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2010's 40 Executives Under 40

This year's 40 Under 40 class is blessed with ambition, entrepreneurial gifts, and includes a nuclear fusion entrepreneur (Dr. Greg Piefer) among its shining stars.

Greg Piefer, 33

President, Phoenix Nuclear Labs

Born: Milwaukee, Wis.

For 33-year-old Greg Piefer, president of Phoenix Nuclear Labs, it's heady stuff to manage a young company that's developing nuclear technology for applications in health care, homeland security, and aviation. He's always been fascinated by science, but his passion for nuclear fusion began with a UW-Madison class taught by Apollo astronaut Harrison Schmitt, an adjunct professor of engineering, and Gerald Kulcinski, a professor of nuclear engineering.

"They talked about nuclear fusion, quantum physics, going to the moon, and harvesting research," Piefer recalled.

Now, he's providing the entrepreneurial lessons while building a company that seeks to commercialize peaceful uses of nuclear power. Phoenix Nuclear's primary ambition is in the medical realm, where the production of medical isotopes is threatened by aging nuclear reactors, and would-be replacements that may never open due to design flaws. In response, Phoenix Nuclear plans to build a 10,000-square-foot facility, preferably in Wisconsin, that would house a compact isotope generator.

In contrast to a conventional nuclear reactor, the device employs nuclear fusion reactions to create the neutrons and protons used to create radioisotopes.

Piefer, a Milwaukee native, has undergraduate degrees in electrical engineering and physics, and a Ph.D in nuclear engineering — all from UW-Madison. While completing his Ph.D, he served as chief technology officer for Gillware, a data recovery company that provided capital to launch Phoenix Nuclear. He will seek more funding via a combination of federal grants, industry partnerships, and venture capital to build a device that makes nationally relevant quantities of isotopes.

While a nuclear reactor produces neutrons from a reactor core, Phoenix Nuclear's system would make neutrons by taking a beam of deuterium particles and accelerating them into a deuterium or tritium gas target. According to Piefer, this reaction produces free neutrons of very high efficiency, and the resulting isotopes. Mo-99, the most widely used isotope in medicine, has a 66-hour half-life.

The neutrons can be used to make medical isotopes, which are radioactive materials that can be attached to different drugs, which are engineered to seek out specific diseases. They take small amounts of radioactive material called tracers, which emit high-energy light that can be detected by special cameras. This allows doctors to see inside humans without cutting them open, learn about the chemistry of disease, and determine the location and size of the disease.

An even more compact version of the isotope generator could be used in hospitals at bedside to produce PET isotopes and high-quality images of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and heart disease.

According to Piefer, the reactor system would not produce nearly as much radioactive material as the state's three nuclear power reactors, and is "on par" with the research reactor located on the UW-Madison campus. The minimal environmental risk would not approach the criticality of a Chernobyl-like meltdown. It would come from a spill that could get into groundwater, but the facility and equipment would be fortified to contain such a spill. "You would need an asteroid to crack it open," he said.

Piefer believes Phoenix has several strategic advantages: it does not require a nuclear reactor, which means fewer regulatory hurdles, and it would cost $50 million to $80 million, whereas a nuclear reactor can cost upwards of $1 billion. "We've talked to people at the Department of Energy," he said. "They think the concept can work."


Jason Adamany, 35

Founder/President, Adesys

Born: Prairie du Chien, Wis.

At 35, Jason Adamany already has been a driving force in community and business. He wasted no time starting his own IT services company as he completed his information services degree from UW-Madison. He served as president of the Fitchburg Chamber of Commerce, where he organized a charity golf tournament to benefit Joining Forces for Families, a social service organization, and he led a business revolt against a proposed transportation tax. If that weren't enough, Adesys now has customers in 17 states and in Mexico, providing IT services to clients and pro bono services to nonprofit organizations.


Jamin Arn, 33

President/Owner, Office Pro/Used But Nice Office Furniture

Born: Janesville, Wis.

