Marketing Marvel, Wordsmith and soothsayer, Digital Marketing and Social Media Manager
Bryan hopped off a dusty bus with one suitcase, a Great Attitude, and his orthodontic retainer—many thanks to Ma and Pa Bosque for middle school braces—and found himself in the middle of this bustling Ranch in the Winter of 2016. After graduating from Ranch Handery to Admin management and finally to Social Media and Digital Marketing, he’s been helping showcase the Ranch’s beauty via all media. Please see him for an impromptu photo shoot–because with these gorgeous surroundings, EVERYONE’s a model, dahhling!
Ranch hand Extraordinaire
Shawanda Love delivers our Champaign Customer Service as part of our Operations team. Supporting the floor during meetings, she is the first point of contact for the clients as they arrive at Catalyst Ranch. By managing of mealtimes, eliminating distractions and background interference, and solving in-the-moment client needs, she ensures that every meeting runs smoothly. What’s more, working at the Ranch allows for Shawanda’s creative juices to flow when it comes to arranging meals and snacks with Catalyst Ranch flair!
Chief Learning Officer, Business Development Director and Conversation Starter
Marketing Manager, 5K Runner with the Swiftness, Head of the Pink Ladies
Let’s give a big “Yee-Haw” to welcoming back Amanda Pink to the Catalyst Ranch! Amanda as the Marketing Manager brings eleven years of marketing and event planning experience to the Ranch. In her current role, Amanda leads the overall market effort for the Ranch, including content strategy and implementation, data analytics and business development that promote the overall mission of the company. Amanda is tasked with identifying and evaluating new marketing tactics to engage current clients and target new potential clients to use the Ranch facilities and benefit the services we provide.
Outside of the Ranch, Amanda enjoys running 5ks for charities, going to the movies, spending time with family and friends including her cat Sparkle, and supporting Taylor Swift as being a #1 fan.
Coco is our events mascot, mate to Pogo and the Ranch’s right hand monkey. As a triple major in Circus/Magic/Theatre, Event planning and English Literature Coco graduated top of her class. After making her way to the Windy City she was quickly hired as a Ranch Hand, where she immediately stood out for her attention to detail, way with words and events know-how. Also that magic trick – oh that magic trick, wait ‘til you see it. Let our synergistic simian help you to make your event unforgettable!
Pogo is our magnanimous mascot: a courtesan of creativity and frontiersman of frivolity! Born of equal parts inspiration and determination, Pogo rides his namesake modus operandi through the hearts of the staff and our clients, leaving inspiration and fun with every bounce. When he’s not sparking greatness at corporate meetings or cutting a rug at a special event, Pogo can be found working hard on his Ph.D. in Brainwave Refrequency.
Special Event Manager,
The Empress of Aesthetics,
Revolutionary Ruler of Right,
Operations & Facilities Director
In her multi-faceted role, Krissy is mostly responsible for the overall upkeep of the Ranch as it pertains to Aesthetics, Facilities and Operations. Basically, “The [Wo] Man Behind the Curtain.” You will often see her whisking around the Ranch working on a project, or fixing artwork, or [insert project here]. With years of experience around the Ranch, Krissy is able to use her previous knowledge to ensure meetings and events go off without a hitch! Outside of the Ranch Krissy enjoys playing co-ed flag football, having dinner parties with family and friends, travelling, and of course having bonfires at Promontory Point.
Senior Client Services Manager,
Magical Meetings Bruja,
Hawaiian Fire Goddess Pele
After working in restaurants for ten years and completing her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management, Kira joined the Catalyst Ranch team ready to take on meeting planning. She combines her school studies and hands-on restaurant experience into one amazing Client Services Manager. Born here in Chicago, Kira is a deep-dish pizza loving Cub’s fan. She channels all of the positive energy and sunshine from her favorite place, the islands of Hawaii, into everything she does! She works hard to make sure her clients have a wonderful experience while planning their meetings. “I have always been an organized and ambitious person. Coordinating meetings is such a great fit and has been truly enjoyable for me.” When she’s not planning meetings, she can be found doing yoga, swimming, cooking, or finishing up a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. But, playing and dancing with her niece and nephew takes the cake.
