I’m Thankful for You and Our Community Partners

Happy Thanksgiving.

Please know that everyone working for Make It Better is thankful for your support and interest. We count it as a blessing.

We wish you and your loved ones good food, good times and an opportunity to count your own blessings as you gather around your Thanksgiving dinner table tomorrow.

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday arriving hard on this holiday’s heels, we also wish you a happy start to the holiday shopping and giving season.

We particularly encourage you to support the businesses and nonprofits that are part of our Make It Better community. All are Local Treasures — family-owned businesses and well-run nonprofits, working hard to provide a valuable community service.

Thank you.


Entrepreneur Darryl Rose Built Success on Values and Rules That Every Mother Loves and Every Community Needs

“‘Thank you for teaching my kid how to work!’ This is what I frequently hear from moms,” Darryl Rose, founder of Get Dwell, declares early in our interview. Those statements are just one of many examples that confirm that Rose grew his Chicago- and North Shore-based remodeling and handyman business on great values — adeptly creating opportunities that help others while providing outstanding service. His grin and twinkling eyes attest to the pleasure this brings him too.


Darryl Rose

Rose is the prototypical 21st century entrepreneur; he builds win/win scenarios for customers, employees, partners and the community. It’s no surprise that Get Dwell has been voted “Best Of” by our Make It Better audience four out of five years.

Ironically, Rose still acts surprised that he became an entrepreneur working with his hands at all. With a good job in corporate sales, a wife, two young children and a Wilmette home, Rose thought his path through life was set. But, he was happiest helping neighbors’ with their handyman needs and being a volunteer designer and builder of stage sets and other projects for his kids’ schools. His true calling was obvious to everyone else.

It took his wife, Beth — the person most likely to miss the security of his corporate life — to convince Rose to give it up and start a small home maintenance business out of their kitchen in 2005.

“Just leap and the net will appear,” Beth promised.


Darryl and Beth Rose

Not only did the net appear, but it also quickly expanded. From routine home maintenance, Get Dwell rapidly morphed into small construction and remodeling projects. But, when the market crashed in 2008, he needed a quick new strategy. Rose sagely reframed Get Dwell as just a handyman — rather than remodeling — business.

“Even in a down market, North Shore homeowners still needed simple repairs.” He adds, “But winning Make It Better’s ‘Best of 2010’ in the Handyman category is what really put us on the map!” Get Dwell has grown steadily ever since and was recognized in 2014 during Remodeling magazine’s Big50 awards.

Ten “People First” Rules That Develop Strong Businesses

Rose cites his “people first” rules as a driving force for the business. They ensure that his staff knows how to interact well with customers (as well as develop good work habits for teen summer employees). These 10 rules will develop good employees for other businesses too:

  1. Show up on time.
  2. Communicate effectively.
  3. Work efficiently.
  4. Leave the project site clean and ready for use.
  5. No cell phone usage on the job.
  6. No swearing (and yes, they have a “swear jar” for money donated to charity every time an employee breaks this rule).
  7. Lead where you are strong. Team where you are weak.
  8. Do what you say you are going to do.
  9. Treat others as you wish to be treated.
  10. Give back to your community.

Giving back is a core principle at Get Dwell. Rose is particularly proud of his firm’s long history of working with Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit that helps low-income home owners repair and stay in their homes.

Sharon Riley, executive director of Rebuilding Together North Suburban Chicago, says, “We have worked with Darryl Rose for years and his firm, Get Dwell, is one of the finest contractors we know. Darryl and his wonderful team are always ready to assist our applicants who have fallen on hard times with outstanding skilled work delivered with the highest degree of respect and professionalism.

“Darryl’s immense generosity and compassion in giving back to our neighbors in greatest need, from Evanston north to Waukegan, is inspiring.”


The Get Dwell Team

Building the Geek Squad of Home Repair — Local is Better

Perhaps the best evidence of Rose’s entrepreneurial acumen is his success at building partnerships with 27 family-owned hardware stores in Chicago and up the North Shore.

“My goal is to build the ‘Geek Squad’ of home repair using local tradesmen. This keeps consumer dollars local and makes local communities stronger,” Rose explains. “Hardware stores like Millen in Wilmette, Lemoi Ace in Evanston and Gordon’s Ace in Chicago are multi-generation owned and deeply entrenched in their communities. Many of these stores are on their fifth generation of family ownership! They understand how to serve a community they love.”

Rose built a good business by honoring his own passions and staying true to his family and community-centric values. He’s now growing a much wider network of support for local businesses throughout the region. Rose’s values and collaboration-building sensibilities should be copied widely.

