40 Under 40: The 2013 Class

Honoring Some of Dane County's Most Promising Young Execs

For 13 years, In Business has celebrated the successes of rising business stars in our annual 40 Under 40 issue, and each year we have marveled at the vast richness and diversity of the young candidates. 

The competition is stiff. Not only are we looking for examples of business success and moxie, but also for people who demonstrate a firm commitment to the local community through board involvement, volunteerism, or other activities.

Every year, we wonder if we’ll find 40 candidates to fill our roster, and every year, the best and brightest continue to impress. This year, we received more than 120 applications for the 2013 class, and it fell to the (anonymous) selection committee to preview and score each one – using outside interests and hobbies as tiebreakers – until the list was whittled down to the final 40 names, presented here alphabetically.

How fortunate we are to have so many fine young individuals making business waves. This is a list of IB’s top 40, but certainly there are countless others who continue on a daily basis to contribute to the vibrant business culture in Greater Madison. We hope to see their names included in our future lists.

NOTE: If you or someone you know would like to be considered for the 2014 class, simply complete an online application no later than Oct. 30 at www.ibmadison.com/40Under40survey.

Sara Alvarado, 37
President, Alvarado Real Estate Group
Spouse/Partner: Carlos Alvarado

If you were to empty Sara Alvarado’s purse, you’d find “notes and random pieces of papers with goals, aspirations, and big ideas,” because her intention is to always be reaching “to be the best I can be in my professional and personal life.”

While building a family realty business with husband Carlos, Alvarado also is a founding member of both Badger Rock Middle School and Neustro Mundo Community School. She’s involved with Habitat for Humanity Dane County and is an active Hispanic and Latino business advocate and an MG&E Green Power business partner.

Beyond spending time with sons Leo, 8, and Alex, 11, Alvarado says a fantasy date with Carlos would involve a bookstore and a cup of tea, “preferably in a different country.”

Closer to home, she’s an active board member with Sustain Dane and past chair of Dane Buy Local, is involved in TEMPO, and is the responsible board member for the Realtors Association Green Committee.

Todd C. Bernhardt, 36
Partner, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP
Spouse/Partner: Ronda Bernhardt

Under Todd Bernhardt’s campaign leadership, Baker Tilly’s United Way of Dane County initiative raised more than $525,000 in two years, putting it in the Top 10 giving positions of all participating companies. He’s also a board member for United Cerebral Palsy of Dane County and an active committee volunteer for his church.

Hired by the firm at the age of 22, Bernhardt dreamed of being named partner by 35. His goal now is to remain in that position for the next 25 years, emulating Danny Andersen, a role model at the firm who “even gave a kidney to a stranger a few years back.”

Bernhardt is enthusiastic about the Madison Curling Club in McFarland, and participates in professional challenges. “I’m also an avid baseball fan and have traveled much of the U.S. and Canada to well over 20 different MLB stadiums,” he added. However, spending time with the wife and two young children “still gives me the most enjoyment.”

Angela Brzowski, 37
Design Phase Manager, Mortenson Construction
Spouse/Partner: Dan Brzowski

Angela Brzowski led the preconstruction services for the Fitchburg Public Library and the Madison Central Public Library, and has been integrally involved with a number of UW planning projects, including the Wisconsin Energy Institute. Project work has taken her places, including Oshkosh (Aurora Medical Center), Battle Creek, Mich. (Covance Nutritional Chemistry project), Waukesha (GE Medical Systems), and Wauwatosa (Wisconsin Heart Hospital).

She’d like to see more private/public partnerships with “a collaborative approach to workforce development, buildings, policies, etc.” to set the stage for economic development and sustainable growth for future generations.

In addition to an impressive list of industry-related memberships, Brzowski is an elder mentor for Catholic Charities of Madison, a Lake Mills USTA coach, and a recreation department soccer coach. When she isn’t traveling for work, she enjoys trips to her family cabin in Minnesota, “being a mom,” and fitness training. She prefers an active lifestyle, expressing a fondness for running, soccer, tennis, hiking, and even yard work.

Keetra S. West Burnette, 39
Chief Operating Officer, Urban League of Greater Madison
Spouse/Partner: Troy Burnette

Prior to joining the Urban League, Keetra Burnette prepared the leadership of UW Hospital and Clinics to successfully switch over to electronic medical records, a career highlight for her.

While she still admires the medical profession, she went to a nonprofit because “the adults we serve at Urban League are people like myself and other members of my own family who have hit some type of roadblock and are in need of a hand up, not a handout. They are the people I was put on this earth to help.”

In her current job, Burnette is recognized as one of the highest-ranking African American females in the city of Madison. “When I first learned this, I was shocked,” she admitted. Now her goal is to help the Madison business community become more culturally diverse and gender inclusive, the reason for her event “Madison Black Women Rock! A Celebration of Sisters Who Are Getting It Done!”

