Networking in Chicago: 7 Must-Attend Events for Creative Entrepreneurs

Oct 15, 2014 - Joe Matar
How many times have you met someone new and exchanged creative productivity tips over a cold craft brew this week? If your answer is none, it’s possible you’re missing out on some of the best networking events for creative entrepreneurs in Chicago. Chicago’s creative community is particularly adept at bringing people together around creative talks, presentations and workshops designed to spark industry dialogue and encourage professional growth. Look to the following organizations for events where you can immerse yourself in the community, make meaningful connections and come away with fresh creative fuel for your work.

1. Chicago Food + Tech Meetup

Food meets tech at this monthly meetup focused on generating discussion around the challenges, solutions and opportunities for food technology in Chicago. Anyone is welcome to attend the BYOB events. Show up and throw around ideas at these casual talks, sometimes featuring local entrepreneurs as guest speakers. Come for the friendly group atmosphere and make new connections by chatting about a niche topic.

2. Creative Mornings Chicago

This popular breakfast lecture series features leaders of the Chicago creative community. Each month, a different Chicago advertising agency, coworking space or creative workspace hosts the event, so this is also a great opportunity to peek inside some of the city’s coolest places to work. Follow Creative Mornings Chicago on Twitter for updates on ticket releases. The free tickets “sell out” in minutes, so be on top of your game to nab one.

3. Design Cloud Chicago’s Second Thursdays

This coworking space is also a hub for the local art and design community. Design Cloud hosts talks, workshops and skillshares every month. You can also take advantage of free desk space for a day every second Thursday of the month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Spend a day working in their coworking space and make a new contact or two while you’re there for one super productive day.

4. Ignite Chicago

This event gives 12 or more people the stage for five minutes each to present on any topic they’re passionate about. Attendees should come curious and ready to mingle; there’s casual networking over pizza and beer before the presentations begin. $10 tickets are available online before every event.

5. Ms. Tech Events

Ms. Tech is an organization dedicated to providing female entrepreneurs with resources to start and scale their businesses. They host a lunch series every Wednesday at coworking space Grind, as well as panel discussions, social events and workshops every month. Ticket prices range from $20 to $50.

6. Next Door

Next Door Cafe is a cafe and event space run by State Farm. But instead of selling insurance, the coffee shop aims to be a community hub for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Next Door’s event schedule offers a little bit of everything: Financial coaching sessions, branding and typography lectures from local agency Bright Bright Great and even yoga classes. The events are free, but you’ll have to buy your own coffee and snacks. The space is designed to accommodate everyone from solo laptop workers to one-on-one meetings to small group brainstorm sessions (you can reserve meeting rooms.) This is a great place to grab coffee and hang out with other creative entrepreneurs.

7. Polymathic’s The Living Room

As a consulting company for product developers, Polymathic is a kind of home for creative and technical entrepreneurs. Their office space, dubbed The Living Room for its cozy functionality, is the site of launch parties, dinners and “Founder Therapy” sessions for entrepreneurs who just want to talk it out. Events are free, often with a suggested donation of cash or a six pack. What other Chicago networking events for creative entrepreneurs belong on this list? Kara Andersen is a freelance blogger, copywriter and proofreader based in Chicago. She is the writer behind Writer Babe, the blog about “brazen business and sophisticated style.” Follow her on Twitter @writer_babe and Instagram.