He concludes by quoting Henry David Thoreau. He explains, “The old master first began his journey by building a cabin in the woods alongside Walden Pond.

“Thoreau wrote, ‘I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.'”


Responding With Love After the Election


It’s not complicated to understand what happened with the election, nor is the best path forward difficult to understand. It’s not easy to execute though.

The “haves” can’t ignore the “feeling left behinds.”

Instead of feeling stunned or reacting with anger, we need to listen, understand and love better those who feel trapped or even downwardly mobile.

One look at the county-by-county map of the presidential election results makes obvious that the 21st century haves — cities, coasts, university towns — voted for Hillary.

Study closely Hillary’s campaign and fundraising techniques and you will see that she largely ignored vast swathes of our country. Doesn’t help that those who feel like “forgotten Americans” watched her raise more than $500,000,000 — one-half billion dollars — for her campaign while she ignored them too.

Affluent, well-educated citizens can’t continue to succeed indefinitely at the expense of the rest of the country. Girls, women and minorities can’t succeed at the expense of boys, men and whites. That is the primary message of this election.

America grew strong because hard-working, primarily well-intentioned individuals and families spread out and found opportunity across America. Yes, they were white and, yes, they built their success on the backs of slaves, minorities and women without votes. So while we’re grateful that the wrongs embedded in that initial success now are being addressed and rectified — like slavery and bigotry — we also can’t ignore that the descendants of those founding families in middle America face an increasingly bleak future.

Everyone needs to be able to see a hopeful future. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have a hopeful future in place need to listen to, learn from and organize around doing more to help those who don’t.

We need to do more to strengthen home towns and local communities too — rather than continue the practices that have decimated them. That will make America even greater.

Also, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the pollsters and media elite got it wrong. As communication channels proliferate, media companies compete ever harder for ever-shrinking advertising dollars that target affluent audiences — because they are the ones with money to spend on advertisers’ products. Therefore, it’s more profitable for these media companies to study and report on the affluent and elite. It takes unprofitable time and resources for them to really survey and listen to middle America.

As a result of the stunning election results, I’m having unexpected, intense conversations with my children, extended family members and others. I’m learning even more about their frustrations with “the system.”

My daughters feel cheated that the woman lost and a misogynist won. Surprisingly, my sons somehow correlate this election with their empathy with Chris McCandless, the “Into The Wild” young man whose disaffection caused him to abandon his loving family and identity after graduating from college, and eventually died of starvation in the Alaskan wilderness.

Something is wrong when our daughters feel more empowered by their society than our sons.

My brother reminds me that he ardently needs one of those manufacturing jobs that Trump promises to return to the United States. He and I had to shepherd our family business — community grocery stores — through bankruptcy and dissolution. He’s been bumped from one downsized industry to another ever since then, earning less with every job. There is nothing racist, prejudiced or mean-spirited about him. He just needs the system to work for him too.

Listening, empathizing and responding with love is the best I can do for now — and ask everyone else to do the same.

I’m also grateful for the communications that have come from our Make It Better community, like this heart-rending and brave autobiographical essay by one reader.

Hopefully everyone in media and other positions of power — parents, politicians, affluent and educated others — will start listening better and responding with love. Working harder to find human commonalities with those who don’t share our demographics and political or philosophical views will help too.

Read more:

Prayers for Crushers Club Please

As you know, we love creating powerful virtuous circles of support for the most impactful nonprofits at Make It Better. This is why we started our Philanthropy Awards. We’re particularly proud of supporting Crushers Club with one of these awards. Please watch this short video to understand why:

Cubs Manager Joe Madden and Cubs Charities joined forces with Crushers Club soon after the organization received our award too. Please see Joe and Connie Falcone of Cubs Charities in action here:

Perhaps our favorite success story though is that Sally Schneiders and her family found a calling to support Crushers Club because of our award. And now she asks for one more powerful thing for it: Prayers. Please see Sally’s heartfelt plea below and add your prayers too. Thank you.


Just a few minutes ago, I was half way out the door on a run, but my phone rang. It was Sally Hazelgrove.

I picked it up, thinking she was going to confirm with me what time I would be arriving at Crusher’s today. I had butter softening on the counter in the kitchen, for the cookies I was going to bake and bring out to Englewood, along with donations for “carbo fests” from a couple of you (thanks!)

Sally had a hard time talking so I knew something was up, but I wasn’t prepared for what she was going to say. So many magical things were happening at Crusher’s — so many stories and so many kids powerfully impacted by her love and faith in them. Her “program”!