Mary Beth Collins, 35
Executive Director and Attorney/Principal, Dane County CASA, Inc. and MBC Legal

After earning an undergrad degree in English from Appalachian State University, Mary Beth Collins went on to earn a master’s and J.D. degree from UW-Madison to further her dual goals of supporting her family and “using a law degree to help individuals and organizations reach their goals.”

She’s helping other families along the way via her volunteer commitment to Big Brothers Big Sisters and her work as a child advocate under the authority of the Dane County Courts/Law Practice. In the future, she’d also like “to write and teach about organizational and community leadership.”

Living in Spain and Argentina with her children for periods of time was a lifetime dream and achievement. Now that she’s tied to Madison, the family has taken up snowboarding. Collins added, “I very much enjoy following Wisconsin sports as much as I can fit in my schedule, and spending time at my kids’ activities and sporting events, too.”


Abe J. Degnan, 37
President, Degnan Design Builders, Inc.
Spouse/Partner: Lisa Degnan

Degnan’s personal life is family-centric. When he’s not working on a building project, he’s leading a Cub Scout pack, teaching Sunday school, or camping with the kids. The Degnan family is active, enjoying water-skiing, wakeboarding, downhill skiing, and racquetball. Degnan also is involved in the DeForest Norski Duathlon and sprint triathlons and training.With the aspiration of growing a business that might become a family legacy for his children, Abe Degnan was a volunteer project manager for three Green Built Home Makeover projects for the Madison Area Builders Association (MABA), which “transformed the homes, and probably the lives, of three Madison-area families” at no cost to them. In this way, he also “leveraged business skills to achieve personal goals.”

In addition to serving as the 2013 president of MABA, the UW-Milwaukee graduate is a member of the Village of DeForest Board of Zoning Appeals.

Chris Doering, 29
Vice President-Commercial Banking, Associated Bank
Spouse/Partner: Sasha Doering

A recent groom, it seemed to Chris Doering that last year his hobby was wedding planning – whether he had an aptitude for it or not (he prefers golf). This year, he’s looking forward to traveling and perhaps taking his bride up in a plane, given that he’s a private pilot.

Doering has also made commitments to groups such as the Madison Development Corp. Venture Debt Committee and Dane County Development Corp. Loan Committee. He is also involved with the UW Family Business Center as an ambassador and a graduate of Leadership Greater Madison, where he’s helped create a new young professionals group, for which he now serves as a board member.

Doering’s professional goal is “a successful, long career in banking by creating a strong network of influential people and by engaging in community events and giving back.” He most admires Mark Bugher for what he has done for the Madison area as director of University Research Park.

Kay-Tee Franke, 30
President, Engaging Results Communications
Spouse/Partner: Joel Franke

This coffee-fueled soccer mom (“I’m only human after I’ve finished my coffee”) is passionate about family sports, which include bowling tournaments and golf.

Franke is also an advocate for the business and civic causes she represents in Greater Madison. She’s VP of Dane Buy Local, a former chairperson and active committee member for March of Dimes, is on the board of directors for the Professional Development Council of Wisconsin, and is a member of Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs.

Her biggest achievement to date has been building Engaging Results Communications, which she describes as “a company that leverages new technology to reinforce old principles of communication.” Her aspiration for her company, which she founded in 2010, is “to disrupt the market while making a positive impact on the community.”

When asked what changes she’d like to see in the Madison market, Franke replied, “Business leaders, government, and educators working closer together to close the gap between job openings and those seeking skills for employment.”

Brett J. Frazier, 32
Executive Director, Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce
Spouse/Partner: Jody Frazier

After several years in professional theater, Brett Frazier reconnected with the world of politics (his college focus was political science) when he was elected as a write-in candidate to the Common Council of Milton in 2009. In addition to his work on behalf of the Oregon area, he’s currently chair of the Milton Public Works Committee and commissioner for the Milton Joint Fire Commission.

Frazier says his attraction to public service stems from his desire to help others: “What makes the difference in terms of success or failure is how quickly we realize we are not elected to serve ourselves.”

Between all those gigs, Frazier worked for five years for pc/nametag in Verona, and he lists former employer Nick Topitzes as the person he would most like to emulate because of the compassion Topitzes showed employees during the recession, and because of his leadership and resilience during hard times.

And yes, Frazier still enjoys “climbing on stage every once in awhile to play make-believe.”

Aaron Gibbons, 38
Construction Manager, Iconica
Spouse/Partner: Jamie Gibbons

After graduating from UW-Madison 14 years ago, Aaron Gibbons started in the building industry as a carpenter. He rose to superintendent, project manager, and now is construction department manager, handling the variety and complexity of more than 100 projects valued at over $100 million.

