Creating a More Conscious & Inclusive Chicago Business Community

Over the last 10 years, I’ve had a front row seat to the growth and transformation of the Chicago business community, and in particular the tech and entrepreneurial scene that’s emerged. During this exciting time, I've been fortunate to be able to witness this transformation both as an investor and founder of several fast-growth startups. I’ve come to love the people, companies and trends that influence our business ecosystem: a focus on revenue & sustainability, gritty midwestern values, and hard work and resiliency. Characteristics that are reinforced by withstanding brutal winters and demanding investors.

But as I look forward to the next 10 years, it’s become clear to me that the only way we’ll continue this growth is if we invest in creating a more conscious, diverse and inclusive business community.

As the complexities of the future workplace continue to unfold through an increase in digital technologies and the gig economy, employees will have more choices for employment. The demand for highly-skilled talent will therefore increase, and companies will thrive only when they provide more of what this talent is looking for: purposeful work and an inclusive work culture. The workforce of tomorrow will be defined by this - in fact, according to Zogby Analytics, 85% of Millennials are looking for work that is enriching for themselves and the world. And Deloitte found that Millennials view inclusion at work a “mandatory part” of corporate culture, valuing “inclusion as a critical tool that enables business competitiveness and growth.”

Acknowledging and acting on the need for this more conscious and inclusive work culture will require dedicated investment. The rise of conscious capitalism, purpose-driven leadership and a proliferation of impact-focused summits and conferences are all part of this movement demanding that business be a force for good in the world - and it’s growing.

But it’s not enough. Here in Chicago, we have a significant opportunity to shape this movement and be a leading force for it. But we need more visionary leaders who understand the importance of placing people first, of investing in purpose and making inclusion a priority. We need more mainstream investors prioritizing this and demanding it in the companies they place their bets on (Larry Fink’s letter to CEO’s provides all the convincing you need). After all, the business outcomes for doing so are clear. Just to name a few:

Here at Ignite, we’re extremely proud to be a part of this movement through our experiences that elevate purpose, promote inclusion and cultivate purpose-driven leaders. It’s through these shared experiences that help make Chicago a more conscious and inclusive community - one that allows us to foster the expansion of this dynamic business ecosystem for years to come.