Jamin Arn is doing well for a high school drop out, managing Office Pro and Used But Nice Office Furniture. His career has bounced between Wisconsin and Henderson, Ky., where he eventually earned a high school diploma, but his entrepreneurial spirit has endured no matter where he hangs his hat. Arn has run several businesses, dabbled in sales, and run for the Janesville City Council. Not bad for a guy who once barely had enough to make rent: "I locked myself in for a few months, read every motivational and leadership book I could, and set out to do more with my life."


Justin Beck, 22

CEO, PerBlue

Born: Madison, Wis.

Justin Beck's official title is CEO, but it should be "fireman." As chief executive for PerBlue, a mobile-gaming company, he puts out fires all day (welcome to the world of management) in addition to leading strategic vision, marketing, and creative production personnel. Beck, just 22, bootstrapped PerBlue after double majoring in computer science and computer engineering at UW-Madison and working for technology icons like Microsoft and Google. Along the way, he's traveled extensively, taken up motorcycling and poker, and partnered with Google to build a company that serves 80,000 players, employs seven, and turned a profit within two years of its inception.


Dale Beerman, 29

Co-founder, Sharendipity

Born: Ithaca, N.Y.

Software architect Dale Beermann is serial about entrepreneurship. Just 29, he's already launched several companies, including Sharendipity, which provides a Web-based software development platform that enables even the technically challenged to create interactive Internet applications. Beermann, the owner of bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science, also co-founded Propel Wisconsin Innovation to change Madison's culture of entrepreneurship. "I want this to be a place where we're congratulated when we leave a regular job to start a new endeavor, rather than questioned and criticized."


Carrie Benz, 35

SVP - Business Services & Development, Summit Credit Union

Born: Chicago, Ill.

In this era of tight credit, Carrie Benz is logically an activist in what she calls the "credit union movement." Benz, who turns 36 this month, has helped lead the growth at Summit Credit Union (formerly State Capitol Employees Credit Union), which now has 20 locations and $1.4 billion in assets. At Summit, she has been immersed in merger due diligence, business services, and rate setting, but her other passions are the spread of financial literacy with Project Money, plus music and creative cooking. In the business world, she admires entrepreneur Josie Pradella, founder of Wisconsin Partners for Sustainability and a green advocate who has been a driving force behind Dane Buy Local.


Brian Berquist, 31

Senior Project Engineer, Town & Country Engineering

Born: Lansing, Mich

New father Brian Berquist dreams of running his own engineering firm, but in a community where more young people hunt for opportunities to serve. As senior project engineer for Town and Country Engineering, he sees few decision makers among his peers, he sees that most local officials are within 10 years of retiring, and he wonders who will fill their shoes — not a trivial concern for a company that has captured 60% of the county's municipal wastewater engineering market. Berquist, who enjoys marathons and traveling with wife Jilaine, serves the community through United Way's Rosenberry Society.


Jennifer Braun, 38

Executive Director, Coventry Village Retirement Community

Born: Milwaukee, Wis.

At 39, Jennifer Braun won't be in need of a retirement community anytime soon, but she's happy to oversee operations of Coventry Village, which is home to 200 residents. With bachelor's and master's degrees in rehabilitation psychology from UW-Madison, the mother of two started her career by helping Sebring Assisted Care Residence grow from a start up, and she welcomes the chance to return to school, complete a Ph.D program, and teach in the field of geriatrics. She'd also like to master golf, which she plays with husband Chris, but her favorite "me" time is getting lost in a good book.


Nathan Brinkman, 37

President, Triumph Wealth Management

Born: South Dakota

To say these are challenging times for wealth managers would be an understatement, but Nathan Brinkman began by helping the family business avoid costly mistakes, and now he's applying that to investing.

Professionally, he has become a top advisor for a Future 200 firm, but his personal passions include coaching his children's sports teams, fund-raising for Madison Children's Museum, and making Madison stronger through volunteerism. "We are a vibrant city with a lot of great ideas," said Brinkman, a UW-Whitewater grad. But he adds, "Bureaucracy is beginning to get a stranglehold here."