Along the way, Gibbons has learned “the art of being firm and direct while still having the ability to negotiate, compromise, and persuade others without damaging relationships or sacrificing results,” which, he says, has also aided him in his personal development. Leading and mentoring are the benefits of his career path, he adds.

As a father of two young girls, Gibbons is endeavoring to “teach them about life through doing.” To learn about food, for example, they are raising chickens and growing a garden. He is an outdoorsman, too, and to encourage physical fitness, he coaches his daughters in soccer. “And we spend time camping and taking advantage of all Wisconsin offers for outdoor activities,” he adds.


Brian Gill, 36
CEO, Gillware, Inc.
Spouse/Partner: Dr. Kara Gill

Brian Gill’s greatest achievement to date is founding four successful companies that have employed more than 100 people in Wisconsin. He says he is living his dreams, “finding and cultivating talented individuals and growing our organizations to compete on a national level.”

Other ventures include co-founding Phoenix Nuclear Labs, SHINE Medical Technologies, and Gillware Data Services. Today, Gill runs the marketing efforts and sales initiatives and “also manages some of the software engineers.” He would most like to emulate SHINE Medical’s Dr. Greg Piefer, his business partner and mentor, because Piefer “[proves] fearless when tackling huge initiatives when competing with some of the biggest companies on the planet.”

Enjoyments include serving on the board of directors for the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps. Gill relishes family time “raising my son Charlie with my wife, Kara,” and when his planets align, he also enjoys the occasional game of golf and a glass of Midleton Irish whiskey with a single ice cube.

Kristopher Gmur, 39
Vice President, JPMorgan Chase

Kristopher Gmur starts his day with a cup of coffee and prefers to end it with another cup (or two) with a shot (or two) of kirsch in it. “Being Swiss is something you learn from a very young age,” he quips. Good food, wine, and travel round out his favorites list.

After recognition as a national achiever, Gmur was invited into Chase’s Leadership Development Program. Maybe his future will take him to Chicago, New York, or even (his dream) Zurich, but whether the Rotarian goes or stays, Gmur’s thrill in the workplace is “spending time with prospects and putting together deals.”

Role models include other bankers, specifically Gof Thompson (Bank of New Glarus), Jim Hartlieb (First Business Bank), and Jeff Ticknor (BMO Harris). “These gentlemen helped me get where I am today,” Gmur acknowledged.

Volunteer commitments include the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center, the Village of New Glarus Community Development Authority, and the Dane County Small Business Awards.

Randy Guenther, 39
President, CFO, T. Wall Properties
Spouse/Partner: Kimberly Guenther

With responsibility for more than 2.6 million sq. ft. of space on over 750 acres of land, Randy Guenther is managing one of the largest development companies in Wisconsin. In the future, he hopes to put his UW-Madison accounting degree to good use at his own real estate investment company.

In addition to his work responsibilities, Guenther is an advisor for the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate Board, serves as a board director for the Mount Horeb Area Education Foundation, and audits church books for his congregation.

Guenther tries to emulate Steve Brown (Steve Brown Apartments), in part because Brown works with his wife on business projects yet is still married. “That shows the strength of the relationship,” Guenther explains. Guenther endeavors to stay married, too, so he protects family time, adding that he “enjoys spending time cheering on my children at soccer matches and swim meets, as well as running and biking.”

C. Wade Harrison, 39
Attorney, Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.

Wade Harrison lists “going back to school after a nine-year break” for his J.D. degree from the UW Law School as a singular achievement. 

Since then, “defending my first employment lawsuit was a monumental event.” However, he’d like to pursue alternative dispute resolution in the future, helping clients to avoid litigation altogether.

His hobbies include cooking, travel, skiing, fly-fishing and – in a manner befitting Boston Legal – “searching out great spirits and fine cigars.” Harrison’s favorite spirit is A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale. Free advice: “Big bitter beers are best drunk from a snifter.”

Besides being board president of United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Dane County, Harrison serves the Urban League of Greater Madison and is a member of several law-related organizations. He admires Tom Wiegand (“many ventures around Madison owe part of their success to Tom”) and Larry Zanoni, past CEO of Group Health, “for his vision and leadership.”

Sarah Hause, 33
Senior Manager-Practice & Wealth Management, CUNA Mutual Group/CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc.

It’s unusual for a BFA graduate with an emphasis in ceramics to wind up working for an insurance broker/dealer, but Hause has made a successful transition, noting, “Sometimes it seems you have to zig to zag; I think I’ve finally found the intersection of my passion and talents.”

Hause now leads “Women of Distinction,” a group of CUNA mentors for females entering the firm or the industry. She teaches a course in leadership for the SBDC, and worked to help CUNA establish a scholarship fund as a way to give back to home office employees. Community involvements include serving as chair for United Way’s Rosenberry Society and the UW Carbone Cancer Center Emerging Leaders Board.