Managing Director In Disguise,
Father of Squirrels
Not all heroes wear capes. Lyndon, however, is the type that does! You’ll find him managing the office, tallying up your invoices, and making sure every piece of technology in The Ranch is functioning in tip top shape. He’s done just about all there is to do here so just call him the Ranch Army Knife! Whether behind the scenes or on the front lines he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure your meeting goes smoothly. When not fighting for truth, justice, and the Catalyst way, Lyndon enjoys Netflix, exercising, witty repartee, and being a superstar at karaoke. Wanna sing a duet?
Catalyst Ranch is Eva’s brainchild and her only child. Which explains all the doting that goes on. She has the best job of all – buying all (and making some of) the furnishings, artwork and tchotchkes which create the Ranch’s unique environment. Eva particularly enjoys coming to work on the dreariest of Chicago days knowing she’ll be surrounded by all shapes and sizes and personalities of Ranch Hands and clients. You never know what interesting person you’ll get to meet that day or riveting story that you’ll be told. Let alone what crazy new marketing idea will be generated over lunch. “It warms my heart to hear clients embrace what I’ve created here at the Ranch and testify how it’s helped them be innovative in the truest sense of the word. It’s easier to work hard knowing that you’re having a positive impact.” Eva’s interests are vast and varied, drawing her to explore the wonders of Chicago’s theaters, music, art exhibits, restaurants and neighborhoods. She’s traveled extensively bringing home lots of goodies which adorn both her home and the Ranch. Eva is also deeply passionate about the positive effects of art and environment on youth, working with LYDIA Home, on the Capital Campaign for the Griffin Arts Center, as a Board Member of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and the Advisory Committee for Big Draw Chicago.
Danielle Erby launched Madame of Coco as a full-time endeavor during the pandemic, after losing her position at Catalyst Ranch as a result of prolonged mandated shutdowns of our venue. But this painful event led to the realization of an entrepreneurial dream, so there is a rainbow beyond those dark clouds! Madame of Coco is a woman & black-owned business with a decadent dessert for every desire. These imaginative and delicious desserts are the perfect addition to any event and the range of options expands daily as Danielle lets her creative juices flow.
People who feel safer are less prone to the debilitating effects of stress. Reduced stress means less stress-related illnesses, fewer accidents, and higher productivity.
Employees who are capable of protecting themselves are more confident and confident people have a tendency to overcome obstacles and get the job done.
Join David Mor, Bartender at West Loop hot spot Bad Hunter, as he shares his mixology secrets, a few stories, some jokes and gives us the skinny on all things cocktail. David is bringing in all the tools of the trade for us to get our hands dirty and our lips wet. He’ll be covering all the foundations of cocktail culture.
Through conversation and interactive elements, you’ll be able to create some of your own faves in the classic cocktail canon.
Enjoy an evening of bartending, conversation, and imbibing!
We work with individuals and corporate clients who are searching for ways to connect with their customers and clients more meaningfully. It can be challenging in a competitive marketplace to make your product, service or even yourself standout. Our clients find storytelling to be a great way to connect, inform and differentiate.
The expert teachers from Chicago Terrarium Authority will take you through the exciting history and development of terrariums, guiding you through the process, aftercare and science with expert knowledge to help make your terrarium team bonding experience unique and complete.
Every great team building session begins with the basics of terrarium garden history and design while promoting ecology, sustainability, active participation, laughter and storytelling.
Terrarium Workshops challenge participants to unleash their creativity and go beyond their own comfort zone. It’s up to their imagination on how they beautify this lasting garden. Our dynamic terrarium workshops are accessible to all age and skill levels as participants develop a bond with others and a variety of living, breathing plants!
Chakras are energy centers in the body that influence life aspects and can be awakened by yoga and meditation. Keep the energy in your meetings flowing by incorporating yoga to your session so your team members can:
Any size space and comfortable clothing work well for Yoga Con Irma.