Marina Dupler, 28

Public Affairs Associate, Martin Schreiber & Associates

Born: Marinette, Wis.

Marina Duper's role with Martin Schreiber & Associates allows her to make a difference at work and in the community. Her specialties are writing, policy research, and client development; her writing skills came in handy in preparing a successful grant to build a playground at a nursing home so children could visit elderly relatives. Dupler, who oversees employees in the firm's MS&A Intern Program, prefers projects that she considers to be "stretch assignments." It's not a stretch to say she's a cat lover, given her volunteer work with the Humane Society's Cat Foster Parent program, which involves caring for cats that aren't quite ready for adoption.


Jennifer Engel, 34

Account Executive, Access Information Mgmt

Born: Burlington, Wis.

In an age of strict compliance standards and audits, Jennifer Engel provides a different sort of business insurance — with Access Information Management, she helps client companies manage their paper and digital document assets. In addition to her work, Engel, who turns 35 this month, has a lot of loves: husband Kevin, dinner parties with pals, and connecting with nature. But having lost over 100 pounds, she derives a great sense of accomplishment from things she's not compensated for, such as serving as one of nine national spokeswomen for the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign.


Jonathan Fritz, 32

Partner, Michael Best & Friedrich

Born: Whitefish Bay, Wis.

As an intellectual property attorney, Jonathan Fritz has a knack for aiding entrepreneurs in law and through his advocacy of business-friendly public policies. Fritz, president-elect of the Wisconsin Intellectual Law Association, has degrees in bioinformatics from the Medical College of Wisconsin and in law from Hamline University, and he's a frequent presenter on intellectual property topics at venues such as the UW-Madison Law School. The person he would most like to emulate is a local business leader: Mark Bugher, director of University Research Park and chairman of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce.


Andy Gundlach, 33

Owner, Anytime Fitness

Born: Madison, Wis.

When it comes to fitness, Andy Gundlach walks the walk. Or is that jogs the jog? Gundlach not only owns nine 24-hour Anytime Fitness centers in Dane County, he lists working out as one of his hobbies — along with family time and traveling. And the one-time Pizza Hut restaurant manager is not just any operator; he was Anytime's runner up "Operator of the Year" in 2009, outperforming all but one other national Anytime Fitness owner in terms of customer service, marketing, and the development of would-be managers. An advocate of a more business-friendly environment, it should come as no surprise that Gundlach lists U.S. Senate candidate Terrence Wall, chief executive of T. Wall Properties, as a person he would like to emulate. Gundlach would do just that if he meets his stated goal: to grow his operation to 20 locations within the next five years.


Nathan Herbst, 34

President, WTS Paradigm

Born: Brookfield, Wis.

Nathan Herbst is 100% entrepreneur, right down to his role models: Bruce Neviaser, who he describes as the ultimate entrepreneur and risk taker; the founders of and; the analytically skilled Dan Olszewski of UW-Madison's Weinert Center; and U.S. Senate candidate Terrence Wall of T. Wall Properties. Herbst is well on his way to becoming an entrepreneurial role model himself with WTS Paradigm, a Middleton software company serving the fenestration industry, and a fatherly role model with three sons. Speaking of family time, Herbst and wife Sarah lead the family's service to Middleton Outreach Ministry, where they are in their fifth year of delivering bread for the needy.


Keith Hoffman, 34

Director of Marketing, IMS

Born: Edgar, Wis.

Keith Hoffman is proud of taking risks when the opportunities present themselves, but when you've learned about business and personal persistence from the likes of former Berbee chieftain Paul Shain, now heading Singlewire Software, they usually are calculated risks. By day, Hoffman, a UW-Eau Claire graduate, forms marketing plans for IMS, a Web site management and e-mail marketing firm, but some day he plans to run his own Web development and marketing enterprise. By night, he serves Habitat for Humanity, Accelerate Madison, and youth football and soccer. Another of his passions is producing a fantasy football podcast and operating the Fantasy Sports Channel on Blog Talk Radio.


