Online purse-making business gets celebrity attention

  • Aileen Parks

    Aileen Parks

  • A champagne and ivory clutch made by Aileen Parks was gifted to celebrities at the Golden Globes.

    A champagne and ivory clutch made by Aileen Parks was gifted to celebrities at the Golden Globes.

  • Peter Caliendo

    Peter Caliendo

  • Cristiano Bassani

    Cristiano Bassani

  • Russ Bergeron

    Russ Bergeron

  • TaffyJo Mayers

    TaffyJo Mayers

  • Mary Davolt

    Mary Davolt

  • Mark Youngberg

    Mark Youngberg

Updated 1/13/2014 7:08 AM

Aileen Parks of Lake in the Hills has turned a hobby into a business that now reaches celebrities at the Cannes Film Festival, the Primetime Emmys, the Wendy Williams Show and, last weekend, the Golden Globe Awards.

Parks hand crafts and custom designs clutch purses for her online business, Girl by Aileen. She makes them in a variety of materials and gears many for weddings and other elegant gatherings. They range in price from $38 to $55 each.


"After making purses as gifts and doing some craft shows, I never really looked at this as a business before. But I have now," she said.

About 100 purses were provided to nominees and presenters at the Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. She also was asked to prepare a display piece, which was used to help promote her brand with the celebrities who attended the gift lounge at the event. Next, will be the MTV Awards in the spring, she said. Parks was born in New York, but was raised in Puerto Rico until age 11. She relocated to the Chicago area in 1984. She had most recently worked in order management for Nokia in Arlington Heights until her layoff in 2012.

That's when she was encouraged to start her online business, Girl by Aileen. While it did well, she really began seeing more orders after getting involved with The Artisan Group, which introduces products to celebrities at various high-profile Hollywood events. Besides the award programs, she also gifted her clutches during a Celebrity Mother's event in May 2013 which included Penélope Cruz, Kim Kardashian, Giuliana Rancic and others.

Those Hollywood events began to spur orders, Parks said.

"It's really been a collaborative effort," she said of the organization. Parks and other members pay a fee to The Artisan Group in order to be able to participate in such events.

"We're just excited to see what these celebrities are wearing, and if they're photographed with our product," she said.

On stage with LaRussa

Hoffman Estates resident Peter Caliendo, president of the Schaumburg-based Caliendo Sports International, recently introduced Tony LaRussa at the American Baseball Coaches Convention before about 3,700 coaches gathered in Dallas. He introduced the Hall of Fame manager and 3-time World Series champion after showing a short video. LaRussa then spoke for about 25 minutes and Caliendo came back to talk with him before the audience about management and chemistry and LaRussa's book, "One Last Strike," which focuses on managerial strategies.

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Bassani opens new restaurant

Italian born and raised Chef Cristiano Bassani, owner of Bapi Ristorante in Arlington Heights, has opened Big Chef Burgers, a gourmet burger and pizza restaurant in Schaumburg at 1602 E. Algonquin Road. "I've been living in the Chicago area for many years, and I've always had the desire to open a great burger or pizza joint in the Northwest suburbs that raises the bar," he said.


Russ Bergeron, CEO of Midwest Real Estate Data in Lisle, has once again been recognized on the 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders, a listing produced by Inman News. He's been on the list every year since 2009. ... Taffy Jo Mayers, regional sales director for the Midwest region at Zurich North America in Schaumburg, has been accepted as a fellow for World Business Chicago's Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs. The plan is a framework for future economic growth and job creation in Chicago and the surrounding region. She is in the midst of a four-month commitment working with World Business Chicago to create smart communities throughout the city, enhancing technology and overall digital inclusion.

Mary Davolt is the new chief financial officer at Lemont-based Englewood Construction, a national commercial construction firm. ... Lifelong St. Charles resident Jose Venegas and Jeff Cade plan to open Muscle Maker Grill restaurant at 1840 West Main St. in St. Charles on Jan. 14. The men are combining their hospitality education and food service industry experience to provide healthy meal options for those with active lifestyles. ... Mark Youngberg of St. Charles has joined the CPA accounting firm of Jones, Sager & Co. LLP in St. Charles. ... Gregory D. Wasson, president and CEO of Deerfield-based Walgreens, will speak at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference on Wednesday at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco.

Real Estate broker Jeff Provenza along with Rick Daly, president of Elmhurst-based Darwin Realty & Development Corp., represented Tasty Breads International, which acquired a building in Northbrook. ... Tom Knox has been appointed president and CEO of Westlake Ace Hardware, Ace Hardware Corp.'s largest cooperative comprising 85 stores. Knox will be leaving his role as vice president of retail business development, training & supply at Ace's corporate offices in Oak Brook and relocating to the Kansas City area. ... Norbert G. Riedel has been named president and CEO of Evanston-based Naurex Inc. The company's founding CEO Derek Small will continue as a director of the company.

Rick Steffen has been named sales director of franchise accounts for Atom AMPD in Volo, a communications company providing networking, security, wireless and telephony solutions for businesses. ... Janet Galati, owner of Money Mailer of the Chain-O-Lakes, was recently honored with the Presidents Club and Business Marketing Awards at the company's National Conference in Huntington Beach, Calif. She was recognized for high sales achievements, while exceeding local content requirements and showing growth over last year, as well as. creativity and effectiveness in marketing her Money Mailer franchise to local business owners.

• There's more to business than just the bottom line. We want to tell you about the people that make business work. Send news about people in business to Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter.

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