry sent his awesome representative, Allyson Scrutchens,to the soiree. When she got hold of the microphone to share their mission, the party chatter ceased. All you could hear and see was Allyson’s passion for creating a culture and learning where people see themselves as creators and innovators: from young kids through to adults. Startup Institute Chicago will be looking for more ways to support Blue1647—"A diverse innovation community will produce the best impact for Chicago, well beyond River North,” said de'Medici.[bctt tweet="A diverse innovation community will produce the best impact for Chicago, says @TdeMedici"]

Allyson Scrutchens of Blue1647, Tomás de'Medici and Erin Slone, Startup Institute Chicago Tech Winter Soiree leaders.
Allyson Scrutchens of Blue1647, Tomás de'Medici and Erin Slone, Startup Institute Chicago Tech Winter Soiree leaders.

“Making this party happen was a real testament to the scene here in Chicago. Friends like Bucketfeet not only welcomed us into their store space, but helped make the party a huge success,” said de'Medici. “So many alums and friends jumped in to do some spontaneous good. Jeff Rosal (spring 2014 web design), for example, not just hooked us up with great artists, but also scrambled last-minute to get the right sound equipment we needed from Minstrel Music.

Slone was happy to look back on the weeks and months of Google Hangout meetings with the alumni committee, often wondering if this party would ever come together. It took a leap, a brave commit to a real date and time, a bit of gritty determination and moxie to get things rolling.

So, what's next for Chicago's Startup Institute alumni community? “All of us alums want to engage more with each other and do more good. I could see us getting a big group of alumni together in warmer weather for a community organization that needs a lot of help— we'd love to roll-up our sleeves and get our hands dirty," says Slone.[bctt tweet="All of us @StartupInst alums in Chicago want to engage more and do more good, says @slonetastic" via="no"]

“Startup Institute alums are so different from all the other ‘bootcamp’ alums, because we are a community,” reflected de'Medici, “it’s pretty special.”

Appreciation also goes to these alums for their support and contributions to the Winter Soiree:

Brooks Golden, summer 2014 sales and account management track, for helping to develop the vision for this event.

Charles Chuman, spring 2015 sales and account management track, for providing energy and confidence to keep moving toward the goal.

Monique Wingard, fall 2014 technical marketing track, for supporting the effort as a volunteer.