Todd Hoffmaster, 29

Integrated Construction Coordinator, Mortenson Construction

Born: Mount Horeb, Wis.

In his youth, Todd Hoffmaster liked the sport of wrestling, and he was good enough to have the rare opportunity to travel to international competitions with select groups of young wrestlers. With Mortenson Construction, the 12-time state wrestling champ has grappled with the virtual design construction process of Greater Madison's most prominent building project, the $165 million Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. Hoffmaster, who earned a bachelor's degree in architecture, construction, and management from the University of Minnesota, is an expert in the software needed to model large, complicated buildings like the institutes, a 300,000-square-foot interdisciplinary research center that opens in December of 2010.


Dennis Johnson, 39

Senior Vice President, Associated Bank

Born: Milwaukee, Wis.

Dennis Johnson manages multiple Associated Bank locations, and some of his proudest accomplishments come when he helps others leverage their natural talents. Someday he would like to build his own business coaching practice, and he's had some good mentors to emulate. Johnson especially admires the leadership of former bank exec Londa Dewey, which he saw up close as he began his career in financial services. He is an active person, citing ice hockey as one of his hobbies, and his civic mindedness runs the gamut from the Gay-Straight Alliance for Safe Schools, to Girls on the Run of Dane County, to the Junior League of Madison.


Jake Johnson, 35

Owner/Producer, Paradyme Productions

Born: Fitchburg, Mass.

Jake Johnson may be from the "other Fitchburg," the one in Massachusetts, but he's right at home in Greater Madison. As the leader of Paradyme Productions, an audio production and custom music business, he's living large with with the recording studio voted as Madison's best in 2007 and 2008. Johnson, who has a bachelor's degree in marketing from UW-Madison, plans to build his business by establishing more long-lasting relationships with U.S. entertainment and advertising companies. When he's not making music, he enjoys the melody of spouse Jodie and the energy of two sons. He volunteers for the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, and gifts money to a variety of charities. He also had the privilege of serving as Bucky Badger, the UW's sassy mascot, which enabled him to travel around the country for four years.


James Kademan, 33

Founder/Owner, Doc Jams Printer Repair

Born: Cedar Falls, Iowa

James Kademan, owner of Doc Jams Printer Repair, has a fascination with speed. His hobbies — classic cars, racing, and motorcycling — certainly indicate a need for speed, and his professional life began by following the path of least resistance. He changed course when he realized that life as an auto mechanic was too mundane. After a few forks in the road, he took a job repairing laser printers and became a client favorite. Doc James Printer Repair was born the day he left his last job, and he hasn't looked back. Thanks in part to support from wife Robyn, he earned a rare PDI+ certification and techs now turn to him for advice.


Elena Khasanova, 30

IT Security Project Manager, CUNA Mutual Group

Born: Ufa, Russia

For Elena Khasanova, its been a long trip from her native Russia to Madison, but her education helped her go places. With an undergrad degree in applied math and computer science from Bashkir State University, she migrated to UW-Madison to earn her MBA and now leads CUNA Mutual's most strategically impactful IT security projects, which are deployed simultaneously in multiple geographic regions. Perhaps her on-the-move story — she left Russia six years ago with a few hundred dollars and a backpack — explains her enjoyment of competitive racing, whether it's cycling, running, or cross-country skiing.


Mike Kollath, 39

President, Kollath & Associates CPA

Born: Monmouth, N.J.

For Mike Kollath, the downside of running the Madison Marathon was not being able to walk for a week, but the discipline of training for 18 weeks was definitely part of the reward. As president of the CPA firm Kollath & Associates, he helps small businesses navigate their own type of marathon, and he gets inspiration from the energy of local bank exec Tom Dott. When Kollath, a UW-Whitewater grad, is not providing tax advice or in training, he's into volleyball, gardening, serving as volunteer treasurer for the Henry Vilas Zoological Society, and spending time with his family and Bernese Mountain dog.


