A Pricey, Exclusive Gym That’s Keeping Out Those Who Can’t Weigh In

Walk past most gyms in Chicago, and you’re liable to get into a staring match. Wide windows frame hard bodies galloping on treadmills in a constant advertisement to passersby.

Walk past Downsize Fitness in the West Loop, however, and you won’t see much. The windows are frosted, and low-resistance treadmills face a wall with few mirrors. Downsize is not a place to see and be seen. Indeed, that sense of privacy is one of the gym’s selling points. Others include extra-large towels, private showers and seated elliptical machines.

Everything about Downsize caters to people who are overweight. That’s because the gym doesn’t accept members who aren’t trying to lose at least 50 pounds. Francis Wisniewski, who owns Hard 8 Trading and Forty 4 Asset Management, financed the gym himself in 2011. Wisniewski has since added a second location, in Dallas. Now, he’s interested in taking Downsize national.

Read more about this unusual fitness center by clicking here or picking up a copy of today’s Chicago Sun-Times!


Lessons from Russell Simmons at Digitas xCulture

Russell Simmons

[Left to right] Digitas’ Ronnie Dickerson, Russell Simmons and GlobalGrind’s Tricia Clarke-Stone at Digitas March 27, 2013

A year ago, Digitas Chicago decided to take its cross-cultural marketing efforts to the next level. They had a vision for equipping employees to deal with a changing multicultural marketplace. It was they who introduced the Digitas xCulture platform last spring, leading to similar programs that launched in New York City and Boston in the fall.

Digitas xCulture frequently hosts speakers ranging from researchers and industry professionals to public figures such as Olympic athletes and singers. To celebrate its first anniversary, hip hop mogul and uber-successful entrepreneur Russell Simmons took the stage with Tricia Clarke-Stone, co-President at GlobalGrind.com, to speak with employees about his experience working with diverse audiences on March 27.

Simmons is a bona fide jack of all trades, able to spot trends long before they go mainstream (in fact, it’s just that talent that helped him succeed in music, fashion and content). He is also known for his emphasis on spirituality and faith in life and business, a perspective that certainly sets him apart from the many numbers-driven magnates we’re used to.

It was precisely this point of view that I found at once intriguing and inspiring as I heard him speak to the hundred or so employees crammed into Digitas’ event space last Wednesday afternoon. Here are some of his best lessons and the whole story.

Can Stock Mfg. Co. Do For Clothes What Farmers Markets Did For Produce?

For decades, the only garments to come out of the 19,000-square-foot military-clothing factory at the corner of Lake and Pulaski in Garfield Park were sewn in muted shades of olive drab, gunmetal gray and navy blue. But in July, there came a whole different look: piles of brightly colored shirts, pocket squares and ties meant for Bucktown hipsters, not Pentagon bureaucrats.

Behind the colorful clothes are entrepreneur Jim Snediker, factory owner Areill Ives and three other co-founders of Stock Manufacturing. The quintet is betting their locally made duds will strike a vein of civic pride. Every piece of Stock clothing comes tagged “Proudly made in Chicago” — and backed by Snediker’s personal quality promise. “I guarantee,” he says. “You’re getting a damn good piece of clothing, and you’re getting it at an affordable price.”

Read more about this plucky new company by clicking here, and pick up a copy of Chicago Grid in this Sunday’s Sun-Times!

The Women Driving Chicago’s Digital Renaissance: Part 1


In this monthly series, Built In Chicago will highlight some of the most important players in our digital ecosystem: the women. From entrepreneurs to technologists, investors to academic leaders, and corporate innovators to developers, women play important and diverse roles in dozens of local organizations. Every month, we’ll introduce you to five women worth knowing. Through these exclusive interviews, get to know these women through their likes, experiences, and maybe even their secrets.

This installment includes Jellyvision’s Amanda Lannert, Motorola Mobility’s Blagica Bottigliero, venture capitalist Ellen Carnahan, BrightTag’s Kelly Davis and developer KD Ironside. Read about them here.