Right before Labor Day 2002, Quaker Oats Co. marketing executive Eva Niewiadomski got the news: After surviving waves of layoffs since PepsiCo’s 2001 acquisition of Quaker, she was out. “The place had changed,” she says. I was ready to go and start something new.”
But what the CPA-turned-product development executive did next is something few furloughed workers would consider in the midst of a recession: She put every dime of her severance and a second mortgage on her house into launching her own business.
Her year-old company, Catalyst Ranch, is positioned to be an antidote to mind-numbing meeting space. Located at 656 W. Randolph St., the 9,000-square-foot loft is separated into three meeting spaces splashed with color and stocked with toys, antique furniture, even a large hammock.
Her total investment was $115,000 but after 15 months, the business is profitable.
“While I was working at Quaker, I always found it a challenge to find space that was comfortable and interesting …space that was fun and would fuel people’s imagination,” she says.
Passion is a powerful motivator for entrepreneurs, but it must partner with an intelligent business plan and a reasonable amount of start-up capital. Downsized executives who want to launch a company should poll former clients, vendors and others for insights.
After exiting Quaker, Ms. Niewiadomski started typing out a business plan. She queried her old vendors, primarily meeting facilitators and consultants, to learn their pet peeves about meeting sites. She asked them to rate the top 10 things that would lead them never to book a meeting at the same location again.
“I kept hearing the same things: uncomfortable chairs, bad food, bad service, unexpected charges, your stuff not being set up in the room after you’ve taken the trouble and expense to ship it,” she says. “I set out to do the opposite.”
Ms. Niewiadomski decided Catalyst Ranch would make everything but full meals inclusive in the rental price: snack and beverage service, toys and meeting supplies, up- to-date audio/visual equipment, computer, printer and online access.
She charges a daily room rental rate of $1,000 to $1,800 for 25 attendees, depending on the room they choose. So far, the business is running at 30% occupancy and generating about $8,000 per week.
Hotels easily beat her rental rates for meeting rooms, which go for about $250 to $400 per day. But once a la carte items are added – such as snacks and audio/visual gear – Catalyst Ranch is competitive.
The business employs five. She paid off the last of her loans last spring and has paid herself back “all but a small amount” of her own investment.
A bright red wall greets visitors. The games Kerplunk and Mr. Potato Head are stashed on the tables. Hammocks, a chaise lounge and hot-pink and lime-green pillows around a low table offer a host of places to sit.
It may sound like someone’s kitschy apartment, but it’s a new space recently opened in Chicago where a handful of companies are holding meetings, foregoing the staid conference rooms and hotel suites that some businesses use to host such gatherings. The former site of a sausage smokehouse and a herring-packing plant, Catalyst Ranch offers three meeting rooms ranging in size from 700 to 3,300 square feet.
The business is the brainchild of Eva Niewiadomski, who set up a space similar in style at PepsiCo Inc.’s Quaker Oats unit, her former employer. But that room only accomodated about a dozen people. “These types of informal environments make people energized, and it stimulates them to come up with better ideas,” says Ms. Niewiadomski. Still, “a lot of companies don’t want to give up space for that type of meeting room.”
“The brightly colored walls and the toys transform your way of thinking,” says Ellen Taafe, vice president of marketing for Quaker Snacks, who says she has held a meeting and attended two others at Catalyst Ranch.
“I think people come up with different ideas than if they were in a formal environment wearing a suit,” says Ms. Taaffe. “People are more engaged even though they may have a Slinky in their hands.”
Look around Eva Niewiadomski’s apartment and you will know the story of her life.
A goddess statue from Thailand. A bedroom set from a local antiques store. Collections of decorative birds from Eastern Europe. Niewiadomski grew up in Humboldt Park before her family moved to what she says was a “good Polish, Greek, Irish, Italian neighborhood” on Chicago’s Northwest Side. Her parents are Polish immigrants who worked hard and taught their children to make do with what they had.