Marechiel Santos-Lang, 38

Executive Director, Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce

Born: Davao City, The Philippines

For Marechiel Santos-Lang, bringing together community and businesses through the Oregon Chamber of Commerce was quite an achievement, and she's looking to build on it. The Oregon Chamber, an early adopter of Thrive's regional principles of collaboration, has 200 members strong, and Santos-Lang envisions the day when towns in Greater Madison are connected with public transportation and Madison is rebranded to include its unique surrounding communities. She plans to aid this while cheerleading at her (4) children's extra curriculars, and ballroom dancing with hubby Christopher.


Tim Laughlin, 40

President/CEO, Wave Wind, LLC

Born: Oconomowoc, Wis.

Tim Laughlin, who was 39 at the time of his 40 under 40 selection, isn't too old to appreciate the merits of green energy. As the chief exec of Wave Wind, a Sun Prairie business that develops and maintains small- to mid-sized wind farms, he leads a company that is on the vanguard of securing America's energy future. The former Marine would love to see Madison adopt a better renewable program, setting an example by renovating old buildings on a larger scale and replacing them with eco-friendly industrial parks. His hobbies — exercise, organic food, and gardening — also are aligned with building a healthier future.


Josh Lavik, 31

Residential Realtor, Stark Company Realtors

Born: Madison, Wis.

In this economy, one might think a career in residential real estate isn't exactly a happening gig, but Josh Lavik was part of a Stark Co. team that managed to sell $6.4 million of residential properties in 2008, which was enough to bring the team into the upper levels of Stark agents. Lavik, who has a bachelor's degree in biology from Lawrence University, likes to defy the odds and revels in unique experiences. He became one of the state's best high school wrestlers in his weight class, worked the fall harvest season for Robert Mondavi Winery in California, and used his interest in rock climbing to help raise $24,000 for Cystic Fibrosis in the "Climb for Cure." He also likes to join the club, listing membership in Madison MAGNET, Leadership Greater Madison, and Downtown Madison, and he looks forward to creating memories with new bride Jenna.


Beau Lee, 28

President, Better Butler & MusicWorks

Born: Chicago, Ill.

"A good business entrepreneur must also be a talented social entrepreneur," according to Beau Lee, a student of organizational leadership. Toward that end, he founded the Madison Entrepreneurs Club, which he describes as an aggressive and competition-friendly business networking group, and he started the Juice Network, an opportunity for young adult Christians to network with people who share their values. Lee, a singer-songwriter who composes music and poetry, gets juiced up about being an entrepreneur with Better Butler and with MusicWorks, a new studio offering instruction in voice, piano, guitar, bass, music theory, and composition.


Sterling Lynk, 30

Department Manager - Workforce & Economic Development Services, Urban League of Madison

Born: Madison, Wis.

2009 was a banner year for the Urban League of Greater Madison, and Sterling Lynk was excited to be part of it. The League opened the Center for Economic and Workforce Development, and successfully completed a $4.1 million campaign. Link, who oversees job training and placement programming for the organization, is always looking to make an impact, as he does as president of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a non-partisan group that would like people to have more influence than money. He'd also like to see Madison become an entrepreneurial hotbed, especially for minority businesses.


Dustin Maher, 26

Founder/Owner, Dustin Maher Fitness

Born: Monticello, Minn.

Dustin Maher may be the founder of his own fitness company, but his title is "America's Trainer to Moms." He knew at the age of 21 that he wanted to empower people to be the healthiest and fittest they could be, but didn't think the personal trainer model was cutting it. He wanted to provide a service that 90% of people in Madison could afford, including single moms, grad students, and families on one income. As a result, his business grew 300% in the first year, proof positive that he's put to good use his UW-Madison degree in kinesiology exercise science. His ultimate goal is to transform the lives of 1 million American moms.


Lisa Marcinkus, 31

Sales Executive, HumanaOne

Born: Marquette, Mich.