Hause loves her dog, Wally, adores “anything with my nieces and nephews,” and delights in sipping a Starbucks salted caramel mocha. She’s an outdoorswoman and is happiest when physically active and camping, hiking, running, or taking classes at Prairie Athletic Club.


Lori Heffernon, 39
Owner/Massage Therapist, The Oasis Day Spa and Wellness Centre, LLC
Spouse/Partner: Nic Schilling

Being named “Dane County’s Business Woman of the Year” in 2011 at a women’s business conference validated Lori Heffernon’s accomplishments. She says, “I love business, and I aspire to be a professional speaker and train all over the world, motivating and inspiring others.”

Travel is, in fact, her favorite hobby. “I have enjoyed seeing Australia, Europe, the Cayman Islands, Mexico, and most of the U.S. It helps me have gratitude for where I live, but also a desire to see and do more.”

Heffernon started a mastermind group last year, working with five other businesswomen to grow their businesses. She’s involved in Dane Buy Local and is a member of the National Association of Professional Women, where she’s assistant president. She also serves on the board for the local massage therapy program, working on curricula.

Heffernon’s idea of a spa session includes relaxing with a cup of butter toffee coffee, ideally “with a touch of cream, delivered to me by my sweetie!”

James R. Holwerda, 35
Owner, Holwerda Enterprises, dba Remedy Intelligent Staffing
Spouse/Partner: Amy Holwerda

James Holwerda opened his first office at the onset of the recession and expanded to five locations in less than four years. Adding to his delight, “we were named IB’s executive choice for local staffing companies.”

Team philosophies resonate with Holwerda, who would most like to emulate Bo Ryan, who can “bring out the talent in any individual and bring a team together to win,” and Peyton Manning, “the true student of the game who is the coach on the field.” His personal aspiration is to take his team to the top as the premier staffing firm in Central Wisconsin.

With service on the Randolph School Board (treasurer) and the Madison College Curriculum Advisory Board, Holwerda’s civic interests sync with his business goal of mentoring an incoming workforce. He also serves on the GMS SHRM Philanthropic Committee and is a member of SHRM groups in both Dodge and Sauk counties.

Outside the office, Holwerda enjoys family time, hunting, and running.

Anton Kapela, 33
VP-Datacenter & Network Technology, 5Nines, LLC

In 2008, Anton Kapela and Alex Pilosov revealed a fundamental vulnerability within the Border-Gateway Protocol, which meshes the 39,000 independent networks that comprise the Internet. They demonstrated it at DEFCON in Las Vegas, and it was later reported in Wired as the “Internet’s largest security hole.”

Kapela speaks fluent Technolish: “Like all communities that emerge from a small initial clique, [Madison] must be mindful of pattern formation. Large-scale patterns lead to habituation at first, but often lead to ultimate stagnation.”

The list of Kapela’s high-tech presentations and research involvements is lengthy, including such cloak-and-dagger-sounding groups as Black Hat Briefings. But there’s also online audio engineering for King Street Live and High Tech Happy Hours to ground him. His aspiration is to publish original research, further intellectual property creation, and “discover new ground-truths about real phenomena, and do good.”

Offline, he enjoys percussion, dirt bikes, lifting weights, painting, international travel, aviation, mechanical engineering, photography, swimming, and (of course) “hacking.”

Josh Kosnick, 28
District Director/Financial Advisor, Northwestern Mutual
Spouse/Partner: Jenna Kosnick

Josh Kosnick is the president of NAIFA-Madison and a board member for the March of Dimes Chef’s Auction. He’s involved with Middleton Outreach Ministry, Blackhawk Church, Athletes in Action (UW), and GAMA. And in his free time, when he’s not in his office or at a volunteer function, he co-owns (with his wife) the Anytime Fitness franchise at University Square.

With the right attitude for working with a spouse, Kosnick “loves spending time with my beautiful wife, Jenna, my daughter Ella, and our two dogs,” and he still finds a little time for football, watersports, tennis, and hunting.

Kosnick is happily following in his father-mentor’s footsteps (Steve Kosnick, Northwestern Mutual), and he’s living his dream life, though he’d like to do it all “at a higher level that has a widespread, positive impact on the entire Madison area community.” Toward that goal, he’s joined Madison College’s advisory committee for the Insurance & Risk Management program.

Molly Lahr, 28
Director of Wisconsin Innovation Network, Wisconsin Technology Council

She’s a Pepper (Dr. Pepper), and Molly Lahr might also be described as a “Just Do It” person, with her clear career goals to: (1) be part of an emerging company, then advisor to one; (2) serve on the City Council; (3) be part of a new technology; (4) become a Merlin Mentor; (5) retire to open a doggy daycare/wine bar.

