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Single mom runs PR/event firm to the stars

Like many Chicagoans, Candace Polk's day begins around 8 a.m. when she takes her daughter to school, then continues at work with continuous emails, phone calls and meetings.

Unlike most Chicagoans, however, some of Polk's meetings are with local celebrities and their representatives.

That's the life of an owner of an event and public relations company to the stars.

Polk, 41, a single mother of four, runs Glitz PR & Marketing runs her business out of her South Loop home.

"I eat, live and drink this industry," said Polk, a born-and-raised Chicagoan who started her company in 2008 (it was originally called Events By Candace and was renamed in 2011).

"No one could have told me four years ago when I first started my business that I would meet Derrick Rose, let alone plan an event for him."

In Chicago circles, the baby shower for Bulls star Rose and girlfriend Mieka Reese might have put Polk on the map. The event at Trump Tower featured more than 150 guests, an ice sculpture, a live artist and complex floral arrangements all centered around—appropriately--a Winnie-the-Pooh theme (Rose's nickname is Pooh).

"She has very high expectations and at the end of the day it has to be fabulous—I couldn't sleep the night before the D-Rose event because the bar was set so high," said Ruckiya Ross, 29, owner of August Bloom Floral. Based out of the Pilsen's Lacuna Artist Loft Studios, Ross' businesses has done five events with Glitz since 2010, including Rose's baby shower.

"I would say by far, she's my most favorite coordinator to work with," Ross said. "She's really efficient and really on top of everything from start to finish; from initial design process to implementation, she's always on the ball."

In addition to Rose's baby shower, Polk has also done several bridal events around Chicago, the Be A Man: Look & Live Like a Gentleman luxury event at Van Buren Gentlemen's Salon in June and the afterparty for hip-hop artist and actor Common's charity, the Common Ground Foundation, in April.

"I go to a lot of events and see a lot of celebrities, but I just think of them as regular people, and I think they appreciate that," said Polk who said it's not uncommon for her to be receiving and sending emails at 2 a.m. "(Former Chicago Bull and Rose's agent) B. J. Armstrong and his wife were very nice and it was just a polite meeting—that's usually how it is."

"I call myself the facilitator. My strength is really in making it happen. I can get sponsorships, vendors, anything you want, no problem—you tell me to do something, I can do it."

However, Polk said she's never worked an event that didn't have at least a small amount of drama.

"There is always drama. … Personalities are going to clash, and I have a very strong personality" she said. "But the way I handle it is to keep calm, stay professional and keep it moving."

Polk described one incident where she received a gift from a client, but after things didn't go the way the client thought they should, the client had an assistant pick the gift back up. She described the incident as "hurtful" but that she'd love to "keep the peace."

Polk, who has a bachelor's degree in psychology from National Louis University, worked as a legal assistant for 19 years. In 2008, she was asked to organize a 4th of July party for a friend, and when Polk put together the food, drinks and decorations for the 30-person event, she said she "had an epiphany."

"This is something I realized that I'm good at, and something I could do, I mean really do well—at least part time, at first," she said.

She quit her job in March 2012, and "that's when the door really opened."

Four years after her epiphany, with her children complaining that she hogs the computer, Polk prides herself on being able to provide guests with a "wow factor" and is even traveling to Miami for a bridal event in March.

"I love what I do," Polk said. "I am a control freak, if my name is on something it has to be right, period."

Ashlee Rezin is a RedEye special contributor.

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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