After putting herself through college, Niewiadomski spent four years as an accountant followed by 15 years at Quaker Oats, most recently in product development for snack foods. As a veteran meetings facilitator, she under-stood how a stimulating, colorful space could add spice and creativity to a group meeting.
While at Quaker, she converted a large closet into a “creativity room” where co-workers could meet and brainstorm. In November 2002, after leaving Quaker, she opened Catalyst Ranch, an expanded version of that creativity room and perhaps Chicago’s most unusual meeting and special-event space, used by such Fortune 500 companies as Pepsico, Unilever and Wrigley.
Catalyst Ranch’s large, vibrant rooms offer abundant sunlight, unconventional furniture and a jamboree of toys and art. Niewiadomski’s apartment in Andersonville has the same sweet, quirky look.
Drawn to Andersonville for its ethnic diversity, she found a neighborhood of well-maintained buildings. Her twobedroom condominium is filled with a delightful blend of vintage and ethnic furnishings.
“I have very few new pieces,” she says. “Most things are really old, either refurbished or original. I picked up almost everything in my travels or at local markets. Most of the art is ethnic.”
Her knack for putting things together enabled her to mix styles easily. In the living room, wicker couches mingle with armchairs from the ’40s and ’50s.
When she moved in, the apartment was half furnished. “But I wasn’t worried about getting it all done in a matter of a month,” she explains. “I slowly build up the pieces and, of course, after 15 years of collecting, you retire certain things. It becomes a jigsaw puzzle of switching things around.”
Every year she has taken a big trip. Her travels have taken her through most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Hong Kong, Thailand and Brazil. “I’ve lugged and shipped some amazing things,” she says.
Her dining room rug was shipped from Greece. Vases, bowls, glasses, a tea set, collections of puppets and flutes and much more hail from every corner of the globe. “I love things that are unique,” she says. “It was always about things you couldn’t find in the U. S.”
What doesn’t come from abroad was found in local antiques shops. In a corner of the living room is a turn-of -thecentury rocking chair Niewiadomski says she “dragged home because it was in such horrifying condition.”
Refinished with the help of her father, it is now a “nice, solid piece,” she says. “My dad and I took apart every spindle and numbered them so we could remember how to put them back together. My dad’s got this interesting technique when the varnish is really old and dried-he doesn’t believe in using chemical strippers. He takes broken pieces of glass and uses the sharp edge [to scrape], and it comes off with a highly polished finish. Then we restained it, put it back together and he reupholstered it for me.”
Decorating her bedroom was another family affair. After years of living with off-white walls, Eva decided she “wanted to play around with color and would practice in the bedroom.” She painted the room orange because “I love orange and didn’t have orange anywhere else in the house. So I bought tangelo for the ceiling and a Chinese red that’s a little more orangey.” Her father painted the ceiling, her mother consulted on color.
Eva used a design element from an Indian sari bedspread to create a pattern and hand-painted it around the ceiling of the room. “I created a stencil out of cardboard with an X-Acto knife and then I hand-traced the arch with the stencil and filled in the rest of it by hand,” she says.
Always busy with a project, Eva’s now pondering what to do with the apartment’s two ceiling fans. “I want to either paint or cover each blade with a Mexican art form,” she says. Whatever she decides, it surely will be done with her inimitable light touch and unerring eye for whimsy.
Kitchen: 1940s distressed kitchen table-Sandwich, Ill., Antiques Market; Belgian lace curtains by owner, fabric-Vogue Fabrics, Evanston; 1930s green corner bookcase-Chicago Antique Centre, Chicago; Mexican folk art wall hanging-Evanston Ethnic Art Fair. Sunroom: Filipino wicker couch-Raphia, Miami Beach, Fla.; 1940s drapes – Antique and Resale Shop, Chicago; Indian mirror pillow on couch-Dragonfly Collections, Chicago; red silk and silver work pillow on couch-Cassona Home Furnishings, Chicago. Living room: Filipino wicker loveseat-Raphia, Miami Beach, Fla.; antique Irish chest-Sandwich, Ill., Antiques Market; Mexican yarn and Afghan bag- Edgewater Antique Mall, Chicago; antique lamp-Brownstone Antiques, Chicago. Bedroom: hat boxes -T. J. Maxx; wrought-iron bench-Chicago Antique Centre, Chicago; Mexican placemats sewn onto pillows-Pier One Imports; pink and orange pillow -Cost Plus; chenille pillow-Open Air Market, New York City; Indian turquoise pillow-Dragonfly Collections, Chicago; antique Afghan wall hanging-Edgewater Antique Mall Inc.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.