The former executive director of MAGNET – “the hardest job I ever had, worth every second” – now advises the governor/Legislature on science and technology affairs. Lahr is a board member on the Madison Parks Foundation and a Civitas and LGM graduate. She was head coach (2011) for the UW-Madison Women’s Club Volleyball team (yes, the national title holders) and volunteer coordinator for the Madison Food & Wine Show through 2011.

After hours, Lahr takes pets Kate and Jack to Warner Dog Park every day. She plays volleyball and enjoys a glass of pinot noir at the Player’s Club.


LaShell L. Lentz, 35
Senior Financial Advisor/Assistant Vice President, BMO Harris Financial Advisors, Inc.
Spouse/Partner: Jason D. Lentz

A “Young Athena” Award recipient, LaShell Lentz is the creator of the One Tough Cookie women’s 5K mud run. Nearly 1,000 women participated in the 2012 event in East Troy, Wis., earning $30,000 for the Wisconsin Badgerland Girl Scout Council – for which Lentz received the coveted “Thanks Badge” honor.

A girl power advocate, Lentz is a member of the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Badgerland Council and has been a Big Sister since 2006. She’s most inspired by role models Elaine Beaubien and Lori Cross because “both have blended business with higher education, something I aspire to do in the future.”

Short-term goals are to be named BMO Harris Southwest Financial Advisor of the Year (again), to be listed as one of the Top 100 Women Financial Advisors by Barron’s magazine, and to expand One Tough Cookie into a nationwide franchise.

At home, Lentz enjoys walking with her hubby and their 10-year-old black lab on their country property.

Kyle Loest, 35
Senior Project Manager, J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc.

Among his many building projects to date, Kyle Loest is perhaps most proud of working on the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, a state-of-the-art pediatric hospital. He expects to continue in the health care building arena, noting that he’s passionate about that niche because “in these buildings, people will be healed and lives saved.”

He brings that same enthusiasm to his volunteer activities, serving on the board of Downtown Madison, Inc. Loest is a United Way Rosenberry Society member, a Salvation Army volunteer, and member of several industry-related organizations.

The person Loest most admires (after his dad, a high school math teacher for 30 years) is UW basketball coach Bo Ryan, “a great leader who represents the position with class. That’s the kind of business leader I would like to emulate.”

Kicking back ideally means a weekend motorcycle ride to see a live music concert, and enjoying a Guinness or two, “to remind me of the great travels I have had throughout Europe.”

Thomas Lyons, 31
Assistant Vice President-Business Banking, Settlers Bank
Spouse/Partner: Athena Lyons

He’s proud to live in Madison, Thomas Lyons quips, because it “attracted a chain I was loyal to in Chicago.” He gotta have his “Coffee Coolatta from Dunkin’ Donuts, no whip cream.”

Lyons’ more serious expectations for the area? “That high-tech and manufacturing sectors take over a larger portion of the local economic pie via new start ups and VC, companies moving to this area, and seamless succession of existing companies.”

Jon Aleckson of Web Courseworks is Lyons’ mentor, admired for his ability to balance personal, company, and employee needs, and because “he’s not blind to the value of advancing his own knowledge base, having received a doctorate recently after decades in the business.”

In addition to volunteering for his parish, the DeForest Area Rotary Club, and The Road Home, Lyons enjoys occasionally playing with the Wisconsin Rugby team. He also treasures time with the wife and kids, enjoys ancestry research, and is involved with “an all-too-competitive fantasy baseball league.”

Kevin Murray, 29
Vice President-Commercial Insurance, Johnson Insurance Services, LLC
Spouse/Partner: Michelle Murray

Named the 2008 Young Agent of the Year by Independent Insurance Agents of Wisconsin, Kevin Murray credits “surrounding myself with seasoned insurance experts, studying the Wisconsin insurance market to identify areas of need, and developing niche industry expertise and product specialty.”

Murray’s niche is health care systems, hospitals, and clinics, with a focus on medical malpractice insurance. His next goal is to reach “a senior leadership position” to impact decisions and long-term company vision.

His role models are Samuel Curtis Johnson Jr., who “had the entrepreneurial spirit and foresight to grow his family’s businesses into multibillion-dollar companies that will provide employment to thousands of people for generations,” and Vince Lombardi, “a symbol of hard work and leadership.”

Outside of work obligations, Murray enjoys spending time with his wife and dog doing “almost anything on water” and traveling to new places. The Leadership Greater Madison graduate is also involved with BioForward, Financial Executives International, and many industry-related organizations.

Melissa Perry, 31
Account Manager, The Payroll Company
Spouse/Partner: Randy Versnik

Even before turning 30, Melissa Perry was named president of GMA SHRM, an 800+ member association for human resources professionals. It’s her fifth year on the board of directors, and she also continues on the board of the Literacy Network, where she’s volunteered since 2009.

