40 Under 40: The 2014 Class
40 emerging business stars prove that youth — at least in their cases — is not wasted on the young.
Each year, our 40 Under 40 issue celebrates the success of rising young business stars in the Greater Madison area, and each year the pool of worthy nominees expands. This year, for our 14th class, we selected from hundreds of hopefuls — each a business or civic leader who has demonstrated moxie and a firm commitment to the region through board involvement, volunteerism, or other activities.
Our anonymous selection committee reviewed and scored each entrant — using outside interests and hobbies as tiebreakers — until the list was whittled down to the final 40 names.
Brief profiles of this year’s class were compiled by our very own Jody Glynn Patrick and are presented alphabetically along with “selfies” provided by each honoree. Few things characterize young professionals more than their reliance on mobile devices for work and play, as well as their love of social media. So we chose to use selfies to allow this year’s 40 Under 40 class to show us how they see themselves. We also collected a few shots of their desks, power breakfasts, and pets — because Facebook doesn’t have a monopoly on pictures of cute dogs and cats and what people are about to eat.
Turn to page 40 to learn more about their favorite books (which are on display at Barnes & Noble East Towne as part of a fundraiser for the Literacy Network, see below), sports teams, movies, Wisconsin getaways, and workplace perks!
Also, schedule time to meet the 2014 class at the special 40 Under 40 networking event scheduled for March 19 at Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub. (To register for the free event, go to ibmadison.com/introductions.)
So without further ado, it’s our pleasure to introduce you to In Business magazine’s 2014 class of 40 Under 40!
Jean-Paul Aime, 31
Sales Manager/Financial Advisor, MassMutual Wisconsin
“My wife will watch Iron Man 3, where I might be inclined to vote for The Notebook,” Jean-Paul Aime says, explaining his guilty pleasure of having a “slightly more than average affinity toward romantic comedies.” He also has “a small obsession with [gym] shoes … 40 organized in a separate closet.” A year after breaking a femur in a biking accident, Aime set a personal half-marathon record of one hour, 30 minutes, and 15 seconds.
He has to be quick at work, too, where he mentors more than 20 financial services professionals. Aime cited Dave Grauwels as his role model, having met Grauwels after a cold call to congratulate him for being selected for a previous IB 40 Under 40 class. “A great reminder of why not to have call reluctance!” he says. Aime gives back as a United Way Day of Caring volunteer. He’s also involved with the Million Dollar Round Table and GAMA International.
Abigail Attoun, 32
Assistant Director of Community Development, City of Middleton
Abigail (Abby) Attoun’s career goal is to one day be named a city manager — or, in the private sector, a project manager. Toward that end, she’s worked on multiple projects in Middleton, from launching a community garden to designing a student art show to creating affordable housing. Her community work includes serving on the Day of Caring Planning Committee for United Way. The “thrill of the hunt” transformed Attoun into a fan of junking — a hobby that helped her pay her tuition at Missouri State.
“I get up at 5:30 a.m. on Saturdays to be the first at estate and garage sales in search of eBay-able treasures,” she explains.
This new mom’s guilty pleasure is “eating a slice of peanut butter silk pie from Hubbard Avenue Diner while watching The Bachelor.” Attoun also runs marathons — most recently a charity run for her hometown of Joplin, Mo.
David Baehr, 36
President, Baehr, Inc.
David Baehr’s dedication to his community is obvious when you look at the long list of organizations he’s involved with, including area chambers of commerce, the Dane County Council of Public Affairs, and the St. Elizabeth Nursing Home board. After serving as the youngest president in the history of the East Side Club (the club’s tiki bar was established during his tenure), Baehr became president of the club’s Past Presidents. As a member of the South Central Tractor Pullers Association, he won 24 tractor pulls last year with The Bear, “a 600-horsepower, fire-breathing 1957 Case 900.”
Baehr was brought into his family’s farm business as a youth, and he now aspires to bring his sons into the real estate business he’s built. Baehr’s guilty pleasure is sitting down for a nice relaxing pedicure, though he insists he got his first pedicure simply to indulge his wife.
Phil Bower, 37
Shareholder/Attorney, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C.
This LGM-20 (Leadership Greater Madison) participant is president of the Madison Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association, which he founded. Among other volunteer commitments, Bower serves as vice president of the board for Community GroundWorks, Inc., and is a member of United Way of Dane County’s Rosenberry Society. This recent East Coast transplant’s favorite pastimes include hiking throughout Wisconsin, gardening (“fresh and local healthy food is a passion”), and anything to do with trees.