She told me in halting tones there are serious death threats against her … She is not sure why but thinks Facebook, or ‘cyber gangbanging,’ is the root of all of this. Sally has spoken out against the gangs, and certain members “hate on her.” 

Sally is often impervious to death threats with her faith in God, but this time she feels very human, and very scared for herself, her own children, and her Crusher’s kids.

She told me it was too dangerous for me to go out there today. So now what? Those kids need her, they need me, they need a lot of people to care about them. How do we do it without going out to Englewood?

For now, she asked me, please pray. And get others to pray for all of this to pass. She believes profoundly in the strength of our combined prayer and so I am asking you to do this. Please pray for Sally Hazelgrove and all of the kids in Englewood. 

I do not know what else to do!! Thanks for all of your past support and I PRAY I can go out there again soon — bring cookies and see them spar, make music, laugh, free to be themselves.

Thanks again!

Sally S.

Better Money for You and Others

Great news. Median household incomes in America surged up 5.2 percent last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This is record-breaking growth — the largest increase since the government started keeping track in 1967. According to The New York Times, not only did household incomes grow, but poverty fell, health insurance coverage increased and years of stagnation ended.

Wow. That’s a lot of happy money news. Our economy is getting stronger and raising families up on all rungs of the economic ladder. Hopefully, this includes yours.

I’m delighted to report that Make It Better has even more good financial news and opportunities for you too — special opportunities and deals that will help you stretch your (hopefully) growing income further. We think of this as “Better Money.”

$500 Hubbard Woods Design District Fashion and Home Décor Shopping Spree  


It’s always a pleasure to shop in the beautiful Hubbard Woods Design District stores. Now there is extra incentive — when you stop by you can enter a raffle to win a $1,300 home or $595 fashion shopping spree there too. Entries close Oct. 1; so please visit in September. Learn more here.

$30 Off and Dinner Made Better By Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon 


Photo courtesy of Marley Spoon.

There’s a new meals-at-home delivery service in town — Martha & Marley Spoon. Marley Spoon launched to great success in Canada. Martha Stewart likes the concept so much that she now provides the recipes and a USA partnership.

Place an order here and use code BETTER16 to get $30 off your first box, as well as free delivery. According to our millennial friends, this is cheaper, easier and tastier than doing all of the grocery shopping and preparation yourself. SCORE!

Pomegranate Margaritas That Benefit American Cancer Society and Breast Cancer Research 


Depot Nuevo’s Pomegranate Margarita (Photo by Erica Barraca.)

Our favorite tequila, Wansas, created the tastiest and most beautiful margarita ever — the Wansas Pomegranate Margarita. We love it so much that we put it on the cover of our recent Entertaining Guide.

Four-time Make It Better Best Of winner Depot Nuevo kindly offered to donate $1 from every sale of this drink for the next six months to the American Cancer Society to fund breast cancer research. As my dear friend and ACS Lakeshore Division Senior Market Manager Maryann Rasmussen says, “You can’t beat cancer alone. We need everyone in the community to mobilize to make it happen.” We’re all in to beat cancer with this fabulous cocktail.


Alex Gonzalez, Director of Mixology, Wansas Tequila; Rob Garrison, owner of Depot Nuevo; Luis Monzalvo, Director of Mexico Operations, Wansas Tequila

As you know, Make It Better loves creating virtuous circles like this. Win for ACS and breast cancer research, win for Wansas and Depot Nuevo, win for you because you enjoy a tasty night out with a real winner and contribute to those working toward a cure.

Help Victims of Domestic Violence and Financial Abuse Through Allstate Foundation Purple Purse

Since 2005, hometown favorite the Allstate Foundation has helped more than 800,000 women who are victims of domestic violence (which often results in financial abuse too) through its Allstate Foundation Purple Purse program.

If you are reading this, you are likely more fortunate than the women served by the Allstate Foundation’s generosity. For the next few weeks, you can pay this blessing forward and stretch your philanthropic dollars even further by donating to the Purple Purse program.

Learn more here.

More happy news. According to Allstate, a collection of handbags are being specially created by Tory BurchChristian Louboutin and other designers to benefit the foundation. Emmy-nominated actress Kerry Washington has also joined the campaign as its ambassador for her third year.

Because we’re all fans of Kerry and designer bags, we look forward to supporting this virtuous circle in development too.







