www.tidewaterreview.com/news/business/ct-biz-0418-confidential-space-20130418,0,2447831.column

tidewaterreview.com

Harris: Project gets off to 'beautiful' start

Graphic designer turns grass-roots model into a business — and hopes it sticks

Melissa Harris

Chicago Confidential

April 18, 2013

Advertisement

The stickers are simple and, well, beautiful.

Printed on reflective silver, they're cut in the size and shape of a nametag and say "you are beautiful" in bold, black print.

They're the "all-encompassing" artistic statement of Chicago graphic designer Matthew Hoffman, who is trying to turn his grass-roots movement into a business after being laid off from his publishing industry job in November.

More than 700,000 of Hoffman's stickers are in circulation. He pressed his first one onto a light pole on Damen Avenue.

The 33-year-old came up with the idea in 2002 after graduating from Ball State University and moving to Chicago to work at Publications International Ltd.

"They were having big layoffs, and I was part of that," he said. "They were very generous with their severance. And they knew about this project and said: 'Here's your chance to make your dreams come true.' That's why there's this whole renewed spirit and excitement about it."

Of the more than 700,000 stickers in circulation, Hoffman said he has distributed 200,000 of them in the past two months. An online Kickstarter campaign for a "you are beautiful" book raised $30,290, exceeding Hoffman's $25,000 goal. He's now selling 'you are beautiful' merchandise (iPhone cases, T-shirts, etc.) at you-are-beautiful.com.

Hoffman said he was worried that commercializing the project would turn people off.

"I was surprised to find that as I've been moving from a free model to a business model, people are excited," he said. "They don't see it as a drawback. They're like, 'Thank goodness I can finally support this.'"

And he said he would continue distributing the stickers for free from his one-car garage in Lincolnwood. Mailing him a self-addressed stamped envelope to his post office box will get you five free stickers in return.

"It's a really important message for everyone," Hoffman said. "And not everybody has money, especially young people. And this message really strikes a chord with young people. Two stamps. Two envelopes. That's how it started and how it has grown."

Ilene Gordon goes to the moon

Ingredion Inc. Chief Executive Ilene Gordon took her 13-member executive team to corporate space camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama this week.

She bought the trip at a charity auction for the Adler Planetarium — and plans to pay it forward by sending participants in the Girls4Science program to the center this summer.

The shuttle launch and moon landing simulations were incredibly "work-related" compared with other corporate team-building programs, such as Outward Bound, she said.

"It's all about the process," Gordon said. "Everybody had a job and had to communicate well within their teams and with those that were directing the teams. There were some specific analytics and calculations to follow as well as some work to get done, including putting on some pseudo-spacesuits."

Gordon will address The Chicago Network, a group made up of the city's top businesswomen, at its Friday luncheon about the importance of women obtaining a "STEM" — science, technology, engineering and math — education, even midcareer. Gordon has two degrees, in math and management, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She set out to be a math teacher and ended up running Ingredion, formerly known as Corn Products International, a Fortune 500 company. Of Ingredion's 13-person team at space camp, she said five of them were women, including herself, her chief financial officer and general counsel.

"If half the population is women, you need to be able to tap into that," Gordon said. "But right now, 60 percent of the college population is women, but only 30 percent are getting STEM degrees and only 20 percent are going into STEM careers. ... You have to start with there (with the degree)."

Willie Gillis sold for a lot, but less

Auctioneer Sean Susanin has sold Norman Rockwell's "Willie Gillis, Package from Home" for $1.75 million, more than $1 million less than the price at which the hammer fell on the painting at a December auction.

Susanin said that the painting failed to meet the auction's reserve price, or the minimum price the seller, Chicago-based CNA Insurance, was willing to accept. Therefore, it failed to sell, and Susanin negotiated a new price privately.

The Tribune reported that the gavel fell during Susanin's December auction at $2.8 million with an out-of-town dealer posting the winning bid by phone. Susanin's Auctions had estimated the painting would fetch $3 million to $5 million.

But a recent Susanin's ad touted the sale as the largest single item sold at auction in Chicago. Susanin acknowledged that the auction claim made the ad "incorrect" and pledged to fix it.

"In our business a successful transaction is when both the buyer and seller are happy with the end result, and in the case of Willie Gillis, this was accomplished," Susanin wrote in an email. "Needless to say, as the broker/agent, we too were very pleased."

The painting is up for sale online at M.S. Rau Antiques, a longtime dealer in New Orleans' French Quarter, for $4.85 million.

The final sale price would seem more in line with other paintings in the Willie Gillis series, which Rockwell painted for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. For instance, "Willie Gillis in Church" sold for $1.05 million at Sotheby's in May 2008.

The local record for an auctioned painting in Chicago remains a Vincent Van Gogh still life, which Leslie Hindman sold for $1.43 million in 1991.

Melissa Harris can be reached at mmharris@tribune.com or 312-222-4582. Twitter @chiconfidential