A self-labeled “tree-hugger,” he organized a Dane County Legal Tree Planting Event in 2012, which raised more than $1,700 and resulted in 17 tree plantings in Fitchburg. Bower also has a fondness for private railroad cars, and he’d love to own one after he becomes an empty nester. His guilty pleasure is a bit more clandestine — “sneaking out of work for a milkshake” — but we’ll keep that our secret.
Kristen E. Carreira, 34
Financial Advisor, Edward Jones
Kristen Carreira is one busy woman. She has been involved with the Downtown Optimists, the Rotary Club, and the American Heart Association, and currently serves on the board of DAIS. Shortly after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, Carreira experienced a trial by fire. Learning from business role models such as Laurie Benson, Carreira managed to build a successful practice “from the ground up during the greatest recession in history.”
Taking on house projects and staying fit top her list of favorite pastimes, and Carreira recently “demoed and rebuilt a kitchen.” She is an avid dog lover and owner of two rescue dogs. In fact, her guilty pleasure is disobeying her own rule that the dogs not climb into her bed: “Occasionally we all pile in and have a good snuggle session,” she says. “It is perfect!”
Matt Cranney, 33
Director of Client Services, M3 Insurance, Inc.
Scotland native Matt Cranney attended college in Liverpool, but he’s now fully immersed in this region. A Leadership Greater Madison alumnus, he serves on the leadership development team for Blackhawk Church and the golf committee for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He’s also the president of ASCnet and the director of the Professional Insurance Agents of Wisconsin. A self-proclaimed “IKEA flat-pack Jedi,” Cranney says his guilty pleasure is putting together furniture: “I get a huge kick out of it; I find it really therapeutic.” He most enjoys spending time with his family, though he also loves to read autobiographies of great leaders and routinely works out.
When he was 20, Cranney moved to the U.S. to get married, taking a single suitcase with him. “The feeling of having to completely reestablish yourself personally and professionally is a daunting one,” Cranney admits — but he says he’s happy, and his addition to IB’s 40 Under 40 list proves the move was good for his career, too.
Benjamin Dreyer, 33
Owner, melt, LLC
In 2005, 24-year-old Benjamin Dreyer moved to Madison from Florida after a career as a professional track-and-field athlete. He’d won two NCAA national championships in the 400-meter dash and was a 10-time All-American in three events. Dreyer lived and trained at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in California, receiving full funding from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Then he trained at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando and competed internationally as part of the U.S. national team. Now, as a fitness studio owner, he aspires to improve preventive health care options by bridging the communication gap between personal trainers and traditional health care providers.
This St. Norbert College graduate and member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame likes to play guitar and piano to entertain his family, but his guilty pleasure is jamming: “I have some pretty mean Rock Band chops,” he says, noting that he welcomes challengers. He also likes rowing, hiking, Ultimate Frisbee, and cycling.
Lisa DuChateau, 31
Communications Coordinator, Middleton Chamber of Commerce
Lisa DuChateau skied collegiately for UW-Madison, helping the Badgers make it to the nationals for the first time. After graduation, she volunteered for AmeriCorps VISTA, working for Habitat for Humanity in Myrtle Beach, S.C. While there, she brought together 12 churches to build a home for a deserving family. Though she worked in faith relations, she soon learned how to frame a house, shingle a roof, and hang drywall — great preparation for a later volunteer stint building houses for Hurricane Katrina victims in Mississippi.
Her future dream job would be organizing volunteers for a nonprofit organization benefiting youth, and she’s currently doing her part as a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County. One of her favorite pastimes is watching March Madness, and she also enjoys running, cycling, triathlons, volleyball, testing new recipes, and volunteer commitments.
Matt Duffy, 39
COO, The QTI Group
In addition to serving on the Dane County Junior Achievement board, Matt Duffy has served on the boards of MAGNET and the Financial Development Committee for the Red Cross. He’s also involved with Food for Kidz and coaches youth sports. He’s tenacious, too. After failing to make UW-Oshkosh’s volleyball team, he “practiced the sport religiously” and sought out pointers from other players. He played volleyball on recreational teams and completed a summer training regimen. The next fall, he made the team and was named a starter for a team that won a Division II national championship.
His long-term goals include helping QTI build more brand awareness in Milwaukee and the Fox Valley areas and writing a book about the staffing industry. He loves reading history books, sailing, and surfing, which he learned while living in Cape Cod. Duffy still manages to ride the waves every year.
