Cindy Kurman Barrie, whose company celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2013, believes that her company’s success has everything to do with her ability to inspire those with whom she works, be they client, employee or the media. Those who know Kurman understand that her tenacity, insight and dedication have contributed greatly to their successes.
Working within a service industry, Kurman is amused by those who think marketing communications is one big party. Her insight into the problems of running a business – staffing, training and retention – have a big part in her formula for success and the success of her clients.
“You have to be able to accept failure and look beyond the immediate to visualize and accomplish your long term goals,” Kurman says. “Approach everything with a positive, can-do attitude and a willingness to try.” That spirit and determination has set her company apart from the competition. Kurman’s story reads somewhat like a fairytale.
“I was raised in an Ozzie and Harriet environment,” she says. “I was told I could accomplish anything as long as I had the passion and willingness to work hard. I never expected anything to be given to me.” This is a philosophy that has definitely paid off.
Kurman plunged into the business world fresh out of Kent State University’s School of Mass Communications at age 20 (she is now on the school’s Advisory Board). In part, she credits her early success to her first boss, Keith Crain, publisher and founder of Crain Communication’s Automotive News, along with brother Rance and mother Gertrude of Crain’s Chicago Business. According to Kurman, “Keith (Crain) had the foresight to see raw talent and the ‘chutzpah’ to hire me and put me in charge of creating the first and subsequent two Automotive News World Congresses, an annual meeting for international automotive executives, now celebrating its 25th year.” This move by Crain set Kurman’s career in motion. She worked with Henry Ford, Lee Iacocca, Jessie Jackson, Neil Armstrong, Jackie Steward and A.J. Foyt among others.
Kurman received Successful Meetings magazine’s coveted 1976 Gold Key award for her outstanding planning and promotion of the World Congress. She later created the European Motors conference in Frankfurt, Germany, for the Financial Times of London and Crain. After leaving Automotive News in 1978, Kurman moved to Chicago and held several agency public relations positions before founding Kurman Communications at the suggestion of Chrysler Corporation, the agency’s first client. For eight years under Kurman’s leadership, the agency managed all central regional (17 states) public relations activities for Chrysler and 15 percent of national marketing programs.
Kurman’s interests are many, which is reflected in the client mix of her agency. Known locally for her public relations, marketing and event planning work in the food, hospitality, medical and automotive industries, Kurman’s clients are benefiting from her good rapport with reporters nationwide.
Clients appreciate Kurman’s get-the-job-done attitude and her ability to creatively manage and execute inventive on-budget programs. She celebrated her 11th year in business by organizing a memorial benefit for her late father, Charles, who passed away from complications related to diabetes. The program was reported in USA Today, theChicago Tribune and numerous other media.
Kurman Communications’ many successes include the introduction of the Minivan (Caravan and Voyager) for Chrysler, the introduction and marketing of the wildly popular “Couch Potato Game,” and the announcement of CVS (Chorionic Villi Sampling) for Dr. Norman Ginsberg, a test that determines genetic birth defects in the first trimester of pregnancy. In 1996, Kurman Communications worked with Julia Child on two successful cookbook projects.
A reputation as a restaurant marketing guru has served Kurman well. She landed the California-based Chevys’ Fresh Mex account and organized its most visible property media extravaganza in New York’s Times Square.
An active member of the restaurant community, Kurman served on the national executive board of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs for seven years. Her other nonprofit involvement includes the American Institute for Wine & Food, Citicorp Savings of Illinois Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Joffrey Ballet, Museum of Contemporary Art New Group, Rotary One, Sharing It, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, Statue of Liberty Foundation and the Three Arts Club.
In 2003, Kurman was named as one of the founding members of Today’s Chicago Woman Hall of Fame. She also received the Women in Communications Entrepreneur Award in 1983 and is listed in Who’s Who in Women, Who’s Who in the Midwest, Who’s Who in Business Leaders, IBC Advisory Council and Outstanding Young Women in America.
She is also a Board Member of the River North Business Association, a Board Member of Chicago’s Green City Market, and a member of the Chicago Convention and Visitors Bureau. Kurman is very committed to expanding professional opportunities for women in the restaurant industry.