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Meet Shannan Hofman Bunting of Solstice Communications in Northwest

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shannan Hofman Bunting.

Shannan, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
When I finished college, I had dreams of being an actor in Chicago’s thriving theater scene and therefore took a job waiting tables. I was lucky enough to land a job at Heaven on Seven, the busy Loop-based Cajun/Creole restaurant and began my food education. Through the delicious food Chef Jimmy Bannos and Heaven on Seven, I was exposed to flavorful, often-spicy, foods which included oddities such as alligator, turtle and habanero peppers. I became deeply knowledgeable about all hottest restaurants and food trends and tapped into my deep love for food and drink. I loved working there, it gave me enough money to do a bit of traveling and expanded my ideas about my career path.

I entered a Masters program at DePaul University and while pursuing my degree was hired by a small public relations firm called Salmon Borre Group then located in Lake Bluff, now rocking an office downtown. I was the first employee of a husband and wife team, Deb Salmon and Dan Borre. I was given opportunities to grow, experience and learn in ways that would not have been afforded me in a larger agency. I was once again fortunate to learn from the best. Deb Salmon is a smart, strong, creative force who fostered my growth and taught me the importance of tenacity and perseverance. When you clients involve wooden trains, candy and bubble gum, you have have to work hard NOT to have fun. Eventually, I decided it was time to go out on my own and I founded Solstice Communications in 2005 with the goal of focusing on food, beverage and sustainability.

Within two years 90% of my clients were food and/or sustainability-focused and I discovered my love of events. Whether it was hosting, creating or simply promoting — events were a sweet spot for me. While restaurants, coffee shops, chefs, food artisans and beverage-makers (especially beer) were and are the focus of my business–I have easily branched out into the arts, fashion, retail, non-profits and even the occasional lawn mower or paint sprayer.

Over the last five or so years, beer has really become the cog in Solstice Communication’s wheel. We work directly with a number of breweries, beer festivals, and beer-centric events. Chicago has a phenomenal culinary community and craft breweries are a big part of that. It is my great pleasure to shine a light on these amazing business through Solstice Communications and through Barley’s Angels Chicago.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I am really lucky. My road has been relatively smooth, I built strong relationships that formed the basis of my business and have provided it with consistent growth. The biggest challenge I have is striking a good work-life balance. I know i share this struggle with most of the developed world, but that doesn’t make a solution any easier to find. While long hours and hard work come with the territory when you are an entrepreneur, I think it is especially tough for women and even more so if you are a mother. I try to model balance for my daughters (business trip one day, chaperone a field trip on the next), but I can’t say, I achieve it very often.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Solstice Communications – what should we know?
Solstice Communications is boutique public relations agency that focuses on all things food, beverage, sustainability and craft beer. While we do have clients from other diverse backgrounds and industries, restaurants, breweries and food pioneers make up the bulk of our clients.

We like food and beer. We like dancing and eating chocolate and enjoying a well crafted cocktail. We strive to be knowledgeable and trend aware but also to enjoy our work and our clients every single day. We approach our work in the same way we approach our life: passionately with a splash of obsession.

In addition, I am the co-founder (along with my sister-in-law, Kylie Bunting) of Barley’s Angels Chicago, a group of women craft beer enthusiasts, committed to involving women in the enjoyment of craft beer by creating a friendly, educational and supportive atmosphere. Barley’s Angels Chicago hosts dynamic women-only beer events on a monthly basis. While these events are about the enjoyment of craft beer, they are very much about offering women a place to learn about the art of craft beer and expand their palates.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Honestly, there are so many people who have helped and guided me along the way, but here are a few of the best:

Deb Salmon and Dan Borre, my first public relations bosses, who really brought me into public relations, took me under their wings, fed me and graciously taught me everything I know about this wacky profession.

Chef Jimmy Bannos who actually forced me to try new foods and flavors and in doing so — opened up my palate and my mind to my true passion: food. Now, as my client, he continues to inspire me and reminds me (after running a restaurant for 38+ years) to never stop creating and reinventing the wheel.

Philip Bunting, my husband, who pushed me to create my own business; he knew I was ready long before I recognized it.

My daughters. They are such good people.

My parents. There aren’t words to capture how much their love support made success attainable for me.

My Tribe. I am incredibly fortunate to have an army of women (and a few men) who can be relied upon to chauffeur, feed and care for any member of my family at a moment’s notice. They provide support, balance, good times peppered with a healthy dose of reality checks.

True success cannot come without A LOT of help and support — surround yourself with good people who lift you up and anchor you.

Contact Info: 

Image Credit:
Jamie and Eric Photography, BJ Pichman, Hilary Higgins, Tuan Huynh, Erin Byrne, JED Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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