Luke A. Fuszard, 32
Strategic Sales Manager, Castlight Health
Holding dual master’s degrees from Harvard, Luke Fuszard is a board member of the Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Alumni Association. He’s also a member of the Internal Economic Development Council and Middleton’s Community Development Authority, and is the Madison chapter director of the New Leaders Council. Fuszard’s most fulfilling professional accomplishment was organizing an investigative hearing as policy analyst for Wisconsin’s Joint Economic Committee on the excessive pricing of orphan drugs. A resulting USA Today front-page article publicized the plight of 200,000-plus consumers.
A former Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. staffer, Fuszard says his ultimate dream job would be state cabinet secretary. His guilty pleasure is professional wrestling. “I own copies of every WrestleMania, Royal Rumble, and SummerSlam ever held.” He jokes that he’s likely the only person in the world who subscribes to both the Harvard Business Review and Pro Wrestling Illustrated. This Green Bay Packers shareholder also enjoys hunting and fishing.
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.”
Jason Huett, 36
Owner, Kicks Unlimited, LLC
Jason Huett’s goal is to one day graduate from “president” to “chief entrepreneurial officer” and expand Kicks throughout the Midwest. High points in Huett’s career include working on the movie Public Enemies as a professional stuntman; growing Kicks to become the largest martial arts school in Wisconsin; and establishing the “Kicks Education Center” to teach kids about Asian culture as well as martial arts, health, and wellness.
He’s also traveled to Japan to earn two black belts in kobudo, and he was the first Wisconsinite to win the national forms championship at Diamond Nationals. Now the UW-Madison graduate is launching GymSensei, a DVD-based home study of the martial arts. With all the excitement in his life, you’d think his guilty pleasure would involve death-defying feats, but no: It’s eating ice cream. “I have great self-discipline, but not when it comes to Cold Stone’s ice cream.” Other joys: running, weights, reading, travel, and dining out.
Greg D. Jones, 32
CEO/Partner, Dave Jones, Inc.
Greg Jones started as a warehouse worker and then a field laborer in his family’s business and built on that experience to become the company’s general manager at 24 and its CEO at 32. In preparation for his management role, he earned a master plumber’s license in four states. Now, in hopes of becoming the majority owner of the business, Jones is finishing his degree in business administration at Edgewood College. He’d eventually like to focus on business consulting, writing management books, and starting or investing in new businesses.
A sports enthusiast who enjoys golf, basketball, and hunting, Jones admits that his true guilty pleasure is “reading a book while taking a long bath,” but he’s happiest when he’s with his wife and kids. “I am most proud of the time I spend with my family,” he says.
Nissa Judd, 39
President, Integral Building Systems
Nissa Judd is a determined woman who, without the advantage of a college degree, built three businesses at the start of the recession. In addition to serving as president of Integral Building Systems, she’s president of Affiliated Communications and vice president of KNC Communications. Evaluating new opportunities and taking calculated risks is a way of life for Judd, and she balances business adventures with parenting, traveling, golf, camping with family and friends, cooking, and reading.
Giving back to the community is especially important to Judd. She is board president of Middleton Outreach Ministry, and her companies are among the top donors to Gio’s Garden. She also supports Gilda’s Club, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In her spare time, she likes to build things. “My husband and I have built a deck, finished a basement, and designed and built two large landscaping projects,” she says. “I like to see the final result and feel the satisfaction of having done it myself.”
Jason Kadow, 39
CEO, KMA Bodilly CPAs and Consultants, S.C.
This UW-Whitewater grad’s achievements include raising enough money from investors to buy a small community bank at age 30 and becoming an equity partner in a CPA firm within seven years of his college graduation. His goal now is to grow KMA Bodilly into one of the largest CPA firms in the state. Kadow expects to accomplish his mission with the help of two standout mentors — area businessmen Greg Williams, CEO of Network Engineering Technologies (“my rock”), and financial advisor Jon Goldstein, owner, Goldstein & Associates (“my go-to guy”). Kadow stays busy as a board member for Habitat for Humanity of Dane County and president of the World Dairy Campus Association, and in his downtime he enjoys playing golf. His guilty pleasure makes this numbers guy easy to buy for: He loves to eat Gummy Bears.
Craig (C.J.) Klaas, 30
COO, Director, Klaas Financial, Inc.