As a frequent traveler, Lisa Marcinkus is getting close to channeling Johnny Cash — "I've been everywhere, man" — but she still has a few places she'd like to visit, such as Europe. Then again, when you qualify for Humana One's President's Club three years in a row, selling over $2.5 million in premiums in 2009 alone and being named "Sales Person of the Year," and you are asked to recruit and train new agents, your career is making tracks, too. In addition to hitting the road, Marcinkus loves to cook, especially when entertaining friends, and you might also catch her working out, at the movies, home remodeling, or volunteering at Dawg Dayz, a local daycare/kennel.


Scott Mickelson, 39

Managing Member, Scott E. Mickelson, Attorney at Law, LLC

Born: Milwaukee, Wis.

Scott Mickelson has been flying solo as an attorney for some time, but the 1995 UW-Madison law graduate has never really been a solo act. Mickelson took an early interest in performing magic, staging his first shows at age 8 for public libraries, schools, and scouting groups (with a little help from his family, especially grandma). He still performs magic as Scott the Great and Company, but he also likes to make some magic for his business and same-sex law clients, and for organizations like the Business Alliance (Greater Madison's LGBT Chamber of Commerce), where he serves on the board.


Stephan Nickels, 36

Senior Counsel, Foley & Lardner

Born: Manitowoc, Wis.

Stephan Nickels likes to apply his Marquette University law degree to rewarding work. Mentored by Foley and Lardner's Allen Arntsen, he showed his legal chops when, at trial, he helped preserve a land-and-cash gift to the UW Richland Campus Foundation that is now used for research and teaching purposes. Nickels is an avid cyclist who was an all-state track-and-field athlete in high school, but family, including seven-year-old daughter Mackenzie, is his top priority. Service to ministries at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish isn't far behind, and he also gives back by teaching trial advocacy at the UW Law School.


Erin Ogden, 32

Attorney, Murphy Desmond

Born: Platteville, Wis.

To Erin Ogden, gray hair is not a prerequisite to quality legal work, so don't let her relative youth fool you. Inspired by role model and intellectual property attorney Teresa Welch, who toils at a rival firm no less, Ogden advises clients on complex intellectual property matters, including patents, trademarks, and copyright. She never wants to stop learning, which her educational background reflects. After earning a bachelor's degree in genetics from UW-Madison, it was off to Chicago and the Kent College of Law, and then back to UW for a master's degree in dairy science. She also wants to help others learn by serving on the board of the Literacy Network, and she volunteers for those who defend us through the Madison Veteran's Project.


Rebecca Orvick, 37

Attorney, Axley Brynelson

Born: Ames, Iowa

Rebecca Orvick has leveraged a bachelor's degree in international relations and a law degree from UW-Madison into a legal career, but she's more than an aspiring partner at a local firm. She's part entrepreneur, having co-founded Hound Huddle, a doggie day care, and she's part philanthropist, having co-founded By Women For Women, an annual golf outing for the Madison affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. She not only hopes to help save women's lives by continuing to build the golf tournament, she wants more women to get the entrepreneurial bug; the connections women make at the golf tournament can aid that process.


Rachel Rasmussen, 34

Owner/Founder, Rescue Desk, LLC

Born: Two Rivers, Wis.

For a college grad with degrees in journalism and political science (UW-Eau Claire), Rachel Rasmussen appears to be more entrepreneurial than political. Her company provides virtual executive assistance to small business owners and executives, and she's active in The Small Business Advisory Council and soon will serve on the board of The Business Forum. Along the way, she's been nominated for the Athena Young Professional Award, and she has co-founded the Wisconsin Virtual Assistant Network. She's not all work, however, because her hobbies include photography and hiking and camping with her outdoorsy canine.


Sean Robbins, 31

Executive Vice President, Thrive, Inc.

Born: Brookfield, Wis.

