- Nov 18, 2021
The Chamber’s governing body will undergo a year of transition in 2022, with two new members joining the Board for three-year terms and a new Board Chair and Treasurer taking on leadership responsibilities. Jennifer Spencer and Ousman Conteh have been approved by the current Board as new Directors, and current Directors Julie Lerman and Robyn Kole have been named Chair and Treasurer, respectively.
Jennifer Spencer, owner of Dairy Queen of Northbrook, has a uniquely personal connection to her business: her parents opened the restaurant when she was just a toddler in 1974, following in the footsteps of Jenn’s grandparents who had owned Dairy Queens in Kenosha and Wheeling. “We were originally in the space that is now Payton Rose,” she recalls. “When our current space opened up, my dad spent his nights turning it into a restaurant while still operating the existing store during the day.” Some of the original decor remains, in tribute to the hard work her dad put into that transformation.
Jenn started working in the family business at the age of 12 — when the minimum wage was $3.35 — and it has been a dominant force in her life. She and her husband Brent were married at the restaurant 20 years ago, and when her parents decided to retire in 2017 Jenn stepped up to become its main owner/operator, working alongside Brent.
Under Jenn’s management, Northbrook’s Dairy Queen has been a highly visible sponsor for a wide variety of community events. Donating gift cards as raffle prizes, providing Blizzards to sell at fundraisers, and participating in events like Northbrook Days and the July 4th Parade are just a few of Dairy Queen’s outreach efforts. Jenn notes that they recently have been placing special emphasis on schools to help with fundraising gaps created by the pandemic.
Jenn sees her new role on the Board as an opportunity to become involved with the community on a new level. She looks forward to sharing her perspective as a restaurant and small business owner to help the Chamber serve the business community.
Ousman Conteh has been General Manager at the Sheraton Northbrook Hotel since 2019, arriving with over 25 years of management experience in the hospitality industry. He has had leadership roles at the Majestic Star Casino and Hotel in Gary, Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Claridge House in Chicago, and other properties.
Wherever he goes, Ousman sees challenges as opportunities for growth and strives to bring employees together in an environment of responsibility, appreciation, and collaboration. Outside of work, Ousman enjoys spending time with his family, volunteering locally, and contributing to causes that support underprivileged children in The Gambia, where he was born.
Located across from the Willow Festival Shopping Center, the Sheraton is a full-service hotel with 161 guest rooms, a restaurant, and 1900 square feet of meeting space. The hotel underwent a complete renovation in 2020 even while remaining open during the pandemic. Ousman looks forward to showcasing the hotel’s enhanced spaces when they host the Chamber’s Business After Hours networking event in January 2022.
Ousman was inspired to join the Chamber Board by the positive reception he has received since coming to Northbrook. “Every individual and organization I have encountered here has been so welcoming and open-minded. It speaks to the nature of the entire community,” he says. “I love serving the community, in ways that go beyond my responsibilities as general manager of the hotel.”
Incoming Board Chair Julie Lerman has been on the Chamber Board since 2017 and currently serves on the Board’s six-member Executive Committee. In that capacity, she has provided helpful legal advice to the organization on a variety of issues. She participates frequently in the Chamber’s networking events and has been a dependable volunteer for the Chamber’s fundraisers, acting as Co-Chair of the 25th Anniversary Auction & Taste in 2018.
An attorney with the firm of Franklin, Greenswag, Channon & Capilla, LLC, Julie concentrates her practice in general civil litigation and insurance law, including insurance coverage and claims disputes on behalf of policyholders. She also has considerable experience in real estate and condominium law, including landlord/tenant issues, contractual disputes between buyers and sellers, disputes between condominium owners and associations, and owner/contractor disputes. Julie has advocated for many individual and business clients in a broad range of legal matters, often achieving favorable settlement before litigation or trial.
In addition to her commitment to the Chamber, Julie currently serves on the Board of EPWNG, a non-profit women’s networking organization, and is an active member and past treasurer of North Shore Law. She also volunteers her time with the Virtual Legal Clinic of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, counseling survivors of domestic abuse on various legal matters.
“The Chamber has worked diligently to adapt through the difficulties of 2020 and 2021,” notes Julie. “I’m grateful for the leadership that has helped us navigate this period. My goal is to maintain the organization’s sound footing and promote its growth, while ensuring that we meet the changing needs of our members.”
Robyn Kole brings considerable experience and financial acumen to her new role as the Chamber’s Treasurer. She is a Director at Northbrook CPA firm, The Dolins Group Ltd., where she specializes in tax review and preparation for businesses and individuals. Robyn began her career by earning her CPA designation soon after graduating from college. She worked in public accounting for five years, and then went on to launch a stock trading firm on the Chicago Stock Exchange before returning to the public accounting field in 2004. She has been a partner with Karlin, Kerschner, Sharpe & Co. LLP prior to that firm’s combining forces with The Dolins Group.
A Chamber member since 2013, Robyn has been deeply involved as a volunteer, an ambassador, and a Board member. She is a familiar face who enjoys welcoming newcomers at First Friday breakfasts and Business After Hours events, and was recognized for her dedication with the Chamber Volunteer of the Year award in 2018. Most recently, she represented the Chamber on the Village of Northbrook’s Climate Action Plan development committee and assisted with the organization’s successful applications for pandemic recovery assistance.
“Participating in the Chamber has been a rewarding experience, and I’m glad to be able to give back,” notes Robyn. “We will be mindful of all opportunities to keep the Chamber on a strong financial footing as we work our way out of the challenges caused by the pandemic.”