The youngest advisor to hit $500,000 in gross production in Klaas Financial’s 37-year history, Craig Klaas joined senior management at age 28. He’s involved with Verona Young Life and is a Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County. The University of Washington graduate played on the U.S. Under-20 national soccer team that competed in the Youth World Championships in Dubai, UAE in 2004. Klaas also played two seasons of professional soccer with the Seattle Sounders, but he says his greatest achievement was marrying his wife.
Today, he’s a board member for the Madison Area Tip Club and a member of Downtown Madison Rotary. Klaas would like to become president and CEO of Klaas Financial in the next six to eight years and garner more regional exposure in the Midwest. To relax, he coaches his daughters’ soccer teams, hunts, fishes, and volunteers, but his guilty pleasure is “playing bean bags with neighborhood friends on Friday evenings on our sidewalks.”
Brittany Lee, 29
Corporate Events Director, American Heart Association
In just over two years, Brittany Lee has seen a 398% upswing in her donor portfolio, which she credits to strong relationships and her ability to creatively inspire giving. She hopes one day to own her own consulting business to help other nonprofits “make their mission come to life,” and she’d like to help for-profit companies align with the “right” nonprofits. Lee volunteers for the American Cancer Society, where she worked before joining the American Heart Association.
She says that recognizing her passion for nonprofits and turning it into a career is her greatest personal achievement. A University of Iowa graduate, Lee is currently president of the Madison chapter of the Iowa Club, and one of her favorite pastimes is fantasy football: “I’m on a streak of winning or being in the top three!” To relax, Lee enjoys running along the shores of Madison-area lakes.
Max Lynch, 26
Founder/CTO, Drifty Co.
After graduating from UW-Madison in 2010, Max Lynch built his software company to profitability in 2012, less than a year after starting the mobile application development business. In 2013, he was accepted into TechStars. He would like his firm to “impact the world” and “put Madison on the map for Internet companies, like Mailchimp and 37signals.” The leaders of those enterprises, David Heinemeier Hansson and Ben Chestnut, inspire him to dream big.
Lynch would like to reinvest in budding tech entrepreneurs to “build software companies focused on profitability and sustainability.” He also believes in a creative workplace culture, offering beer as an office perk. “I love to brew beer,” he adds. He enjoys rock climbing, gaming, and watching television, but his guilty pleasure is flying on the computer. “I am a flight sim nerd,” Lynch admits. “I spend hours just safely flying around and learning how I might fly real aircraft.”
Erica Marty, 31
Associate, Eppstein Uhen Architects, Inc.
Erica Marty spearheads Eppstein Uhen Architects’ building information modeling technology consulting group, and she’s now involved in all phases of project management. “I am able to incorporate passions for process improvement, mentoring, and encouraging continuing education,” she notes. After graduating from Herzing University, Marty joined several industry groups and, after digesting research about female trends in the architectural, building design, and construction industry, became alarmed about her gender’s dropout rate. To identify inspirational female role models, she founded Women Building Wisconsin — a successful networking event that includes a discussion panel comprised of female industry experts.
Marty’s goal is to one day become a director of operations or director of organizational effectiveness. She and her husband are also planning to buy a small farm so they can start their own CSA, but one of her favorite pastimes remains ice fishing, which she first took up as a child: “We are looking forward to making it a family activity with our three young children as they grow.”
Adriana Mateus, 38
Strategic Public Affairs Manager, Alliant Energy Corp.
She cooks, dances, reads, and loves traveling and Pilates, but Adriana Mateus’ guilty pleasure is cooking and eating sweet treats: “My favorite dessert that I make is a white chocolate soup,” she said. “I’ve yet to find anyone who does not love it.”
Though she didn’t speak English when she first arrived in the U.S., Mateus was accepted into the master’s program at Northwestern University-Medill School of Journalism, where she earned a Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for a television feature she did on Alzheimer’s disease. She then worked as communications director on Eric Hovde’s U.S. Senate campaign.
More recently, she has served on the Madison Children’s Museum board and worked on a study focused on the local Latino community for the United Way. Mateus’ current goal is to take advantage of more growth opportunities at Alliant Energy.
Sandy Morales, 32
Fund Development Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County
Sandy Morales and other community leaders banded together in October to launch the Latino Professionals Association of Greater Madison. For her efforts, she was later named Latino Volunteer of the Year and was recently appointed as the group’s president.
The first in her family to graduate from college (Marquette University), Morales is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who set high expectations. She would like to use her marketing and international business degree to become a nonprofit executive director in the future, helping immigrant parents navigate educational or legal systems.
