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BUSINESS 2aboutChicago helps clients' lives go smoothly
Special to the Online Edition of Windy City Times
by Ross Forman
2010-09-29

This article shared 5002 times since Wed Sep 29, 2010
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Travis Miller and Tony Gilgenbach knew the project must go flawlessly, even though it was happening in Fiji.

Miller and Gilgenbach are the co-founders of 2aboutChicago—a personal concierge service and lifestyle-management company—and, in June, they were asked to plan almost every detail of the vacation for a Chicago couple to the South Pacific island. The two were responsible for arranging the couple's air transportation, their hotel accommodations and even a candle-light dinner on the beach.

Oh yeah, and there was also a ring to be part of the dessert—for a wedding proposal.

"It was a huge success," Gilgenbach said. "Now it looks like we'll be helping with the wedding coordination."

2aboutChicago is a time-management company that caters to, well, every possible need. The pair offers personal services, including pet services, estate planning, travel coordination, shopping assistance, entertainment, event planning and business services.

"Our capabilities begin and end with your imagination," Gilgenbach said. "Our service is for anyone who doesn't have enough time in their day to enjoy the life they deserve. People are so overwhelmed in their day-to-day life, whether it's from their job, family, household and pet obligations to day-to-day errands and travel planning that we offer people a way to help balance their life and take on tasks that [ keep them ] from enjoying their lives."

Miller, 38, has lived in Arizona, Washington and California. He has been in Chicago for the past 13 years. Gilgenbach, 32, is from Wisconsin and moved to Chicago about six years ago from San Francisco. Both are single and live in Andersonville.

"The concept for 2aboutChicago came about when I lived in San Francisco and started working in the [ personal assistant ] PA/concierge services industry," Gilgenbach said. "After moving to Chicago, Travis and I became friends, discussed the concept—further realizing that everyone is busy at some point in their day, week or month, and just thought how great it would be to make these services available to people who don't need full time staff.

"The best analogy for the concept is it's like a fractional jet [ airplane ] contract, but instead of buying a jet by the hour, you get a PA by the hour. We further expanded the concept to include staffing for people who can afford to staff their households."

Miller is the director of client services; Gilgenbach is the director of operations.

"I'd say our biggest surprise is the lack of good customer service out there," Miller said. "When looking to start our business, we reached out to different places to help with certain aspects of the business, [ such as ] office set-up, public relations and facility-rental options for our launch party. There were times [ when ] people would not call back or return e-mails. I was shocked; I would think, in this economy, that people would be hungry for any kind of business and would jump at the opportunity for revenue. Luckily we eventually found the right people to help us accomplish our goals as we worked to set-up and launch our business."

But starting a personal concierge service in 2010?

"Starting a company from scratch is very rewarding once all of the initial work is done, [ such as ] creation of the brand, website and other items like brochures, business cards, etc.," Miller said. "To see it all come together is very exciting and quite a feeling of accomplishment. With all of that, there is a lot of learning, some [ by ] trial and error, of course stress, worry and fear, too. But there is also a lot of anticipation, fun and excitement. It has been a great bonding experience. It's definitely a lot more work than expected."

2aboutChicago's list of "things we do and offer" is ever-expanding and nearly endless—from bar/bat mitzvah planning to arranging private cooking classes to assistance with relocation to, well, you name it.

"Marketing our company is challenging since this is a very niche business," Miller said. "As we've all heard the traditional ways to market your business, such as print media, aren't always as powerful as they once were. So we've begun to look at alternative ways to market our business, from networking events to the creation of a new blog that will offer tips and more, as well as expanding our use of social networking like Twitter and Facebook.

Miller has a background in advertising account management and product planning for some of the largest brands in the country, including Sprint, United Airlines and Kellogg's.

Miller is an experienced, savvy traveler, which certainly helps with his current job. He graduated with a degree in business administration from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz. He worked for United, where he played a key role in the internal communications for high-end, onboard champagne-service implementation in the United Kingdom and Asia markets, among other things.

Gilgenbach is a veteran in the personal concierge industry—for the past decade, he has organized the lives of some of the most influential families and executives in Chicago and San Francisco. In addition to handling entire estate operations such as staffing, security detail, private party planning, correspondence management, and vehicle maintenance, he has been entrusted with supervising insurance policies for fine jewelry and became a certified Real Estate Personal Assistant to oversee multimillion dollar real estate transactions in the Chicago area.

Gilgenbach has a Rolodex loaded with high-profile names and numbers. A graduate of Drake University, Gilgenbach has been the personal assistant to Juanita Jordan, former wife of Michael Jordan, for almost six years.

"The most challenging requests are those we receive [ at the ] very last minute," Gilgenbach said. "Some of our clients call want last-minute dinner reservations or last-minute hotel reservations at the finest restaurants and hotels. We do our best and get them taken care of. We never go back to a client saying 'No.' If Plan A falls through, then we will have Plan B and Plan C already in place."

Also, 2aboutChicago has expanded its pet care and management services this summer—due to demand.

"2aboutChicago can walk your pet, transport it to day care, the groomers, the boarding facility etc.," Miller said. "We decided to enhance the visibility of this service by adding a call out in our brochure and hiring someone [ in July ] to help market that section of our business.

"Pets are a huge part of many people's lives in Chicago and we felt that this needed more prominence in our business, so people can see that we can be a one-stop shop in the management of their lives. All of their needs can be [ fulfilled ] under one umbrella."

Both Miller and Gilgenbach have long-term goals for 2aboutChicago, and eventually want to expand into new markets.

"In five years, we hope to have an established client base in Chicago with strong ties to local businesses," Gilgenbach said.

Miller added, "The most popular aspects of 2aboutChicago are the attention to detail, ease of making requests on line and the excellent customer service and follow-up."

Miller has extensive international traveling experience, dating back to a journey with his mom to Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul when he was 13.

"That trip was amazing as it really opened my eyes to the world around me," Miller said. "I have worked for United, United Express, DraftFCB and Euro RSCG. These various [ jobs ] each required exceptional customer service skills, ability to work under pressure, strong organizational and project management skills as well as the ability to multitask numerous projects and situations.

"Personal concierge services and lifestyle management are terms that can be synonymous with each other. Lifestyle management is the broader term of what our company encompasses and basically what it says, it helps in the management of your life so that you can have the free time to enjoy the lifestyle you work so hard to achieve. Personal concierge services fall within lifestyle management and this is where we can handle things as complex as a yacht vacation from St. Tropez to Capri, or something as simple as your weekend trip to Los Angeles. This also entails things like basic event planning and coordination, restaurant reservations, personal shopping, errands etc."

Gilgenbach added, "We have fun by traveling whenever we can, trying new restaurants, researching different dream vacations, enjoying the lake in Chicago or the beach and enjoying our friends and family."

Now they want to share that fun with Chicagoans.

See www.2aboutchicago.com .


This article shared 5002 times since Wed Sep 29, 2010
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