Her aspiration is to own her own business someday, which is part of the reason Perry selected Stacey Riechers, Express Employment Professionals, and Vance Kapalczynski, American Printing Company, as role models. “Both are entrepreneurs at heart who always wanted to own their own businesses, made it happen, and are running them successfully,” Perry explained. Kapalczynski was a previous boss, and Riechers is a personal friend; Perry gravitates toward people she respects.

This “girl at heart who loves to shop” also fancies travel and summertime outdoor activities, from kayaking to hiking to volleyball. In the winter, she enjoys cozying up with a cup of pumpkin-flavored or cinnamon-spiced coffee.


Dan Plummer, 38
General Director, Opera for the Young, Inc.
Spouse/Partner: Mark Koehn

Dan Plummer is chair of Madison’s National Philanthropy Day Committee, president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, advisor to The New England Conservatory of Music Entrepreneurial Musician Program, and a professional company member of Opera America. He’s also served on the national Opera Week Advisory Committee.

However, his greatest career accomplishment to date likely was retiring Opera for the Young’s debt load. In the past four years, the organization has enjoyed budget surpluses (yes, in a recession), and expanded programming.

His administrative achievements made him popular in nonprofit leadership circles, but “I felt like I was missing something in my career if I didn’t continue to work creatively,” so Plummer has since collaborated on a new opera adaptation of Cinderella.

When he’s not performing or leading, Plummer enjoys time with his News Hounds, Estie and Lola, featured on Live at 5 each week. He also likes tech gadgets and taking cruises with his partner.

Cari Anne Renlund, 39
Partner, DeWitt Ross & Stevens, S.C.
Spouse/Partner: Tony Renlund

Cari Anne Renlund is an experienced public servant, having been an assistant general counsel at WisDOT, chief legal counsel at DOA, and chief of staff at WisDOT. She’s helped change and implement laws, including The Domestic Partner Registry, and helped deliver some major projects, such as the Marquette Interchange, on budget and on time.

Renlund has also worked as an associate attorney in private practice, which made her “very aware of the difficulties regulated entities and average citizens can experience when interfacing with the government.” Now, her career aspirations are to assist businesses and others in dealing with the government, with the additional goal of proactively resolving problems to avoid litigation for her clients.

To relax, Renlund likes hot yoga complemented with an ice-cold beer in a frosty mug. She adds, “There is nothing better than watching my sons’ hockey or baseball games, or the Packers, Brewers, and Badgers, and catching up with family and friends.”

Jed A. Roher, 35
Corporate & Tax Attorney, Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.
Spouse/Partner: Nora Edie

Jed Roher graduated from Yale with a double major in music and sociology before earning a J.D. degree in New York. He brings that same eclectic mix to his volunteer interests, serving on the board of directors for the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes, the finance committee of Ten Chimneys Foundation, the steering committee for the Wisconsin Technology Council Early Stage Symposium, and the advisory committee to the UW Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic.

And then there were the youthful touring theater days … set aside today for law, family time, his kids’ hobbies, volunteer youth soccer coaching, guitar, “trying to play golf,” and supporting UW-Madison’s sports teams.

Roher admires entrepreneurial leaders Sal Braico and Toni Sikes, “fantastically talented people who bring an astonishing amount of energy and creativity to their work.” He aspires to keep doing what he’s doing and, along the way, mentor upcoming lawyers and claim time for the occasional cup of coffee with a friend.

Ruth Rohlich, 38
Business Development Specialist, City of Madison

Ruth Rohlich was an original MAGNET board member and project director at the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. before signing on with the city of Madison. Her passion is advocacy “for fair and equal access to capital,” and she’d like to continue helping minority business owners connect and prosper in the region.

Her membership list reads like a small phone book, because much of her job success, past and present, involves networking and putting together teams. “I’m most proud of anything that I have accomplished through collaboration with other people,” Rohlich says.

Her role models are Laurie Benson, another collaborator and head of LB Unlimited, and former mentor Julann Jatczak. “Both of these women have accomplished great things while working to advance the dreams of others. I admire their dedication to empowerment through entrepreneurship.”

Rohlich earned an executive M.B.A. degree in 2012. Now, with a little free time, she “tries to do something creative every day,” including neighborhood advocacy.

Nicolis Schilling, 36
Business Owner, Madison Crew Business Solutions
Spouse/Partner: Lori Heffernon

“I love to network,” admits Nicolis Schilling, and his involvements bear that out: secretary of Dane Buy Local, past president of his homeowners’ association, and a member of the National W Club (he lettered in rowing). He’s also an active member of MAGNET, DMI, and Madison Business Builders.

Career highlights include being the project manager who helped take Epic “from a cornfield to the amazing campus it is today, and creating the skyline of Madison at my time with Findorff.” But the highest point, he says, “is starting my own business in 2011. Taking the leap to step out on my own.”

