It has been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it (thank you Peter Drucker). Entrepreneurship is an essential skill – whether you’re looking to start your own business, or identify, present, and cultivate opportunities within a broader organization. Join us as we explore how to think strategically, act like an owner, and advance your personal and professional goals with the mindset of an entrepreneur.
Jill White is Founder and CEO of Matrex Exhibits, Inc., headquartered in Addison, Illinois. Matrex brings brands to life thorough events, trade shows, permanent product displays, multi-media presentations, and interactive engagement products. With an international reach she employs over seventy people nationwide and was the first woman-owned, WBENC- certified Exhibit Company in the country.
As CEO, White oversees all financing, corporate strategy, and new product development. As a result of her efforts, Matrex clientele includes leading companies such as Novartis, Dyson, L’Oréal, Wells Fargo, Smith & Nephew, Bosch Power Tools, Kellogg and Case IH to name a few.
Her most recent accomplishment includes rebuilding and rebranding the Matrex business model by changing from product orientation to one of strategic alliances. This required transitioning the total business development team to a strategic engagement team, repositioning the account management team and enhancing the creative services department by expanding engagement tools that would blend client product with brand education.
A champion of entrepreneurship, White has been a guest speaker on several University panels. She is an active member of The Committee of 200, an invitation only network of women entrepreneurs and C-level global leaders. She is most proud of serving on the Board of Directors at Deborah’s Place, the largest shelter for homeless women in Chicago serving over 300 women each year.
As the Founding Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Demon Angels, a Chicago based angel investing group associated with DePaul University, White has taken a leadership position to become a catalyst in promoting innovation in a variety of markets by creating investment forums where entrepreneurship and financial capital join.
Jill lives in the heart of Chicago and remains physically active to keep up with her two entrepreneurial sons.
Barbara Best is a Principal of CAP STRAT, and Founder of the CAP STRAT Women’s Forum.
CAP STRAT (a/k/a Capital Strategies Investment Group) is as an independent, fiduciary investment advisory firm that offers investment advisory and asset management services to individuals/families and institutions (e.g., endowments, foundations, retirement plans, operating and reserve accounts).
Barbara primarily focuses on business development and raising awareness of her firm’s services; and she also co-leads their Women’s Forum, building this community since 2015.
Barbara is passionate about supporting, empowering, and advocating for women, especially to own their voice and power over their financial resources so they can make the most of their one precious life. She is also extremely generous with her strong network, offering to support and connect others to further their personal and/or professional goals.
Barbara is recognized as one of Chicago’s Most Influential Women by the Chicago Business Journal and Rotary International Woman of the Year for her broad personal and professional support of others, her community service and leadership. She is currently a Founding Board Member of the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute at DePaul, Vice Chair of Women Leaders in Philanthropy for the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation, Board member of Housing Forward, a mentor for Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Alliance (WLMA) among other philanthropic activities.
Barbara received her B.A. in Economics, magna cum laude, from Boston College and studied at London School of Economics and Faculte des Lettres in France; received a Business Certificate in Finance from the Professional Program of New York University. Barbara has received the Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®) and PLANSPONSOR Retirement Professional (PRP) designations.
Prior to founding Pluscios, Connie served as President of JPMorgan Capital Management the Bank’s hedge fund investment group which invested both proprietary and client assets in portfolios of hedge funds. In her role as President, Connie set the strategic direction of the business, headed the Investment Committee and oversaw all aspects of due diligence, manager selection, portfolio construction, portfolio management, risk management and distribution of the client funds. Connie was a founding member of this proprietary investment group and successfully managed it for nine years achieving top quartile performance.
In the mid-1990s, Connie was an instrumental part of the team that spearheaded a Corporate Investments Group for the Bank (legacy First Chicago Capital Corporation). The group’s strategy was to access the best managers, both internally and externally, through direct investments and investments in funds. The group initially entered the alternative asset class through investments in private equity, tax-oriented investments (e.g., leveraged leases, energy investments, etc.), structured value investments (e.g., CMBS, CDOs, etc.) and market value investments (e.g., hedge funds). Connie was instrumental in launching each investment class and served on the Investment Committee and Management Committee for each asset class. The Corporate Investments Group successfully managed over $8 billion in assets.
Connie’s career at JPMorgan and its legacy institutions spanned twenty-five years. During this time Connie was a frequent speaker on alternative assets at conferences and other industry events. In 2011, Ms. Teska was named Distinguished Women Investment Professional of the year by the Chicago Women Investment Professionals.
Connie received her M.B.A. from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her B.S. degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Connie is a member of the Northwestern University Council of One Hundred Professional Women and serves on the Women’s Leadership Circle of the American Cancer Society.
Lotus Women’s Institute LLC
Anita Knotts is a highly accomplished senior executive with nearly 30 years of expertise in sales, marketing, and business development in the competitive wealth management market. After spending the first part of her career as a successful investment advisor followed by years of leadership, Anita is now embarking on the next phase of her career as an entrepreneur.
Anita has recently launched her new business Lotus Women’s Institute LLC. The mission of the organization is to attract, develop and advance women and people of color to choose financial services as a career path. She believes strongly that firms who implement initiatives to hire diverse teams – specifically for frontline roles – will have a competitive edge.
In 2019 she was recognized by Investment News as a “See It, Be It Role Model” for diversity and inclusion as part of their annual Diversity & Inclusions Awards program. Her recognition was well-deserved, as her passion to educate, encourage and empower women to take a larger role in their financial lives drove the launch of the successful Women & Wealth initiative during her time with Calamos Wealth Management. Anita also formed the Women’s Initiative Network (WIN); a forum for women associates to regularly meet and openly discuss topics pertaining to professional development and personal work/life balance. She is a frequent contributor and presenter on the topics of women and wealth and leads the Chicago Western Suburbs Chapter of Ellevate, a global professional women’s network with a mission to close the gender-based achievement gap in business by providing women with a community to learn from and lean on.
Anita received her B.S. in Economics from the University of Illinois and an M.B.A. with a Distinction in Finance from DePaul University. She also holds Series 7, 63 and 65 licenses. Anita is a Board Member of Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce for Women in Business and sits on the Advisory Board for North Central College’s School of Business and Entrepreneurship