How Did You Do That?

How Robert Jordan Went From Truck Driver To Entrepreneur

Aug 28, 2020
Photo courtesy of Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan spent 20 years as a trucker, driving loads of cheese and other dairy products across the country. Over the miles he educated himself by listening to books on tape and spent hours thinking about how to solve some of the problems he encountered on the road.

One of those problems was the enormous cost and environmental damage related to idling, when truckers run their engines all night at truck stops and rest areas to warm or cool their cab while they sleep.

How Ralph Kauten Leans Into Life Sciences Market Trends

Jul 28, 2020
Courtesy of Ralph Kauten

Ralph Kauten is a true serial entrepreneur. He co-founded two life sciences companies that sold for a combined $200-plus million and was involved very early in three more. The biggest of those, Promega, has about $450 million of revenue and operations around the world.

Image courtesy of Loren Peterson

Loren Peterson’s path to a successful startup company began on a Nebraska farm. It was a half-mile from the nearest neighbor, 1 mile from where his Swedish ancestors homesteaded, and several miles from the closest town of 600 people. He spent a lot of time hanging out with his two siblings, stacking hay and irrigating cornfields in 100-degree heat, and reading books from the school library and the Bookmobile.

How James Phelps Grew His Own Construction Company

Mar 2, 2020
JCP Construction

James Phelps thought about starting his own business for a long time. He turned the idea over and over in his mind while: learning about the trades at Milwaukee Tech, working in the Milwaukee Public School district's facilities department, rehabbing houses on the side, getting his undergraduate degree in finance and finishing a commercial real estate certificate program.

How Lori Hoch Abandoned A Successful Law Career To Run A Startup

Jan 16, 2020
Courtesy of Lori Hoch

Lori Hoch graduated first in her class from University of Southern California law school, worked at two of Milwaukee’s biggest law firms, then became in-house counsel for the trust department of Wisconsin’s largest bank. She was on track for a comfortable corporate legal career.

Then four money managers who were starting their own firm asked if she'd be willing to give them some advice. At the first meeting they asked a whole lot of questions about setting up the new company. At the second meeting they had a few more. Then came the big one: Would she run the firm?

How Jerry Jendusa Changed The Way Airplane Cabins Are Lit

Dec 19, 2019
Courtesy of Jerry Jendusa


Jerry Jendusa grew up working in the Waukesha pharmacy his dad operated for 33 years. It was there where he learned about being a business owner and having employees, customers, and a work ethic. So it was no surprise that Jendusa had the entrepreneurial itch. The surprise was the industry in which he chose to start his business.

Elucent Medical

After graduating from the University of California, Davis with an economics degree, Laura King got a job in finance at General Electric (GE). She rose quickly through the ranks, and after a series of high-level jobs she was promoted to run GE Healthcare’s $1.2 billion interventional cardiology and surgery business. She also became an officer of the corporation.

It was there at the top that King began to question whether there was a better way to satisfy her passion for clinical innovation.

How Justin Beck Built A Mobile Game Studio That Partners With Disney

Oct 28, 2019
Courtesy of Justin Beck

When Google and Microsoft came calling with the type of jobs many young computer engineering graduates look for, Justin Beck turned them down. The 2009 graduate of UW-Madison wanted to stay in town and build the gaming studio PerBlue, which he started with his business partner, Andrew Hansen.

Tierney /

A native of Bombay, India, Jignesh Patel never touched a computer until he went to college. But he knew that computer science was an exciting area where a lot was happening, so he chose it as his major.

How Craig Culver Built A Thriving Restaurant Chain

Aug 27, 2019
Courtesy of Craig Culver

After years of working day and night in his family’s businesses, Craig Culver decided he wanted to get out of the restaurant industry. But a four-year stint at McDonald’s corporate headquarters — first as a management trainee, then store manager — got him interested again.

How A Wisconsin Spine Surgeon Became A Successful Entrepreneur

Jul 23, 2019
Titan Spine

Pete Ullrich was a young spine surgeon in Neenah, Wis., who wasn’t satisfied with the available tools. So he came up with a new one: a titanium spacer to put between vertebrae during spinal fusion surgery.

"We really thought we saw an opportunity for an unmet market need," notes Ullrich. "And another thing is I knew nobody else was going to do this, and the patients were doing significantly better."

How Andy Nunemaker Went From Corporate Executive To Serial Entrepreneur

Jun 27, 2019
Tim Keane

Milwaukee native Andy Nunemaker studied electrical engineering and business at some of our country’s top universities and held high-level jobs at two of its biggest companies. He got an undergraduate degree at Valparaiso and a master's degree at Georgia Tech, both in electrical engineering.

After running major operations for GE Healthcare, first in Australia and New Zealand, then for all of Southeast Asia, Andy was deep into a career as a very successful corporate executive. But then came a moment when he was presented with a life-changing decision.

How Kevin Conroy Transformed Exact Sciences With Three Guiding Principles

May 28, 2019
kwanchaift /

After successfully growing and steering the $582 million sale of Madison-based Third Wave Technologies, Kevin Conroy went looking for another company to run. He found Exact Sciences — a struggling, publicly traded Massachusetts company with a DNA-based test for colon cancer that hadn’t been approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

How Mike Harris Jumped From No. 2 Job To Successful Entrepreneur

Apr 22, 2019
Harris Advisors

Mike Harris was a middle-class kid from Racine with no family history of entrepreneurship. He played it safe at UW-Parkside by studying accounting, then got a job as an auditor with Ernst & Young and became a Certified Public Accountant. However Mike’s appetite for risk grew when he got a job at Wind Point Partners, the venture capital fund led by the Johnson Wax family at the time.

How CEO Bob Atwell Created One Of Wisconsin's Largest Banks

Mar 25, 2019
Nicolet National Bank/Facebook

Bob Atwell’s critical career decisions can be summed up in one word: contrarian.

Unlike most of his classmates at Yale School of Management, Bob came back to the Midwest to find work. Secure in a coveted commercial lending job at a big Milwaukee financial institution, Bob decided he would rather be in a smaller town at a smaller bank. At that smaller bank in a smaller town, Bob found a stable job with a great deal of responsibility. Then, despite having 10 kids and an 11th on the way, Bob quit.