Chicago: Akilah Rogers '04

Much to my disappointment, I did not run into Oprah in Chicago. I tried looking for her among the throngs of spectators at Lady Gaga, but I guess Lollapalooza just ain’t her thing. Ho, hum. Maybe next time. I did, however, run into Steve Lunau ’07—a recent transplant from New York, while I was in town. There’s nothing more fun than the happy coincidence of running into a good friend in a strange land. It was cinematic.  Steve and I hung for a while with two other newly relocated ex-New Yorkers, Matt Slovitt and Sally Dickerson ’06. Under the influence of friendship, summer and maybe some beer, we found ourselves waxing poetic about the glory of Chicago. New York…bah, a thing of the past!

The reason why I came to town—other than to chase Oprah—was to meet with Akilah Rogers ’04. Before even officially collecting her degree from Harvard Business School last year, Akilah had already started creating the framework of her own business. She is the founder of a real estate company that buys foreclosed houses and converts them into rental properties in Chicago’s South Side. Her business partner is her father, Steven Rogers ’79 and her first employee is Janay Clyde ’10. One could say that she’s running an Eph-il empire!

Over drinks downtown, she tells me about how she got her start, tracing her entrepreneurial roots back to her parents and describing early enterprises like lemonade stands—a born-businesswoman… When we get to talking about Williams, she shares some keen insights into the value of her informal education—the lessons she learned outside the classroom—in the dorms, on the volleyball court, and in dance rehearsal. Relatively speaking, Akilah is still a young professional, but the sensitivity and wisdom she’s gleaned from her experiences so far help build a strong case for more self-reflection. My advocacy of self-examination may be a bit of a simple conclusion but after 11-weeks of practice, I can vouch first-hand for its benefits. Put your ideas through the wringer and see what happens!

(Unfortunately I experienced some technical difficulties with my camera while in Chicago. So instead, I present a completely unrelated picture of The Williams Cafe, which I visited earlier this summer in Hale County, Alabama)