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Meet the 2024 Speakers
Principal / Senior Designer, Raad Ghantous & Associates, and VP of Design, Identity Hospitality
Raad’s career spans 20+ years, which includes extensive experience working for design industry giants and architectural icons. Raad has had opportunities to work on projects in diverse global locations from California to Cabo San Lucas, Bermuda, Spain, Japan, China, Taipei, the nation island of Mauritius, and The United Arab Emirates. Along with a degree in design, Raad has a background in business, holding a degree in Economics from The American College of Switzerland and an MBA in Marketing from the Peter F. Drucker graduate school of business at Claremont Graduate University. From his international work and personal global experience, Raad seamlessly integrates creativity and design, with project management and business strategy.
Michael Menn Ltd. (MMLTD)
In 1983, Michael formed his own private practice in architecture mainly devoted to small custom residential and commercial projects. Over the years the firm has evolved into a diverse architectural, planning, interior design and construction firm.
Design Construction Concepts, Ltd. was officially established in 1991 as a fullservice design/build entity. In 2010 Mr. Menn, seeking a new challenge, formed a new design/build entity, Michael Menn Ltd. focused on bringing architecture and construction excellence to the forefront for each client.
Studio Nigro Architecture + Design
Kim Nigro, AIA LEED AP Homes has been the principal of Studio Nigro since founding the practice in 2006. Having studied architecture in Italy during university, Kim had the honor of returning there in 2007 as the recipient of the Burnham Prize Fellowship in Architecture at the American Academy in Rome. Infl uenced by the Rome Sustainable Food program and ancient passive building techniques, Kim returned to Chicago determined that Studio Nigro lead the way for our communities to become
sustainable beacons of healthy balance between the built environment and the natural world.
A licensed architect in the states of Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri, Kim has practiced in Chicago for the past twenty-four years. Studio Nigro was an early signatory of the AIA 2030 Commitment in 2015. Kim was a panelist in 2019 for AIA
2030’s ‘XS, S, M, L’ presentation encouraging fi rms of all sizes to join the commitment to reduce energy usage and embodied carbon in the buildings we create. As a small firm, Studio Nigro continues to build collaborative relationships with contractors, energy modelers and engineers, designers and fellow architects to push sustainability goals further, faster as a collective. In addition to guiding the firm’s sustainble work, Kim is also an active participant in outreach with USGBC, Illinois Green Alliance, and Phius, as well as Citizens’ Climate Lobby, an advocacy group working for legislation to halt the climate crisis.
David Lupberger draws on more than two decades of experience in the residential remodeling field to work with remodelers in developing proven business systems. Through his work in the remodeling industry, he hopes to redefine the way the remodeling industry operates so that the trust between quality Remodelers, their customers, suppliers, and trade contractors can be leveraged and improved.
Lupberger has been involved with custom home building and remodeling for over 20 years. After moving to the Washington DC area in 1988, he practiced high-end residential remodeling and focused on delivering the highest quality service to his clients. Over 90 percent of his work came from repeat and referral business, demonstrating the trust he developed with clients.
That experience in managing customer expectations led him to write a book called, Managing the Emotional Homeowner, which has become one of the bibles of the remodeling industry and helped hundreds of remodelers improve the level of service they provide clients.
Lupberger believes fervently that the best customer service only comes when a remodeler can deliver consistent results, which happens only with proven systems. He spent nearly 4 years writing the Remodelers Turnkey Program. This series of manuals is a basic how-to text on running a remodeling company. He recently authored the Home Asset Management Plan, a business system showing contractors how to implement a “client for life” program with their homeowner clients.
Dr. Michael Bills
President at AtlasRTX & Executive In Residence at Mindshare Ventures
Entrepreneur and executive with deep understanding and experience in EdTech and higher education. Dr. Bills is a leading expert in using technology and data science to improve student learning outcomes. Prior to his experience in EdTech, Mike led a series of acquisitions of three underperforming businesses across a broad set of industries. As CEO, he led the turnarounds and negotiated and executed the sale of all three businesses -- two to strategic buyers, and the other to private equity.
Principal | Studio K Creative
In 2014, Karen founded Studio K Creative to develop a diverse team of imaginative and forward-thinking brand strategists and technical designers.
The firm has delivered many of Chicago’s most popular restaurants, hotels, and luxury multifamily residences. Karen has fostered long-standing relationships with legendary firms including BOKA Restaurant Group, Sterling Bay, The Chicago Cubs, Magellan Development, and Core Spaces.
Lauren Coburn, LLC
After attending Cranbrook Academy and graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a degree in interior architecture, Lauren was formally trained by Chicago’s
renowned Tigerman McCurry Architects. It was here, under Stanley Tigerman’s and Margaret McCurry’s guidance, that Lauren honed her understanding of the visceral interplay between interior architecture and design.