Morales credits her mentors, nonprofit leaders Juan Jose Lopez and Dora Zúñiga, with being change agents in her own life. Influencing change at work aligns tightly with her guilty pleasure of participating in Arbitron or retail surveys in exchange for discounts or rebates. When she’s not checking boxes, Morales enjoys volunteering, reading, Zumba, and spending quality time with her husband and daughter.
Daniel Neely, 37
Founder/CEO, Networked Insights
University of Georgia graduate Daniel Neely became CEO of Networked Insights at the age of 29. He has since grown the company to 150-plus employees and earned a board position with UW Business School’s Weinert Applied Ventures in Entrepreneurship program. However, he says his greatest achievements are adopting “two amazing boys” and going from weighing more than 350 pounds to running both the Madison and Chicago marathons.
One of his goals is to provide guidance to entrepreneurs who are just getting started. “I love to drive innovation and want to see new things come to life,” he explains. Neely credits his own mentor, Ceci Kurzman, with teaching him “that the things I believe are big or scary or are going to end badly actually don’t matter that much.” Neely’s guilty pleasure these days is getting a manicure and pedicure, and he also enjoys cooking, collecting wines, and photography.
Darcey Nett, 33
President/Owner, Always Best Care
Darcey Nett sold more than 1,000 handmade necklaces and did various jobs (including waitressing, factory work, and modeling) in order to graduate debt-free from UW-Madison. She then sold pharmaceuticals for Pfizer, becoming a leader in territorial sales. Nett later tapped into that same determination to start a senior in-home care business, which today supports more than 50 jobs. Along the way, she became a networking queen, with involvements in Make-A-Wish, Business Networking International, the Dane County Committee on Aging, Madison MAGNET, and many other organizations.
One of her favorite hobbies is Rollerblading, “especially around the lakes in Madison.” Other enjoyments include working on her modeling and talent scouting business (a secondary pursuit), as well as boating, snowboarding, and volleyball. “I also enjoy indulging in Madison’s offerings of local foods and wine,” she adds.
Peter C. Osman, 31
Owner/Attorney, Borakove | Osman LLC
Peter Osman is the vice president and a founding member of CONNECT Madison, a trustee at St. Stephen’s Foundation, a treasurer at Monona Grove Nursery School, a Walk Team Leader for the American Cancer Society, and a coach for his children’s sports teams. A personal loss led him and his family to raise more than $15,000 in both 2011 and 2012 for the March of Dimes.
Osman says his greatest professional achievement was founding a partnership law firm at the age of 29. He much admires Mike Victorson (M3 Insurance) and Wrede “Bud” Smith (DeWitt Ross and Stevens), two people he credits with influencing his career. However, his children dictate many of his hobbies, including family movie night. His guilty pleasure is watching comic book superhero-themed movies. “I am a big fan of almost all of them,” Osman admits. He also enjoys golf, baseball, camping, and seeing shows at the Overture Center.
Erin Peterson, 32
Executive Director/Founder, Academy of Sound
Erin Peterson embodies community investment: She’s president of the Oregon Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Oregon Historic Preservation Commission and the Wisconsin Music Educators Association. She also co-founded a nonprofit, Historic Community Renewal, Inc., to acquire and revive historic properties, hoping to create beneficial spaces in the area. A graduate of the Mayron Cole Music Conservatory, she wants to grow her music and drama studio into “a place where I can leave for one or two years to teach music and English in Peru.”
Her most grueling personal accomplishment to date has been finishing the 26-mile, four-day trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2013. Peterson embraces her father’s philosophy to “work to live, not live to work.” She enjoys salsa dancing and loves world travel adventures, hiking, choir singing, playing the piano, and “exploring tea lounges and tech arenas in northern California.”
Brian H. Potts, 35
Partner, Foley & Lardner LLP
Brian Potts is a traveling man, having earned an undergraduate degree from Centre College in Kentucky, a law degree from the Vermont Law School, and a master of laws degree in energy law from the University of California, Berkeley Law School. In his spare time, he’s taken side trips to more than 30 countries. Today, the environmental lawyer sits on the executive board of the Clean Lakes Alliance and is general counsel for the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance. He’s written for prestigious legal publications such as the Yale Law Journal and the Harvard Environmental Law Review, and his articles have been cited in reports to Congress.
Married to an assistant attorney general with the State of Wisconsin, Potts holds his own with a caseload involving high-profile, high-stakes matters with hundreds of millions of dollars at risk. To train himself to keep his competitive eye on the ball at all times, he coordinated an office-wide Ping-Pong tournament. This self-proclaimed office “Ping-Pong king” also captains area United States Tennis Association leagues and enjoys hiking.