Subjects: Antiques, Collectibles, Interior design
Document types: Feature
Column Name: INTERIORS
Text Word Count 1047
November 6, 2008
As part of the Eight Forty-Eight Morning Program, Steve Walsh interviews Bobbie Soeder and Paulette Eastman from Catalyst Ranch about Proposition 8 (same-sex marriage ban in California), gay “weddings” and commitment ceremonies.
Catalyst Ranch has been named to the Inc. Magazine’s list of 5000 fastest growing private companies in America!
To bring it a little closer to “our home” we’re officially ranked #87 on the list of top 100 fastest growing companies in the great state of Illinois!
We’re thrilled to be in the company of such giants!
Thank you to our clients for making it happen!
We are so honored and proud to have been voted Best Conference Venue in the 2012 Illinois Meetings + Events Magazine 8th Readers’ Choice Awards. We definitely couldn’t have done it without our amazing friends and supporters, so we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for voting.
Entertaining Company, Chicago’s caterer for 26 years, boldly designs catering for weddings, showers, corporate events, bar and bat mitzvahs, social events and creative gatherings of all types. Guests are transported to a world of celebration inspired by a palate of artisan ingredients, global traditions and colorful settings.
At Heartfelt Catering, our menus have been thoughtfully designed by our executive chef for the ultimate balance in flavors and textures. Our dishes are made from scratch with fresh and natural foods and prepared so that they are lower in fat and sodium. We specialize in healthy cuisine including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes. And we will work with you to develop the perfect menu. Our goal is to enhance your event with a truly memorable food experience that is fresh, simple and soulful.
Whether you’re planning a 250 person cocktail party or a 50 person plated brunch, we promise to help create your perfect event and give you a fair on-budget event. From simple snacks and meals to elegantly appointed theme parties, Tri-Star Catering takes the work and worry out of your busy schedule. Our menu pages offer examples of our creativity. Let us craft a menu with your input and preferences. Our consultants can help with every aspect of planning your perfect meal.
We began serving customers in 1980 with a humble foundation of grilling hot dogs and flipping hamburgers. Through our commitment to excellence and a solid reputation for fine cuisine built upon word of mouth, we have since expanded into the multitiered business we are today, offering full-service custom catering, drop-off catering, and large format corporate picnics.
At Catering by Michael’s, we provide a diverse and unique range of catering services designed to serve any type of function. Our event capabilities cover the entire spectrum – from social to corporate, casual to formal. Our repertoire includes elegant sit-down dinners, cocktail receptions, company picnics, creative themed events and at-home parties of all kinds. We are consistently working to enhance our menus and incorporate as many seasonal and local ingredients as possible. Whether Catering by Michael’s is serving for a sophisticated corporate function, a cozy social gathering, or dropping food off for a business lunch, the assurance of quality is the one constant that can be counted on.
At BEYOND CATERING we believe that no two clients or two events are alike, so we truly listen to our clients to fully understand and satisfy their specific needs…no matter how adventurous. Our level of one on one attention has earned us an extraordinary reputation of culinary brilliance and expert service.
You can count on Catered by Design to handle all the details with style and finesse. Entertain with confidence and the peace of mind that working with top notch professionals can bring.
BDP has been progressive not only in food they cook, but in their sustainability practices. In 2012 The Green Restaurant Association named Big Delicious Planet Catering & Canteen “The Greenest Caterer in America.” They are the first caterer in the nation to receive 4 Stars, and only the second company in Chicago to receive 4 Star status.