Little did Aleksandra Efimova know that taking piano and ballet lessons as a child growing up in St. Petersburg, Russia, would lead to a home at Riverwoods, participation as a director on several arts-related boards, and ownership of her own businesses in Chicago.
Efimova had attended the Art School at the Hermitage State Art Museum, studying the arts, including classical ballet. She later emigrated to the United States, settling in Michigan in 1993 at age 15. She was eager to live in a big city and picked Chicago.
"It has beauty and wonderful architecture and is an inspirational city," she said. "I looked at a map of the United States and saw Chicago and decided to move here."
About five years later, she founded her first business, Russian Pointe, which makes and sells ballet shoes. That has since become a boutique store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The shoes are sold to about 300 outlets and some ballet companies, she said.
In addition, she has started another company called Growing Through Arts, which aims to help children learn more about the arts with books, toys and games. She has released her book called "Sleeping Beauty Ballet," which is part of a line of books aimed at teaching the arts to children.
"I am a very strong believer in education," she said, "and especially education for kids. It helps them to succeed in life and teaches them how to use the arts as a platform for discipline."
She's also launched Russian Culture Now, a nonprofit that increases awareness of the Russian culture.
Efimova has served on the auxiliary board of the Joffrey Ballet and the Junior Board of the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. Former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley also appointed her as co-chair of the Moscow Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International and she serves as chair of Sen. Mark Kirk's newly formed Russian and Eastern European Advisory Board.
Her own website at www.Aleksandra.com has a newsletter, a blog, photos for social events she's attended and any number of organizations where she's involved.
And throughout it all, she aims to grow each of her businesses this year.
"We'll be growing through the arts," she said.
Rose McMahon of Naperville works as a Realtor at Ryan Hill Realty in Naperville, but on the side she focuses heavily on fundraising. It all started with helping to build homes in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. Now, she's organizing a home to be built for a deserving disabled veteran and helped to raise about $30,000 for Naperville Responds For Our Veterans. All that effort has earned her the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors Community Service Award, which includes a $1,000 contribution in her name to a charity.
Libertyville resident Carolin Archibald is the new president of McHenry-based Medela Inc., a manufacturer of breastpump and breast-feeding products. She was vice president of Medela's professional business, which focuses on hospital customers. She replaced longtime President Carr Lane Quackenbush, who retired and moved to the East Coast. Archibald joined Medela as vice president of marketing and then served as vice president of retail business.
Mourning a family man
Wheaton resident John "Jack" Rooney III, who died July 22 after suffering a stroke, had endured a lot of family grief about the time he retired as CEO of U.S. Cellular in May 2010. His wife, Germaine, had died a few months before. This year, his son, John IV, died in February and his 95-year-old mother, M. Wilma Rooney, died in late June. Rooney told me last year during an interview that he always brought a box of Fannie May creams whenever he visited his mom. Among the numerous people remembering Rooney and his sense of humor last week during his wake at the Glen Oak Country Club in Glen Ellyn was son-in-law Ryan Bradley of Wilmette. Bradley recalled how nervous he was about 10 years ago while having lunch with Rooney at that same country club. Bradley was asking for approval to marry Rooney's daughter, Colleen.
Rooney's response: "No returns. No refunds."
Judi Donovan of Glen Ellyn was named executive director of GreenFields of Geneva, a senior living community set to open this fall. She is responsible for daily operations and hiring. ... Donald Cummings of Geneva, founder and managing partner of Blue Haven Capital in Geneva, recently spoke to members of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors meeting at DePaul University.
Julie Phillips and husband Kyle Phillips of Batavia, who own and operate Sir Speedy printing and marketing services in Naperville, recently attended the company's annual sales forum in Philadelphia, where they received training in direct marketing. ... Vanessa Evans of Chicago won two awards for her company, The Maids in Westmont. It received the President's Award and a Quality Award during The Maids International convention in Omaha, Neb. ... Jennifer E. Wood is now director of international tax services and Sheila A. Mathre has been named director of state and local tax services for Aurora-based Sikich LLP. ... Tim Dollmeyer is the new project manager at Consumers Credit Union in Waukegan.
Downers Grove resident Michael Walthius has been named managing director of Vendini's Chicago office. Walthius is an 18-year veteran of Ticketmaster, where he was most recently executive vice president of the central region. San Francisco-based Vendini made the announcement during the International Association of Venue Managers annual conference in Phoenix, where the company was demonstrating its ticketing software.
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