If you ask Jacqueline Camacho-Ruiz how things are going, she'll reply with one word: "Amazing!"
And, frankly, that could be considered an understatement.
The founder and president of JJR Marketing in Naperville has packed more into her 35 years of life than most others accomplish in an entire lifetime. She emigrated from Mexico as a teenager barely speaking English, and at age 23 launched her PR/marketing business. As it became successful and grew, she branched out to take on other personal passions. She founded the Fig Factor Foundation, focused on helping Latinas realize their potential, and launched the Today's Inspired Latina book series. She's written numerous books on her life experiences and inspirations. She's also an inspirational speaker, taking her message of "amazing" to Europe and South America, and she's led numerous local philanthropic endeavors.
But Camacho-Ruiz credits her recent achievement -- becoming an airplane pilot -- for giving her a renewed appreciation of life.
"Becoming a pilot has transformed the way I think on the ground," she said. "It has helped me become kind of a different person in a way and see things from another perspective."
Since obtaining her sport pilot certificate a couple of years ago, Camacho-Ruiz said the experience of flying -- and the precision required to fly an airplane -- has given her an affirmation of her life's direction.
"Aviation for me has become the true testament of my dedication to my dreams, and therefore the elevation of other dreams in the community."
As one who always shares her experiences with others, she has written a children's book, "The Amazing Book of Aviation," that she hopes will help inspire youths to become pilots.
"I want to provide a little bit of that magic to people, especially kids who might not even think it is a part of their potential future," she said.
The illustrated book talks about her experiences as a "pilotina," then turns its focus to showcasing pioneers in aviation, from Bessie Coleman (the first African-American woman aviator) to Amelia Earhart and Olga Custido (the first Latina military and commercial pilot).
From her book, Camacho-Ruiz hopes to expand the learning experience into a board game or trivia cards that will not only educate, but inspire children to become pilots.
"I want to give them the opportunity to get inspired to follow aviation," she added.
The book, being published through her Fig Factor Media company, is available at Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores.
As for Camacho-Ruiz, she is currently studying to obtain her private pilot license, and is looking to become a certified flight instructor, which she added "will be my retirement career" of teaching others to fly.
"Aviation made me reconfirm the fact that I'm a nerd. It's so cool and I love it!"
She's also paying back to her original home in Mexico, where she is working to build a youth center in the community.
"It would be a place where (youths) can be empowered and find out what makes their heart beat and find their passion," she said. "Because when they focus on that, they won't be turning to drugs or alcohol, which is a huge problem in Mexico."
She's created a nonprofit in Mexico, obtained the land and found an architect willing to donate all the work. She's currently working with pop singer Marc Anthony's foundation to help fund construction.
Its name? "The Amazing Center."
Sander adds president to title
Congratulations to Mark Sander, who was recently appointed president of First Midwest Bancorp, the parent company of First Midwest Bank. The appointment adds to Sander's current role as chief operating officer and a director of the company.
He joined First Midwest in June 2011 and has had direct management responsibility for the operating performance of First Midwest Bank, including oversight of the bank's commercial, consumer and wealth management lines, as well as credit administration, operations, information technology, marketing and communications.
Ready for prime time
Naperville resident Ashley Rossi, founder of baby food startup Tiny Human Food, was recently featured on the nationally syndicated "Dr. Oz Show."
Rossi and her business were featured in a segment that included billionaire investors Barbara Corcoran and Rohan Oza -- both of whom are regulars on ABC's "Shark Tank."
Rossi developed the line of cold pressure process baby food products that is nutrient-rich without the fillers used in other products, which, according to the company's website, reduce the food's nutritional value. The cold processing also retains the full flavor of the food.
"I couldn't understand why we had refrigerated food in the dog food aisle but still were feeding our children products that have been sitting on the shelf for months," said Rossi.
She added the TV appearance was a big boost in getting recognition for the company and its products.
"When I got the call about potentially being on 'Dr. Oz,' I knew this was my company's big moment," she said. Locally, Tiny Human Food products are being distributed through Fresh Thyme stores.