Realizing the Dream — Chicago Botanic Garden’s Regenstein Learning Campus Perfect for All Four Generations of My Family

I love, love, love the Chicago Botanic Garden. For three decades it has been my favorite destination for a family outing, bicycle ride, walk with a friend, music under the stars, meditative moments and more. I enjoyed playing in the Rose Garden fountain just as much as my kids did. Then somehow (and much too quickly) I found myself hosting wedding events there for two of them. And of course, my mom and I look for every opportunity possible to visit CBG together too.

I also love that CBG has grown to provide values that are even more important and enduring than beauty and pleasure — particularly their world-class conservation, research and education. We need this more than ever in order to understand and act on the environmental imperatives that our children and grandchildren face.

We’ve proudly supported the development of research centers and university partnerships at CBG that make it possible for adults to earn degrees there and youth to learn about nature and agriculture at the main campus and other sites across Chicagoland. But I’m most excited by the opening of the Regenstein Learning Campus this weekend.

With this meticulously designed, light-filled, child friendly space that even includes a “Nature Preschool,” the next generation can be immersed in the importance and delight of an environmental education. I caught a sneak peak of it last night at the ribbon cutting and can’t wait to take my grandchildren there as soon as possible — to learn, play, delight together.


Board Chair Bob Finke, Susan Regenstein and Jean Franczyk


Nature preschool classroom


Kids in the nature preschool




Bob Finke, Susan B. Noyes, Jean Franczyk and Francee Harrington

Photos courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden. 


What Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kevin Roberts (and Others in Media) Missed: Everyone Wins When Equality Reigns

As reported yesterday on the front page of the Financial Times and elsewhere in the financial press yesterday, Kevin Roberts, chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, part of the Publicis Groupe, was put on leave after saying that women employees lack “vertical ambition.” Roberts resigned Aug. 3.

This follows two recent incidents involving sexism in the media: Fox News’ firing Robert Ailes and advertising agency J. Walter Thompson replacing a male CEO also accused of making demeaning comments toward women with its first-ever female top boss Tamara Ingram.

The first woman in U.S. history has just been nominated by a major party to be President of the United States, and there are plenty of other signs indicating that woman power is on the rise — including the astounding success embedded in Make It Better’s list of The 25 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.

"Tonight, we've reached a milestone in our nation's march toward a more perfect union: the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for president. Standing here as my mother's daughter, and my daughter's mother, I'm so happy this day has come. Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between. Happy for boys and men because when any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for everyone. When there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit. So let's keep going…until every one of the 161 million women and girls across America has the opportunity she deserves to have. Because even more important than the history we make tonight, is the history we will write together in the years ahead." —Hillary

A post shared by Hillary Clinton (@hillaryclinton) on

The savviest media and advertising insiders understand gender dynamics and recommend the wisest way forward for advertisers and really, for the world. Let equality reign. Allowing women equal opportunities lifts everyone up. As Nicholas Kristof explains in his recent New York Times editorial, do not be afraid of women power, but instead embrace it with enthusiasm because when women win, men win too.

Yesterday’s USA Today offers another story that demonstrates how families win when parents feel parity. “As Saves Go, Marriage Takes Top Spot” makes stars of U.S. volleyball Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings and her husband and father of their three young children, Casey Jennings.

Contrast that with yesterday’s LA Times article about the South Sudan, “What Daughters Are Worth,” which explains that there are girls in parts of the world where women are not equal who are traded for cows.

The choice looks simple from our perspective. Treat women as equals and the economy and civil liberties expand. Don’t, and businesses and society stagnate.

Cheryl Berman, former chairman and chief creative officer of Leo Burnett USA, a legendary Publicis advertising agency, now runs her own agency, Unbundled, and consults for Rise Interactive. Both firms are flourishing. She offers a simple response to the Saatchi & Saatchi comments:

“To say women lack vertical ambition in the ad industry is an archaic, absurd and demoralizing observation,” Berman says. “It is true that there is a definite shortage of female leaders, but it is not due to a lack of ambition. It is due to male leaders like Kevin Roberts, who fail to realize that women make the majority of all purchases in almost every advertising category.”

Cheryl Berman

Cheryl Berman

Berman adds, “Women are also the proven leaders when it comes to sharing information on social media. So I believe we could factually prove more woman leaders could actually help revitalize agency brands like Saatchi and position them for a more productive future.”

By the way, if you had any doubts about Berman’s aptitude, Peggy Olsen, the young female account representative in the TV show “Mad Men” is based on Cheryl Berman. Advertising executive and Berman’s former employer Leo Burnett was an early and visionary equal rights proponent who consistently promoted winning ideas.

What worked for Burnett will work for the world. Equal voice for equal talent. Nobody demeaned. Everybody wins.