Ben Raboine, 28
CTO, Optimal Media Group
UW-Oshkosh computer science graduate Ben Raboine founded his first company at age 21 and is now an equal partner in six LLC enterprises: Raboine Web Matrix, Optimal Media Group, Custom Offsets, Vistrata Health, Mysteria Games, and SeeMeNow. This lover of “all things entrepreneurial” aspires to one day become an angel investor to help more fellow Madison and Wisconsin entrepreneurs. Toward that goal, he’s joined Capital Entrepreneurs.
Raboine’s greatest accomplishment, however, is more personal: “being happily married to my high school sweetheart.” One of his favorite pastimes is working on his family’s organic dairy farm, Raboine’s Jumping Jerseys, which his sister Amy now operates. When he’s not starting a company or milking a cow, the serial entrepreneur enjoys programming, listening to podcasts or audio books, playing Starcraft or Ultimate Frisbee, drinking craft beer, and spending time with his wife, family, and friends.
Eric Schmidt, 38
General Manager/Owner, CG Schmidt, Inc.
While working full time, Eric Schmidt earned his EMBA at UW-Milwaukee, graduated at the top of his class, and was unanimously voted class speaker. Now his goal is to work with cross-functional teams at CG Schmidt in order to apply LEAN techniques to eliminate waste.
He wondered if we had to disclose that his guilty pleasure is watching Dancing with the Stars (no, we don’t have to, but …). With that out of the way, we can tell you that he also likes hunting, fishing, boating, snowmobiling, motorcycles, off-road riding, racing, and “anything with an engine.” Schmidt gives back to the community through his board service for Madison Country Day School and his volunteer work for the American Cancer Society. He’s also a board advisor for Marquette University High School and a member of the Clean Lakes Alliance.
Todd Schmidt, 39
Village Administrator/Economic Development Director, Village of Waunakee
Todd Schmidt earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from UW-Platteville and a master of public administration from Northern Illinois University before starting a career in local government. In 2001, while working in Brown Deer, he founded the Wisconsin Association of Municipal and County Assistant Managers. Schmidt sets lofty goals: During his first (“and last”) mountain climbing adventure, he summited Mount Rainier.
Having reached the peak of his career, Schmidt says he is now satisfied to stay in the job he has, enjoying the benefits of raising his family in Waunakee. But he isn’t kicking back. He’s a member of Waunakee’s Lions, Optimist, and Rotary clubs and is involved with county management associations, Arts Wisconsin, Friends of Waunakee Public Library, Friends of Schumacher Farm Park, the local chamber of commerce, and the Wisconsin School Music Association. His guilty pleasure no doubt inspires his own striving for excellence: “watching ‘fail’ videos on YouTube.”
Jake Siudzinski, 32
Corporate Development Manager, The QTI Group
Jake Siudzinski’s career aspirations include earning an MBA and assuming a leadership position with The QTI Group. Community involvement is also important to this UW-Madison graduate, and he’s made a name for himself as president of GMA SHRM, which has more than 800 members. Siudzinski is an LGM-19 alumnus, an account executive for United Way of Dane County, a volunteer committee member for the Out Professional Executive Network, and a Rosenberry Society member. He’s also involved with Downtown Madison Inc., MAGNET, and several chambers. However, he says he is most proud of his work with Agrace HospiceCare, where he’s spent time with several patients at the end of their lives — an “amazing experience” that’s given him a fresh perspective.
Siudzinski’s guilty pleasure is “a good Karaoke outing,” and his hobbies include running, travel, camping, hiking, and “anything to enjoy this beautiful city, state, and country we live in.”
Patrick Stern, 34
VP of Payroll Administration, Tri-North Builders
Patrick Stern says the birth of his two children and his election to the City Council are among the high points in his life. He’s also the treasurer for REAP Food Group, a member of the Community Economic Development Authority, and the chair of Fitchrona EMS. “I’m most proud of my ability to make the team I work with stronger, and while I don’t have a single watershed moment to point to, there’s an arc to my career that brings me satisfaction,” the UW-Madison graduate said.
Stern enjoys the challenge of pivoting to new projects as needed. He started with Tri-North as a security guard for airport plans and has “held every position on our flow chart” up to his present title. Stern’s guilty pleasures include “pretty much anything that could be described as ‘nerdy’ — video games, board games, pulp sci-fi books; you name it, I’m hooked.” He also enjoys gardening and cooking.
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.
Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.