Although it came in a losing effort, Sean Robbins, formerly of T. Wall Properties, is proud of his work with the Madison Central Library project. A competing bid won out, but Robbins said the way T. Wall collaborated with the competition ensured that a 21st Century cultural institution remained the first and foremost priority. Now Robbins oversees the strategic direction of Thrive, which was established to grow the regional economy. With degrees from the University of Iowa and UW-Madison, he's well equipped to do so, but he also had what it took to backpack, as a teen, for 12 days through Maroon Bells Wilderness Area in Colorado.


Scott Stevenson, 39

President/CEO, KleenMark

Born: Madison, Wis.

Scott Stevenson, who turns 40 on March 5, believes the key to running a successful venture is aligning yourself with folks who are smarter than you, make sure they are in the right position, and then get out of the way. A former WalMart employee who got to shake Sam Walton's hand and get a glimpse of the human side of leadership, his proudest achievement with Kleenmark was to host an all-employee picnic (with spouses and kids) of more than 200 workers — just like Walton used to do. Closer to home, he tries to emulate the civic mindedness of the Goodman brothers, and he'd like to grow Kleenmark into a strong regional company.


Rob Uhrina, 39

VP-Marketing and Communications, Wisconsin Realtors Association

Born: Chicago, Ill.

Business growth is nothing new to Rob Uhrina, a former manager at Sonic Foundry, now Sony Creative. At the old Sonic Foundry, five products under his direction — including Vega Video, a video-editing tool, and ACID, a suite of music-creation tools — set retail sales records. With the Wisconsin Realtors Association, a statewide trade organization, the metrics are a bit different, but they still involve growth — the strategic growth of its marketing programs. The Western Illinois grad still aspires to innovate in the technology realm, having established an award-winning Web site and the first online distance learning program for the continuing education of realtors.


Rob Weise, 35

Senior Project Manager, Mortenson Construction

Born: Wausau, Wis.

Rob Weise is accustomed to big jobs. He's managed various construction projects totaling more than $500 million in multiple market sectors, and served as senior project manager on the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. Having passed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design exam in 2009, he's now the senior project manager on the Wisconsin Energy Institutes' project, which will break ground this year in Madison. With wife Sarah and two sons, he also builds family (including construction fun with Legos, of course), and he unwinds with Badger sports, snowmobiling, fast-pitch softball, and hunting.


C.J. Werley, 33

Real Estate Broker, Lee & Associates

Born: Coshocton, Ohio

When C.J. Werley represents a commercial real estate client, he can get down and dirty. One time, he even shed his professional clothes for a hammer and nails and worked on the negotiated tenant improvements at no cost to either party. The Kent State grad hopes to lease two million square feet of office space (or more) by the time he's 40; in the spirit of Make A Wish, he would like to start a charitable organization that anonymously provides kids with divorced parents an unfulfilled dream. His philanthropic streak already benefits the Huntington's Disease Walk for a Cure, and his zest for fitness has been on display in several Ironman competitions.


Kristin Wild, 25

Proprietor, Atticus Shop, LLC

Born: Black River Falls, Wis.

For Kristin Wild, operating a retail store in a devastating recession has represented both challenge and achievement. With Atticus Shop, she sells contemporary designer apparel, accessories, and apothecary products to men and women, but today's economic conditions have forced her to become a more diligent, creative, and extremely hands-on business owner. She has some role models to use as a guide, including former retailer Susan Schmitz, now president of Downtown Madison, Inc. Outside the retail world, she enjoys simple pleasures like running and the outdoors near her family's home in northern Wisconsin.


Aileen Zhang, 22

VP-Business Development, Web Courseworks

Born: Lanzhou, China

Aileen Zhang was born in the People's Republic of China. After earning a degree in economics from Duke University, she has migrated to what some call the People's Republic of Madison. After turning down opportunities that would have led her to San Francisco, New York, or Washington, she concedes that coming to Madison, where she loves the Farmer's Market and running with her dog, was the right decision. Zhang is responsible for new business development at Web Courseworks, and was recruited to double (or even triple) revenue over the next few years. A tall order, but anything is possible for her. Since moving to the Capitol City, one of her hobbies is watching football with her boyfriend, who, against all odds, has turned her into a Packers fan.

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