Black Women Shaking Up the Events Industry in Chicago - Eventnoire

Today’s social climate has our community focusing more on the type of businesses we support and the entrepreneurs who run them (and we love to see it!).

According to Fundera:

  • 40% of U.S. businesses are women-owned
  • Women started over 1,800 net new businesses every day in 2020.
  • 64% of the businesses started last year by women were started by women of color

This means that looking for Black-owned and women-led brands to work and partner with in the Chicago event industry is getting easier each and every day!

If you are looking to attend or plan any events, here are ten female entrepreneurs you should keep an eye on:

Essence Smith of ELMS Events & Production and Social Works

Photo Credit: Essence Smith on Instagram

Essence is not only the Chief Operating Officer at SocialWorks Chicago, an organization working to empower youth through art, education and civic engagement, but she is also the CEO of ELMS Events & Production, an event planning agency focused on galas, weddings, activations, and more. Essence is also a DJ and the owner of a clothing brand called Black Women Are Essential.



Astin Hayes of Rémy Cointreau and TipOff Game

Photo Credit: Astin Hayes Smith on Instagram

Try to catch Astin Hayes if you can! Astin is a Key Account Manager of Rémy Cointreau as well as the founder of TipOff Game and a prominent leader focused on uplifting Black communities and creating opportunities for women in Chicago and beyond.


Sandi Robinson of ChiGivesBack

Photo Credit: Carl Ankrum

Sandi Robinson is the co-founder of ChiGivesBack as well as the Director of Sales at The Godfrey Hotel Chicago where she oversees the events and the sales team at the property. Through ChiGivesBack, a nonprofit that provides giving opportunities throughout the region, Sandi focuses on inspiring, empowering, and influencing people in the greater Chicagoland area to give back to others.



Brooke Mackie of The Mackie Firm and Courvoisier

Photo Credit: Brooke Mackie on Instagram

Brooke Mackie is the founder of The Mackie Firm and is a brand Influencer for Courvoisier’s Chicago market. She is well-versed in brand strategy, marketing campaigns, online and offline partnerships, large scale events, and influencer strategy. Brooke is also an author and an event host who can be found hosting events across the country.



Juan Teague

Photo Credit: Juan and Only Events

Juan Teague established Juan and Only Events in 2009 and has become one of the go-to full-service events and logistics companies in the Midwest. Juan and her team can assist with anything ranging from photography, public relations, and production for events of all sizes.



DJ Gemini Jones

Woman with dreadlocks smiling while posing with her fingers on her face

Photo Credit: Time Out Magazine

DJ Gemini Jones is a pioneering and dominating DJ due to her diverse music and ability to read her audience. She has DJed for national events like Essence Festival, has even partnered with Proctor and Gamble for their memorable “My Black is Beautiful Campaign,” and has relationships with club owners, radio stations and everyone in between.



Merlyn José of Merlyn José Weddings & Events 

Woman wearing a white blazer creating a flower arrangement for an event

Photo Credit: Merlyn José Events on Instagram

Merlyn José is the owner, creative director, and the soul behind Merlyn José Weddings & Events. The brand provides planning and impeccable designs to a sophisticated clientele. Executing events with a fine level of detail, Merlyn is truly passionate about her artistic expression and ability to make your dream event come to life, whatever it may be!



Renauda Riddle and Angela Barnes of Nobody’s Darling

Two woman standing in front of a bar smiling

Photo Credit: Block Club Chicago

Renauda Riddle and Angela Barnes opened the Black- and queer-owned Nobody’s Darling cocktail bar in May 2021. The lounge makes delicious drinks on-demand which are inspired by women of color, just like the decor and artwork throughout the space. After years of hosting events at other bars, Riddle and Barnes decided to open Nobody’s Darling so they (and you!) could have their own go-to space for private events.



Akeshi Akinseye of Kesh Events 

Woman wearing a black blazer smiling while posting

Photo Credit: Kesh Events

Under the creative hand of owner Akeshi Akinseye, Kesh Events offers a hands-on approach to weddings and events by orchestrating a one-of-a-kind curated approach to life’s most unforgettable celebrations. She is known for her flawless eye for details, opulent over the top florals and design aesthetic. Kesh Events has quickly become the go-to planner and designer for clients of the most discerning tastes internationally.



What other women in the Chicago event industry should we know?

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