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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Kayla Storlid, 36
Owner, Kayla’s Custom Cleaning, LLC
Kayla Storlid comes from a family of cleaners (her grandmother cleaned until the age of 93), and continuing that legacy is important. Toward that end, she attended MATC and has taken several classes at the UW Small Business Development Center. She’s also promised a young nephew that she’ll entertain his plan to someday buy the business. Storlid is a member of many civic organizations, and her most moving experiences revolve around her dog Bristol, a therapy dog that’s part of a program administered by The Road Home that sets up homeless children with doggie play dates.
Storlid is also passionate about her work with Dane County’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and maybe one day she’ll take a lucky Little Brother Jet Skiing. “I love trying anything new,” she says of her more daring hobbies. “People are usually really shocked by the go-karting, followed by surfing.”
Shobhan S. Thakkar, 36
COO/General Counsel, TASCET, Inc.
Shobhan S. Thakkar certainly set himself up for success in business. After graduating from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics, he attended The Ohio State University, where he earned a law degree and a master’s in accounting. Yet money doesn’t motivate him — he says his main criterion for working anywhere, even for himself, is being happy.
Thakkar recently left a position as corporate counsel for Epic to join TASCET, which offers governance, regulatory, and compliance solutions for the financial, health care, and cyber sectors. He’s always accepted challenging jobs, beginning with general counsel of Weather Central after Sir Evelyn and Lady Lynn de Rothschild acquired a majority position in the company. He says being a senior executive at a technology company and selling it to the Weather Channel before the age of 36 was a highlight of his career. Thakkar later pitched the idea for a gaming studio called Gristmill Studios, LLC in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, placing first in the IT division. His guilty pleasure is “watching mindless TV,” and he also enjoys sports, travel, and playing fantasy football.
Katie Uhalt, 32
Owner/President, KU Consulting, LLC
Katie Uhalt attended UW-Green Bay on a full-ride soccer scholarship and was a starter for four years and a captain for two. While working in a New York-area staffing firm, she was named sales MVP in six out of eight quarters and discovered a real passion for the industry. Uhalt later relocated, started a staffing business out of a Wisconsin home office, and hired 23 candidates nationwide. Three years later, she has a full-time staff of six and is enjoying revenue growth of 200% each year. “I believed in me,” she notes.
Her sports background has paid off, too. Since starting KU Consulting, she has placed 34 former college athletes throughout the U.S. Her goal now is to open national branch offices. For Uhalt, relaxation means playing basketball, volleyball, soccer, and softball, and she loves hosting super sleepover nights “with as many nephews and nieces as possible.” When she does actually sit down, she likes to watch crime scene drama shows.
Jenna Weber, 25
Business Development Coordinator, SVA
In 2012, Jenna Weber led the implementation of a plan generated by her LGM-19 class, and the result was CONNECT Madison, a local networking group for young professionals. The group’s February 2013 kickoff event attracted more than 100 attendees and created a platform for young people to connect, grow professionally, and get more involved in the community. Weber then turned her attention to physical fitness, setting and achieving goals with the help of a trainer. She simultaneously firmed up an ultimate career goal to provide professional development and personal branding assistance for millennials. In preparation for this, the UW-Madison graduate became a Rosenberry Ambassador for the United Way, the communications chair for LGM’s alumni association, and the marketing chair for the United Way’s Business Volunteer Network.
Weber’s guilty pleasure is “definitely reality TV. I try to catch every Real Housewives, Hardcore Pawn, and Million Dollar Listing I can!” With too many activities to list, she summarizes her leisure life this way: “My hobby is experiencing new things, going to new places, learning new things, and meeting new people.”
Melissa Wollering, 32
Internal Communications Manager, Dean Clinic and SSM Health Care of WI
Melissa Wollering’s interests extend beyond marketing to dance, which she teaches to teens and youngsters at Kehl School of Dance one night a week. This dovetails with her biggest guilty pleasure, Gomeroke (Madison band The Gomers’ own take on karaoke). “With a live band, I can’t resist an Elton John or Doobie Brothers singalong,” she quips. Her hobbies include “scoring Brewers baseball games by hand” and rising above her asthma to run Crazylegs.
A former broadcast journalist, Wollering is equally serious about her current job. On the very rare occasions that a medical mistake is made, she keeps the public informed of corrective measures while reassuring patients, patients’ families, and staff that the right steps are being taken. Someday, the UW-Madison alumna says, she’d like to focus exclusively on crisis communications in the role of business consultant. To prepare, she’s served on the board of the Madison chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and is the group’s president-elect for 2014. She’s also a charter member of CONNECT Madison and co-founded the John W. Jung Memorial.
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