A First-Generation Story: Alum credits Huskie grit for her business success

Joanne Chamberlain Krakora graduated high school in a class with 27 classmates she’d known since kindergarten in the small town of Toulon, Ill.

Neither of her parents had attended college. When she arrived on NIU’s campus, she wasn’t quite sure which way to turn.

Joanne-Krakora

“It was a bit overwhelming,” she remembered. “I’ve never been someone to back away from a challenge, but I really wasn’t someone to ask for help. I never have been. I stood in the way of myself.”

Seeking help more often is perhaps one thing Chamberlain Krakora would have done differently as a first-generation student at NIU. She’d also advise incoming students to spend more time in the offices of their professors.

“There’s so much you can learn from all the people on campus,” she said. “It’s just a wealth of knowledge and experience. The more you expose yourself to it, the more opportunities you’ll have for growth and development.”

Chamberlain Krakora earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1993 and ventured on to a successful career.

Now the owner of Little Threads children’s boutique in Chicago, Chamberlain Krakora’s career path after NIU included jobs as assistant sports information director for the NIU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, marketing manager for Arthur Andersen and lead marketer for Deloitte Financial Advisory Services in Chicago.

After the birth of her children—13-year-old Lauren, 11-year-old Izak and 9-year-old Markus—Chamberlain Krakora became a freelance writer, marketer and designer as part of JCK Marketing & Design.

“I always wanted to have my own business,” she said.

She didn’t specifically seek out a children’s boutique, but the opportunity arose to buy Little Threads, and she took it in 2015. Located in the heart of Chicago’s Roscoe Village neighborhood, Little Threads offers wardrobe staples, gifts for children and a wide variety of toys and books, with a play area in the store.

Chamberlain Krakora always has been a hard-worker, paying her way through NIU by working two to three jobs at a time.

Growing up in Toulon, her parents owned the restaurant in town, and Chamberlain Krakora would arrive at 6 a.m. every Saturday morning to work and greet the farmers in the small town.

“If I ever did anything on Friday night, I knew my parents would know about it on Saturday,” she said.

It always was a given she’d go to college.

“They knew I would,” she said of her parents. “It wasn’t my parents pushing me, it was all internal… I don’t what I would have done had I not gone to college.”

Still, it was tough to leave. Her father died her senior year of high school. The youngest of four children, Chamberlain Krakora felt guilty leaving her mother. Still, she said, “In my mind, there was never an option not to go to college.”

She started out as a pre-physical therapy major before ultimately finding her way to journalism. She found a home in jobs at NIU’s Office of Sports Information and later with Northern Television Center, where she put in grueling long hours. All of the hard work was worth it, she said.

“I think that the common theme among Huskies is we have a lot of grit, and we do what we need to do to get things done,” she said. “I still, as a business owner, have to carry that grit with me. I’m also able to step back and enjoy my life because I have that degree and that foundation.

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