How Did You Do That?

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.

Mitch Teich

A chemistry whiz who grew up in Poland, Michael Major left his job as a tenured professor when he was in his early 30s to immigrate to Milwaukee for a job as a chemist at Aldrich Chemical. Two years later, in 1992, he moved to Cambridge Chemical, where he rose to vice president of research and development. When Cambridge Chemical’s owner passed away, leaving his widow with all the equity in the company, it underlined for Michael what would eventually become a life-changing reality: he needed to start his own business.

How Craig Dickman Used Entrepreneurship To Solve Real Problems

Jan 22, 2019
Mitch Teich

Craig Dickman got his first computer, a Radio Shack TRS-80, in 1977. That purchase, a few coding classes and a lot of self-teaching (combined with two business degrees), sparked a career that landed Craig a job at Schneider National Inc., one of Wisconsin's biggest companies.

How Todd Dunsirn Grew His Company From The Ground Up

Dec 22, 2018

Todd Dunsirn grew up in an entrepreneurial family. His grandfather, father and brothers have all started and owned their own businesses. So, it was no surprise when, two years after graduating from UWM with a mechanical engineering degree, Dunsirn decided corporate jobs weren’t for him. The fourth startup he founded, called True Process, was the one that would lead to a big payday.

Todd started True Process in 2004 and after 14 years running the business he sold it in two parts to two different global companies this year.

How Ed Ward Created The World's Largest Celtic Festival In Milwaukee

Nov 19, 2018
Milwaukee Irish Fest /

Editor's note: This interview with Ed Ward first aired in Nov. of 2019. Ward died on Oct. 13, 2019 at the age of 74.

Ed Ward has experience in the Peace Corps, the military, politics, law and investing, but it's in the not-for-profit world that he made his mark as a successful entrepreneur.

From Musician To Experiential Marketing: Entrepreneur Gary Reynolds

Oct 22, 2018
GMR Marketing

Gary Reynolds started out as a musician, left for the West Coast to try songwriting, then followed his entrepreneurial instincts back to Wisconsin. His idea of connecting emerging bands with big company sponsors got him his first client, Miller Brewing. His idea of using his band support network of 300 representatives on campuses across the country to market tech products got him his second client, Apple Inc.

Entrepreneur Sue Marks On How Companies Can Win In The War For Talent

Sep 17, 2018

From a very young age, Sue Marks has valued entrepreneurship and a strong work ethic.

After her grandparents immigrated from Germany in 1919 with nothing, her grandfather built a life for them in Milwaukee as the owner of a small printing business.

Sue married at 19 and finished college at night, earning a BS in Business Administration from Marquette University. Like her grandfather, she never stopped working.

From Health Care To Hospitality: Entrepreneur Kyle Weatherly

Aug 27, 2018
Frontdesk LLC

Kyle Weatherly took over his mother’s compression garment business in 2006, grew it by 30 percent a year and sold it 10 years later — all without a relevant degree. In fact, he started out wanting to be a lawyer. Solaris had five employees when Kyle started and 120 employees when it was acquired by Lohmann & Rauscher International GmbH & Co., a European conglomerate of medical device and product companies.

Laurie Benson, Co-Founder of Inacom Information Systems

Jul 17, 2018

Laurie Benson was trained as a nurse, but when she recognized in the early 1980s the impending importance of technology to businesses, she co-founded a tech startup.

Entrepreneur Paul Schueller Believes in 'Learning, Not Lamenting'

Jun 19, 2018

Paul Schueller was interested in energy and environmental issues as a young boy in Port Washington and was lucky enough to get into that area as a pipeline construction engineer at Wisconsin Electric. He left the utility to form his own consulting firm, then in 1994 founded Franklin Energy, a Port Washington company that operates energy-saving programs for customers of utilities. Franklin does everything from running rebate programs for purchases of energy-saving light bulbs to performing energy audits for large corporations.

John Byrnes: The Business of Investing in Businesses

May 30, 2018
Mason Wells photo

John Byrnes spent decades building companies – his own and others’. After running the private equity group at Marshall & Ilsley bank for 15 years, he managed its spinout into a new private equity firm. Under John’s oversight, Mason Wells raised three funds, the last reaching $525 million. New Mason Wells leaders have gone on to raise a fourth, $615 million fund.

Food Finance Institute

A quest to find a use for whey produced as a byproduct of organic cheese making drove Tera Johnson to create Wisconsin Specialty Protein, maker of Tera’s Whey nutritional protein powder, which sold in 2012 to Omega Protein for $26.5 million.

Chicken Feed, Probiotics and Staying Ahead of the Agri-Tech Curve

Mar 19, 2018

After getting his PhD in food microbiology from Iowa State, Tom Rehberger took a research-oriented faculty position in Oklahoma State’s animal science department. There he met critical collaborators with whom he discovered that introducing certain friendly bacteria into cows’ stomachs kept them from getting a potentially fatal form of nitrate toxicity, known as chocolate blood syndrome.

That discovery set Tom on a commercial path and gave him Milwaukee connections because Phar-More Biochemical, the company that helped fund that first startup, was based here.