As a company built in this area to serve this area, we’re committed to supporting our local business community. That’s why we’re proud to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month with an event that highlights some of Chicago’s business leaders and fosters meaningful connections. Our distinguished panel has created local jobs, strengthened our economy, and are exceptional examples of the LGBTQ community’s contribution in their industries. Come learn about their experiences and hear valuable insights. Whether you’re an aspiring business owner, a seasoned entrepreneur, or a Chicago consumer, you’ll gain something from this event.
Event Moderator: Tony Abruscato, Chicago Flower & Garden Show, Chicago Gateway Green
Tony Abruscato | President & CEO, Chicago Flower & Garden Show, Chicago Gateway Green
Affectionately called “Mr. Green Chicago” by his friends and supporters, Tony Abruscato’s broad experience in marketing, finance, promotions, sponsorship and executive management converge under his leadership as president of Chicago-based Flower Show Productions, Inc. The company produces the annual Chicago Flower & Garden Show and manages the non-profit Chicago Gateway Green.
Abruscato’s mission to inspire a greener Chicago and generations of new and experienced gardeners comes from his personal passion to create livable, sustainable communities that enhance lives and neighborhoods. His leadership skills and innovative thinking are traced to his early career in the financial services industry, where Abruscato was named the youngest member of the officer-management team in the history of the institution by mastering skills within the bank’s operations, marketing and advertising departments. He also distinguished himself by becoming the youngest elected official in the State of Illinois, winning public office in the Northwest suburbs in 1986.
In 2011, Abruscato acquired the Chicago Flower & Garden Show and became owner and president of its parent company, Flower Show Productions. Through his mantra to “Inspire, Educate, Motivate”, he has built on the legacy of the iconic event to create a flourishing, urban-style flower and garden show that welcomes spring in Chicago and draws waves of new attendees each year.
Meet Our Panelists:
Dean Ricker | Skolnik
Dean Ricker has spent the last 30 years in leadership roles in the dangerous goods and radioactive material packaging industry. His career started in Carlsbad, New Mexico at the Westinghouse Nuclear Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) before moving to Chicago where he served for 25 years as Vice President of Sales for a newly organized steel container manufacturer, Skolnik Industries. Today, Dean is now President of Skolnik Industries and manages a complex business model, guides high performing teams and delivers sustainable revenue growth of over $30 million in annual sales. Outside of business, Dean loves art in all forms including live theatre, opera, cooking, reading and photography.
Dr. Joanna Thompson | Center on Halsted
Dr. Joanna Thompson, a mixed-race (half Black/half Latina) and queer female, is the Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator for the Anti-Violence Project at Center on Halsted. She recently received her PhD with the Department of Criminology, Law, and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Joanna has lived in Chicago since Summer 2010, promoting intersectional community organizing across multiple social identities. Her experiences, both personal and academic, have led to her to become a voice for the Chicagoland LGBTQ community on both a grassroots and systems-based level.
Jackie Richter | Heels & Hardhats
I am driven by few words, Can DO and Follow me. As we build client relations our firm dedicates its self to putting our customer first .When tasks are requested we examine the scope and determine what is best for both our client and our company. This applies to everything in business we do. If we have a handle on our relationships with vendors and employees and treat all with dignity and respect, we shall grow solid. The values of the past seem to have been swept under the carpet and gratitude seems to be near nonexistent today. We are grateful for having the many opportunities and grateful for having sound relationships with whom we do business with. When working alongside coworkers you will find both Cyndi and I in the trenches right alongside our employees. We want them to know we are not afraid to jump in and help, and want them to respect the fact we are working bosses, we know what our people have to do each and every day. There are tough jobs that come along and both of us are there “Follow me ” and yes “Can Do”. We face adversity with a goal of success. Adversity teaches us that hardships a merely a pathway of progress. Tough jobs builds team work, team work builds success.
Heels and Hardhats is a specialty contractor providing services to the road building and utility industry. With its many certifications in diversity we provide solutions to diversity requirements at all levels – State, Federal and Corporate. Our firm has a diverse skill set that enables us to handle a wide variety of tasks. From traffic control to special excavation and erosion control we perform in safety and quality daily.
Dr. Nabeela Rasheed | AbbVie
Dr. Nabeela Rasheed is a British, American, Pakistan, Queer Muslim; a biochemist by training, lawyer by profession, activist and organizer by passion. With a PhD in Biochemistry she came to the United States for a post-doctoral fellowship in Texas and moved to Chicago to study law. Combining her biochemistry training with a law degree from Chicago Kent College of Law she has worked as an intellectual property lawyer in private practice in Chicago for almost two decades. She has recently left private practice to take up the position of Section Head of Intellectual Property for AbbVie Inc. in North Chicago.
Dr. Rasheed is committed to advocating for the communities and intersectionalities that define her life. A proud Chicagoan, she promotes and upholds the ideals of One Chicago. She serves on the Chicago Commission for Human Relations and is active in many LGBTQ organizations. Aside from her interests in law and advocacy, she is an avid art collector, loves movies and literature and has a lust for life that constantly drives her to look for new outlets for her passions.