His aspiration is to follow in his father Terry’s footsteps, “to create a legacy for my family and create relationships along the way that will be memorable,” and to see his business flourish.

Happiness is “spending time with my girlfriend and family, with a fine glass of wine, a steak, and a smile!” His hobby? “Technology, learning about new electronics.”


Jeffrey Schleis, 34
Vice President/Business Relationship Manager, State Bank of Cross Plains
Spouse/Partner: Lindsay Schleis

He’s been involved in United Way, Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, Big Brothers Big Sisters, March of Dimes, and Henry Vilas Zoo, but now Jeffrey Schleis is focusing on business memberships, including voting membership on the loan committee for Madison Development Corp.’s Venture Debt Program, plus MABA, DMI, Dane Buy Local, the Apartment Association of South Central Wisconsin, and other organizations.

Schleis names his great-grandfather as his role model, a man who “traveled to the United States from Germany and grew his businesses and his family from nothing.” He, too, would like to someday own his own business, but for now, he’s content to “find a sense of great accomplishment through providing solutions to new and existing business owners.”

With two young children, Schleis most enjoys family time on a boat, fishing. A glass of cabernet sauvignon with friends is a special treat, and alone time is spent participating in triathlons, duck hunting, hiking, and golf.

Karen Smith, 29
Career Development Specialist, Herzing University
Spouse/Partner: Jeremy Smith

Karen Smith remembers thinking “I could do that” after hearing the job description for president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors group. Today she is doing that, having been elected by the 30-member group to the top spot. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that Smith named outgoing chamber president Jennifer Alexander as her role model.

In addition to that position, Smith also is president of Ad 2 Madison (2012), and she has chaired the Education Committee for the American Advertising Federation. She holds positions with the Madison Metro Jaycees and is a member of the International Game Developers Association and other industry-related groups.

Smith envisions working for a nonprofit someday: “I have been very dedicated to volunteering and helping those less fortunate in the community since middle school.” Meanwhile, she enjoys seasonal co-ed sports and random camping excursions to out-of-the-way sites, musicals at the Overture Center, a labradoodle (Cooper), and “attempting to visit every state park in Wisconsin.”

Anna Stern, 33
Vice President, Tri-North Builders, Inc.
Spouse/Partner: Patrick Stern

With an undergraduate degree in journalism and political science and a J.D. from UW-Madison, Anna Stern is now excited about working with the UW-Madison Law School to set up a Tri-North counsel internship program to help fledgling attorneys get real experience in the building industry. Other goals are to increase volunteer opportunities for staff and to grow business for the firm.

Stern’s other interests are serving as a board member for Junior Achievement of Dane County and Logan’s Hearts & Smiles. She is a committee chair for The Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin and is helping evaluate Wisconsin’s lien law for the State Bar of Wisconsin.

Irene Brierley, Pike Technologies, is her role model. “She makes sure her employees feel valued and goes out of her way to help anyone in need.”

Stern likes to relax by gathering with friends to “watch a horribly cheesy TV show, drink champagne, and catch up.” Swimming is on her list of pleasures, too.

Patrick Sweeney, 36
Owner, Merchant Restaurant-Honest Foods, LLC

Patrick Sweeney’s proudest moment was “when we opened the doors at Merchant” after facing long odds in raising funds and after “days spent on the most intricate details of planning everything from the look and feel of the space to the operational aspects of running a small [35 employees] business.”

After a stint with a Chicago-based band, Sweeney now has his own group here, where he focuses on acoustic singing and songwriting. When he’s not jamming, he is “at my best in nature,” snowboarding, wakeboarding, fishing, camping, or golfing, but finds his “greatest pleasure in life” spending time with nieces and nephews.

Sweeney intends “to put my head down and work as hard as I can” to reinvent fast-food options and educate consumers on food sourcing and nutrition. He then wants to mentor and give back to the community.

Personal bucket list items include having a cabin, a family, and “a boat that will attract fish to my lure!”

Chris T. Tierney, 35
Resident Director/Vice President-Investments/Financial Advisor, Merrill Lynch
Spouse/Partner: Stacie Tierney

Involvement with causes that assist children and families is important to Chris Tierney, who supports Big Brother Big Sisters of Dane County, JDRF, The Waisman Center, and The Hope Lodge. His work on the Merrill Lynch Grand Gala supported the Friends of the Zoo last year, and is benefitting UW Children’s Hospital in 2013.

In 2012, Tierney was named resident director of the Merrill Lynch Madison office, a humbling experience “being nominated by my peers, having the trust and confidence of my colleagues.” He doesn’t want to climb so high that he would forfeit working with clients for administrative tasks, preferring instead “to build our practices to help more and more people.”

Role model? “I always try to ‘borrow’ traits that I admire about many local professionals, but my dad [CPA Tom Tierney, university accounting lecturer] is really … my biggest role model.”

