May 7, 2016

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Kelly, Julie, Lisa, Kelly of Forth

What are you working on—on the side?

We started Forth in 2013 to host quarterly salons designed to provide Chicago’s creative women of influence the time and space to talk. We meet around a topic or theme with a menu inspired by the season. Since then, it’s blossomed into an incredible community and a resource. By connecting and sharing the expertise, talents and stories of salon alum, we can offer panels, workshops and gatherings both for our members and the larger creative community. We’re also able to act as cheerleaders, sharing with the world all the good our members and collaborators are up to, which we put out in our blog and via our social channels (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) and newsletter.

Forth: Kelly Allison, Julie Schumacher, Lisa Guillot, Kelly Connolly

How do you manage to work on your side project(s)?

Kelly Allison Photography, Food and Lifestyle Photography
Lots of support. Lots of delegation. There are elements of both my business and my side project that require my participation, and elements that need my guidance and approval. Yet there are many more that can be managed by well-trained assistants and interns. The key to keeping all of the details running smoothly is figuring out that balance.

Julie Schumacher, Well Turned Words, Copywriting and Strategy
I have an incredibly supportive partner who values the bounce Forth gives to my step. Being out for an event or writing on the weekend is commended, not condemned. In copywriting and strategy work, there’s often small pockets of time in between tasks…waiting for feedback, for a call that got pushed back. I’m good at toggling and fitting things into the nooks and crannies of my day. I should also sleep more, but I’d rather work on Forth-related magic.

Kelly Connolly, Nimble Well, Event Rentals
I had to think about what actually constitutes a side project for me. Working for myself, just about every day is a work day, which means a mix of both my business and collaborations with other entrepreneurs and small organizations like the Green Wedding Alliance and Forth Chicago.

Managing it means scheduling the work in my calendar. When I can fit in blocks of time to work on projects, I fit in a lot. During the very busy months for my business, I pull back, so the side projects are somewhat seasonal with a thread that carries through the busier months.

Why have a side project?

Lisa Guillot, Life, Brand and Business Coaching, Step Brightly, Boutique Brand strategy Studio
A woman entrepreneur is not defined by her business. She is a creative, a doer, maker, mom, wife, friend, chef, a source of inspiration and elevation for those around her. Women are like a multifaceted diamond that shines brightly in different light depending on where we put our focus.

My side project, Forth Chicago, is a facet in my life that fuels me with inspiration, collaboration and energy. Chicago is so supportive of the entrepreneurial lifestyle with multiple co-working spaces, events and resources. For me, creating Forth Chicago, or any side project for that matter, gives me another venue to look, explore, discover and learn from many wildly talented women in a plethora of industries. As a creative, I need other people to bounce ideas off of, share insights with, and learn from. A side project, particularly one built around community, is a great way for me to shine a light on all facets of my life.

One of the best things about creating a side project around community is that it grows and morphs with the group. Who knows what we will be in a year from now, but I know it will be so incredibly rad (to use a Julie word), because it’s built with a strong intention of collaboration and love.

Kelly Allison Photography, Food and Lifestyle Photography
Forth is a side project that feeds me on many levels. It is a social outlet, filling a need for relationship with Chicago women of influence. It is a creative outlet, providing collaborative opportunities which stretch my thoughts and ideas far beyond the potential of working solo. It fills my desire for contributing to the greater good, allowing me to play a role in facilitating meaningful relationships between Chicago women creatives, makers and entrepreneurs, and simultaneously offering support and resources for those women. And ultimately, Forth is a life source for community. A community of powerful and magnificent women who are in it for the relationship—a beautiful web of connected people who understand the potential and the magic of human connection.

Kelly Connolly, Nimble Well, Event Rentals
I’m the sole employee of my event rental company, and it’s easy to get into my routine and end up only seeing the people that I work with.

I don’t think there is one job I could have that would satisfy every possible outlet for my creativity and desire to collaborate. My job is my own business that I’ve created and I have a very personal relationship to my business—what it is and how it operates—but it would be too much to ask to be completely fulfilled creatively by my business. We are multifarious, and businesses, even ones we create ourselves, are, by necessity, focused. It’s interesting for me to figure out how much of my various interests I can express in my business, but there are limits to what a business is and does, and how my audience understands what it is that I do before it becomes too diffuse. Just as it would be too much to expect to be fulfilled in all my relational needs through one relationship, having one creative pursuit means that other creative outlets atrophy.

Working with Forth on salons and workshops, and finding new ways of supporting the creative entrepreneurs, who are members, serves several purposes. It helps me exercise my ability to work with other people on projects as a team, and it makes me feel like I’m part of a larger community, not just my specific industry. We’re in the middle of a huge socio-economic shift toward entrepreneurship—in many ways because of the limitations of traditional career paths—and it means that there are a lot of us simultaneously taking similar risks and experiencing similar challenges that can be rough to face in isolation. Collaborating with Forth is a way that I find communion and solidarity, and can also support other creative entrepreneurs.

Julie Schumacher, Well Turned Words, Copywriting and Strategy
I think these three dynamos covered as well as I could the idea that I absolutely love the work I do, but I am not one thing and both need and want to tap into all the pieces. Looking directly at my work, I’m a better writer and thinker when I learn about design, development, catering, law, marketing, booze, brides, business, etc. It’s like a massively powerful liberal arts education all the damn time.

Forth surrounds me with potential collaborators and fast friends. I’m stunned at the quality of conversation and caliber of women we get to meet, over and over. If you are the average of the people around you, these are the people I want around me. Beyond the women we meet at the salons, we have been lucky to build a community out of the venues we partner with, sponsors who reach out and the greater pool of creatives we’re able to engage through Forth that would be super hard to bring together as a single human being. We’re more powerful and impactful together...whether that’s looking at Kelly, Kelly, Lisa and me doing our thing and our things, the 100+ members of Forth or the shiny, intricate fabric of the larger creative community we’ve been building.

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Diptych courtesy of Forth Chicago.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.

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