Years ago when I was a new managing editor for a local publisher, I oversaw our monthly magazine in Hinsdale. I so badly wanted to introduce a style section into this pub, but I wasn’t sure how to do it since I lived in Lake Forest. So I did what all women desperate for advice do…I put a post on Facebook and asked if anyone knew a stylist who worked in the western suburbs.
To my surprise, two of my St. Mary’s grade school friends wrote back right away and told me that I had to meet Nora Tonn (pictured to the left in the photo above). Nora had spent her career working in fashion and merchandising and had most recently worked on the style pages for the Chicago Tribune.
Nora, at the time, wasn’t looking for a job. She had four small kiddos at home and was very busy with her family that lived in the area. But I begged and I pleaded. And at the urging of her friends Amy Hartigan (pictured to the right in the photo above) and Shauna Hewitt Conza, friends that had been in my life since kindergarten, she came on board.
To no one’s surprise, Nora was a huge hit and her pages were the best in the magazine every month. And somehow, in the midst of juggling all that she had going on, Nora stumbled across a blogger wearing a necklace that she loved and she knew she could make it. So she did.
“I never thought this jewelry business would grow to where it is today,” Nora says of her business Birdie Designs. “It just gets bigger and bigger.” Nora makes many of the necklaces and bracelets but also curates a number of cute accessories as well.
“There’s a huge demand for earrings and I couldn’t keep up with all of those,” she says. “But I think you’ll love what I found.”
Part of Nora’s drive comes from her desire to raise money for a foundation she started with her husband in memory of their young son Brooks who lost his battle to cancer at just 10 years old in December 2017. It’s called the Brooks Strong Foundation.
“The pain was mind blowing,” Nora says. “But you have to keep moving. You have to keep moving forward. And one way we’re doing this is by helping other children like Brooks.”
The Brooks Strong Foundation has two purposes: to raise money for pediatric research and to help children with cancer play sports.
Last Christmas, Nora made 100 Brooks Strong bracelets, sold them all, and donated all of the proceeds to the foundation.
“Our community has been incredible,” Nora says.
Former Lake Forester Amy Hartigan is part of Nora’s community and one of her steadfast friends and business allies. When Amy isn’t giving Nora a push or rising in the PR world, she’s selling her artwork alongside Nora to help her raise funds and awareness for Brooks Strong.
Nora and Amy will be making a special appearance at The Lake Forest Shop this Thursday, March 12, from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Please stop by and meet them and see their incredible work. Jen Bobay from Jar Bar Makeup and I will also be there.
It’s amazing what women can do!