A “recovering marathoner and retired Ironman athlete,” Tierney now most enjoys family time and golf.


Nathan J. Wautier, 38
Shareholder/Attorney, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, S.C.
Spouse/Partner: Alexa Paliwal Wautier

Considering that his practice is focused on real estate development, business, and investments, it’s interesting that Nathan Wautier’s undergrad thesis was about the contemporary interaction between science and religion as illustrated by the Catholic Church’s response to the AIDS epidemic – but it’s not surprising that the Peace Corps volunteer (Guatemala) graduated cum laude with a J.D. degree.

The son of a community activist (mother Beverly) and dairy farmer (father Joseph), in 2001, Wautier assisted in a land-titling project along the Texas/Mexico border “to recover land of first generation Mexican-Americans who had been defrauded.” He now volunteers for Downtown Rotary’s foreign exchange program and is on the boards of Friends of the Overture Center for the Arts and DMI, along with related organizations. His personal aspiration is to make a positive impact in the community.

When not lawyering or volunteering, Wautier is a year-round bicycle commuter who enjoys spending time with his two young sons, travel, outdoor activities, and following Badger basketball.

Luke Whitburn, 38
Vice President of Operations, Drake & Company Staffing Specialists
Spouse/Partner: Alicia Whitburn

Luke Whitburn has volunteered for The West Side Coalition on Aging since 1990, and he’s also active in SHRM-Madison and related HR industry organizations. He would like to emulate Bob Dunn because of “the commitment that he brings to his work, respect for process, patience, and flexibility.”

What makes him unique is his commitment to forestry, having built a cabin on 80 acres in the Ottawa National Forest in Upper Michigan, where Boy Scout troops earn conservation badges. Oh yes, and he’s been to the White House for Christmas.

Professional achievements include being named in the Canon One Million group and earning the Randstad Leader of Growth Award, Manpower 3 Million Dollar Club/Powerball Award, and Wisconsin Physician Services Insurance Corp.’s “Leadership Beyond Management” honor.

Whitburn’s next goal is to have “personal equity in a business where I can contribute to the growth of the Madison area.”

Dan White, 32
CEO, Filament Games

Dan White has a long list of involvements, including Greenpeace, Merlin Mentors, the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, the National Science Teachers Association, the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, the National Science Foundation (panelist), the MATC Animation Program (advisory board), and Games for Change (advisory board).

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was an early client. White created a game about the U.S. Constitution, and the results were “outstanding – the first official validation of our mission, and therefore my greatest professional accomplishment.” Today, Filament has grown to 40 employees with over 50 learning games to its credit.

Future plans are to focus on client projects that will influence the greatest number of students, like one now underway with the top learning scientists at MIT.

To relax, White plays league tennis and basketball, does “praying mantis kung fu,” camps (Hoofers Outing Club), rock climbs, and notes that, as a new dad, “making faces at my son is my new favorite hobby.”

Mark Wilson, 31
CEO, TermSync, Inc.

A CPA, Mark Wilson is a member of the Financial Executives International and treasurer for his condo association, but he most enjoys working with the Madison start-up community, lecturing, and helping companies find high-tech talent.

The sale of Jellyfish to Microsoft, with co-members, was a great achievement. More recently, TermSync doubled its staff size in 2012. It’s on target to repeat that in 2013 and has completed a financing round. “I believe everyone should work in a start up at least once in their life,” Wilson says. “There is nothing more exhilarating.”

The Diet Dew aficionado (he admits he drinks too much of it) also loves his Badgers and Brewers, and is renewing an interest in personal fitness. However, three nieces and a nephew own Wilson’s heart.

Brian Wiegand has earned Wilson’s gratitude for being “a huge help to my career,” and Wilson respects him “for his ability to inspire people and build a strong culture.”

Matt Younkle, 39
Co-Founder/CEO, Murfie, Inc.
Spouse/Partner: Susie

Matt Younkle admires Thomas Edison “for his creativity and work ethic,” Warren Buffett “for earning a ton and giving it all away,” and Joe Boucher, Neider & Boucher, S.C., “a mentor to me since I was a student … living proof that doing well and doing good are not at odds.”

Younkle’s business is “the corner record store in the cloud,” and he enjoys building a great music collection and sailing (both racing and cruising). He also likes mentoring for groups Gener8tor, VictorSpark, and Merlin Mentors.

In addition, Younkle makes time to serve on the city of Madison’s Economic Development Committee, Madison Development Corp.’s board of directors, and the UW-Madison Electrical & Computer Engineering Visiting Committee. He’s also co-founder and co-producer of the Forward Technology Festival.

Younkle’s greatest achievement is “inventing, building, and marketing a product that’s in use throughout the world. I think the most rewarding thing for an engineer is to see one’s product in widespread use.”

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