40 Under 40: The 2014 Class
40 emerging business stars prove that youth — at least in their cases — is not wasted on the young.
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Ron Giordan, 39
Social Media/Public Relations Strategy Director, Mid-West Digital Marketing
A social media marketing plan Ron Giordan created helped the Office of the State Treasurer return a total of $94 million in unclaimed property to Wisconsin residents in three years. Giordan may be better known, however, for co-founding Gio’s Garden and helping to raise $250,000 in three years to open a respite house in Middleton for families with special needs children. He’s also involved with Madison’s Italian Workmen’s Club.
This Marquette University grad has some interesting pastimes, too: playing guitar, smoking cigars, playing video games, and binge-viewing shows on Netflix. But one of his favorite “hobbies” probably strikes people as strange: mowing the lawn. “Really,” he insists. Giordan’s ultimate career goal is exciting, however: He wants to be in charge of an entire digital marketing area for a marketing firm, and he looks to moguls like Ted Turner and Jack Dorsey for inspiration.
Shauna Gnorski, 38
VP/Chief Accounting Officer, First Business Financial Services, Inc.
UW-Milwaukee grad Shauna Gnorski reached a professional milestone when she helped raise $29.1 million in equity capital for her employer. Her next big career goal is to be promoted to chief financial officer, and her career dream is “ultimately to own my own company.” She’s also the vice president-programs for Financial Executives International and a member of WICPA.
Meanwhile, her two active youngsters and her husband’s equally demanding career force her to juggle family responsibilities and schedules. Gnorski relaxes by setting aside her “by the rules” personality to indulge in a guilty pleasure: “I love to play Rock Band on the Wii! It’s great fun to let your hair down and sing your heart out!” Gnorski also likes to share her passion for vegetable gardening “with anyone who wants to listen.”
Brad Grzesiak, 31
Principal/Co-Founder, Bendyworks, Inc.
At the 2002 International Collegiate Programming Championship, Brad Grzesiak’s team advanced to the world finals in Honolulu, eventually giving the UW-Madison its highest ranking ever in the competition (11th internationally and fourth among U.S. universities). In 2013, after Grzesiak founded Madisonium, Inc. (a nonprofit dedicated to elevating the area’s digital technology profile), Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon invited him to share his views on Madison’s IT future with 40 business leaders while en route to Chicago. When they arrived in the Windy City, they met with billionaire venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker and toured two of the town’s most important co-working and startup spaces.
Grzesiak’s ultimate goal is to convince the public to place technical achievements in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields on a par with a Super Bowl ring or a Grammy award. His interests include Ultimate Frisbee, writing code, sampling craft beers, and playing tabletop games, and his guilty pleasure is tinkering with LEGOs. “I’ve bought a few sets that populate the office, including a Death Star, a Space Shuttle, and the Tower of Orthanc from The Lord of the Rings.”
Michael T. Hanson, 39
Sales Manager, Guardian Life Insurance
This UW-Eau Claire graduate keeps busy as a longtime coach for West Madison Little League, a board member for The Salvation Army of Dane County, and a member of the General Agents Management Association and the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. His mentors include attorney Bryan C. Esch and insurance guru Joseph Jordan, and his goal is “to be offered a general agency/managing partner position with Guardian Life.”
But while he is a Superman at work and to his family, he does have one weakness: “Peanut butter cup ice cream from Babcock in Madison.” He also enjoys skiing, snowshoeing, golf, and biking. However, his greatest joy is spending time with his wife and children.
Micheal Herman, 36
In 2013, Micheal Herman left his job as COO of HSA Home Warranty to lead a workforce of 110 employees at Eflexgroup.com. He says both jobs have given him the practical experience he will need to someday own his own company. This UW-Madison MBA is active as a director and actor in the Madison theater community, most recently directing Becky Shaw with the Mercury Players Theatre at the Bartell Theatre. He has also served on the boards of Mercury Players Theatre and Children’s Theater of Madison. Other passions include golf, skiing, and “learning to fish again.”
Herman’s guilty pleasure: “My wife has taught me the joy and wonder found in a great romantic comedy … some of my favorite recent films are goofy romantic comedies!” His greatest personal achievement, he notes, is his “ability to overcome adversity throughout my life” through hard work, determination, and “aligning my actions to my values.”