Lauren Coburn, LLC is a full-service, licensed interior design and renovation firm. Founded in 2004, the firm designs and undertakes both residential and commercial projects. The awardwinning firm has been featured in prominent publications, such as CS Interiors and Elle Decor, and the books "Structure and Design" and "Spectacular Homes of Chicago." She also recently won an International Property Award for two residential projects as well as a "City Digs" award from HGTV. Lauren believes in complete transparency between herself and her clients, exceptional customer service, and virtually unfettered client access to her directly. These principles continue to drive Lauren’s business to this day and have led her to international recognition, inclusion in the world’s top design groups, including Leaders Of Design Council and the International Design Society (IDS), and award-winning collaborations across a variety of
Lauren always executes her designs with discretion, forthrightness, and an unerring attention to her clients’ demands, tastes, preferences, and living arrangements, as well as the
environment in which she’s working. Lauren believes that design is only successful if it is carefully thought through, not only from a decorative standpoint, but, first and foremost, from a spatial standpoint that exudes architectural continuity. In doing so, she helps her clients reimagine their homes by showing them possibilities they didn’t know existed to refine and
achieve their optimal vision. And, although each of Lauren’s interiors looks very different, they each have commonalities in terms of clean lines and timeless features, with a mix of high-end with low, modern with vintage, and custom designs with off-the-floor pieces.
Vice President Operations
Adrienne serves as the Executive Vice President of Operations. Adrienne is Green Belt Six Sigma Certified with a concentration on lean processes.
Responsible for the Frazier homes day to day administrative and operational functions. Focusing on process improvement, client satisfaction, supply chain and human resources management.
Steve customizes keynote presentations and training sessions that deliver engagement strategies for attracting and retaining Millennials, empowering Generation X, capturing Boomer wisdom and cultivating future leadership by leveraging the strengths of each generation. Steve
has shared his message with audiences across the country.
Steve is also the creator of “The Pitch!”, a non-profit business contest that puts the next generation of workforce talent in charge to create a start-up company and make the perfect sales pitch! Teenage students learn business concepts, practice soft skills and networking and compete for prizes! When not in a classroom, Steve spends his time in gyms around the
midwest coaching AAU basketball.
Mark Eric Benner - Architects, Ltd.
Mark Benner, AIA is the visionary force behind the inception of Mark Eric Benner — Architects, Ltd., a
dynamic architectural design firm committed to delivering unparalleled creative excellence to a diverse clientele. Rooted in the belief that exceptional architecture emerges from a harmonious fusion of
innovative design concepts and masterful communication, our practice has meticulously crafted cuttingedge methodologies that seamlessly integrate state-of-the-art technology to maximize project potential and value.
Mark's professional journey was profoundly enriched as a principal and architect at Orren Pickell Designers and Builders, a prestigious luxury residential design/build enterprise in Chicago's northern suburbs. Since joining the firm in 1995, Mark spearheaded the implementation and advancement of the company's pioneering CAD initiative, overseeing the realization of nearly four hundred homes with a collective construction value exceeding $275 million. These projects, spanning across Chicago's Northshore communities and stretching to diverse markets such as New Jersey, Wisconsin, Michigan, California, and Colorado, encompassed a diverse array of endeavors, from residential havens to expansive commercial ventures and ambitious land planning initiatives.
Jasmin Reese Interiors
Jasmin Reese Interiors is a Chicago-based Residential Luxury firm that also services southwest Florida. From the start, Jasmin meets for a collaborative “Style session” – this determines how high octane the client is willing to go, and then the magic starts. Jasmin is an artist and can work in many different styles. Her instinct is blending antiques with modern elements, dark finishes mixed with light, feminine tones contrasting with masculine, and high low pieces. Her signature style includes bold wallpapered ceilings that allow artworks to be at eye level and artfully designed “color bomb” rooms that are whimsical and sophisticated at the same time. Ironically, her rooms appear very maximalist at first blush- however, they have limited, edited furnishings and simple styling for a classic and timeless tone. Her painterly interiors have gained her repeat business from clients who love their comfortable spaces, and she can complete homes over years if it isn’t done all at once.
VizX Design Studios
Duane Draughon is a well-known and highly respected outdoor living designer with over 20 years of experience in the industry. As the owner and lead designer of VizX Design Studios, he has gained national recognition for his cutting-edge outdoor living designs that incorporate a modern design style. Duane's designs are unique and breathtaking. Duane began his career as an apprentice with a local landscape design firm in Columbus, OH, where he started designing outdoor living spaces in 1998. After working for Talk Landscape Design for a few years, he decided to start his own outdoor living construction company called PaverStone Design Group. Duane's unique and cutting-edge design style quickly gained attention, and his company went on to win multiple awards and be featured in local and national publications. During his time at PaverStone Design Group, Duane realized that clients were interested in his design style and wanted to see what they were ultimately buying before the project even started. This led to the birth of VizX Design Studios, where he could present his designs in 3D and capture clients across the United States. Duane took a significant risk by closing his construction company and moving to Chicago, IL, to pursue his dream of running an Outdoor Living Design Firm. This decision paid off, as VizX Design Studios has grown into a highly successful business that has received national recognition. Duane's background in engineering and architectural drafting, as well as his years of owning his own construction firm and attending seminars, and completing elective coursework, have provided him with a wealth of design experience. His work has been featured in numerous publications and media outlets, including CNN, Inc. Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and other local newspapers and magazines. Duane is passionate about outdoor living and enjoys sharing his expertise with others. He is dedicated to empowering contractors and designers in the outdoor living space. With his extensive knowledge and experience in the industry, Duane continues to push the boundaries of outdoor living design and inspire others to do the same.
Meet the 2024 Experts and Moderators
Seth Romig Architect
Architect Expert - Moderator - PowerConnections and Break-out Groups
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