Features

Power Up

Get to know the 2018 (Real) Power 50 honorees

Electrical systems include reactive power and real power. Reactive power transfers no net worth of energy — it’s watt-less. Real power, on the other hand, is actual energy converted to useful work. The same could be said of this year’s (Real) Power 50 honorees. These are the women and men to turn to when you need to get things done. They are bettering the community, shaping the business world and making a difference.

They are powering Minnesota. 

Hillary Feder
Melvin Tennant
Ling Becker
Wendi Breuer
Kayla Picciano
Jennifer Bielstein
Brian McClung
Laura Boyd
Erin Procko
Eric Taipale
Amy Langer
Chris Carlisle
Nicole Middendorf
Liz Collin
Marcus Owens
Chanda Smith Baker
Greg Cunningham
Susan Bass Roberts
Dana Nelson
Lisa Christianson
Krista Carroll
Scott Litman
Jennifer Laible
R.T. Rybak
Paul Batz
Lou Nanne
Beth Miller
Liz Ross
Molly Jungbauer
Jennifer Olson
Susan Denk
B. Kyle
John H. Stout
Ben Aase
Melissa Kjolsing Lynch
Jennifer Halcrow
Jeff Prouty
Gloria Perez
Dr. Rebecca S. Hage Thomley
Pam Kosanke
Danielle Steer
Matt Norman
Sadiq Abdirahman
Lani Basa
Bo Thao-Urabe
Karrie Willis
Sally Sullivan Mainquist
Jen Ford Reedy

Hillary Feder

President/Founder, Hillary’s LLC

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? The power of poof! To shift how people (leaders, managers, front line employees, clients, board of directors) approach change. People hang on to what they “know” and resist change. If I could “Poof” people into the desired new environment — one that values humanity — I would use this super power.

Morning routine: Up at 5. Every day starts with activity to ensure well-being and a positive mindset. Some days this includes strength training and some days it is up and out. Five minutes of journaling — starting the day by reminding myself what I am grateful for, what needs to be accomplished to make the day successful solidifies my thinking and keeps me focused. Breakfast (most important meal of the day) Apple cider vinegar elixir and banana protein muffin. Office between 6:30-7 a.m. — getting to the office before my team arrives and phones start ringing (around 9 a.m.) allows me exponential productive time and I always work on the most complex stuff.

Favorite quote? Make people who matter feel like they matter. 

Melvin Tennant

CAE, President and CEO, Meet Minneapolis

A snapshot of me:

  • Marketing Minneapolis, as a destination, is exciting. My team members and I work to ensure that Minneapolis fulfills the vision of becoming the destination of choice! 
  • I get tremendous satisfaction from being able to convince an organization’s decision-maker to entrust us with their event — like Super Bowl LII. 
  • I expect many other organizations will continue to do the same. More events to our community mean more jobs!

Your morning routine? My goal is always to rise at 5 a.m., sometimes earlier if I’m anxious about the day’s agenda. I review my calendar to get a feel for the topics and projects that will require my attention. I then prepare a small breakfast for my wife that she enjoys as we read a morning devotional. I then go tell our sleeping grandson that Paw Paw loves him and that I’ll see him later.
I gather up my backpack, gym bag and maybe a snack, and I’m out the door. 
 
Favorite quote? “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Ling Becker

Executive Director, Vadnais Heights Economic Development Corporation

A snapshot of me:

  • I have parents who sacrificed everything and immigrated to the United States when I was 5 years old. 
  • As a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, I grew in my passion for service and worked on building bridges between private/public sectors. 
  • I’ve worked in private consulting and state/local government. I took several years to focus on my kids and now, to transition back to work, make a difference, and grow my current organization is rewarding. 
  • I am passionate about building community connections. Economic development is the perfect sphere for me. Creating and maintaining economic vitality is hinged on cultivating and activating connections. 

What’s your morning routine? I love the morning! I rarely use an alarm. Nothing beats the stillness of being the first one up for a couple of hours. Grab some coffee, some quiet or exercise time, jot down the three must-dos for the day, have some more coffee and get started on anything that I’d rather put off! 

What’s your business motto? Be a yes person. Yes, I care about what you are facing. Yes, I can do that for you. Yes, I can help you. And if I can’t, I will find someone who can. 
 

Wendi Breuer

CEO, SeaChange

A snapshot of me:

  • I’m the CEO of SeaChange, the largest WBENC-certified, women-owned and -led commercial printing company in Minnesota. 
  • I have a naturally inquisitive disposition and a passion for the changing print industry. 
  • I also have a passion for helping others including volunteering and mentoring young women whenever I have the opportunity. 

Biggest issue the business world is facing today? As the manufacturing sector has shrunk in our country, it’s increasingly challenging to attract young, vibrant employees into a field like printing. Millennials have different goals and expectations than previous generations, and for the first time we will soon have five generations working at the same time. This requires companies to truly excel at creating a culture that makes people feel valued and that retains the best talent. It means establishing an environment where everyone feels empowered to participate and innovate, offering competitive benefits, and realizing and valuing that employees have a life outside of work. 

Kayla Picciano

Director of Sales and Strategic Partnerships, Irish Titan

A snapshot of me:

  • I’m a relationship person.
  • I love to connect people and build networks to hopefully translate into business partnerships. 
  • Primarily, my ecosystem is all things e-commerce and digital, and that ever-moving target that is innovating every day.

If you could have one business super power, what would it be? Compartmentalize and let things go faster.

Best business advice you’ve ever received? Maintain and nurture your networks, and ALWAYS have a Plan B. 

What did you want to be when you were a child? An FBI profiler or Scully from the “X Files.”

First job? After school and throughout summers, I worked at my parents’ gas station in our small hometown. 

Jennifer Bielstein

Managing Director, Guthrie Theater

A snapshot of me:

  • I believe passionately in the powerof live theater to change lives and to build community. 
  • Theater is an art form that brings people together for a communal experience during which they learn about themselves, learn about others or are able to escape from the day-to-day — all hugely valuable. 
  • I’ve dedicated my career to supporting the creation of theater and thrive upon the collaboration that is inherent in our business. 

If you could have one business super power, what would it be? The ability to predict the future.

What industry organizations do you support? I currently serve as president of the League of Resident Theatres, a national organization representing 74 of the top regional theaters around the country.

Favorite books? Right now I’m devouring all of the books on Prince.

First job? Babysitter. And they’d get a bonus housecleaning after the kids went to bed because I wanted to be super-productive!

Brian McClung

Partner/Co-founder, MZA+Co

A snapshot of me:

  • I’ve worked at the intersection of media, politics and business as a TV news reporter, campaign manager, political spokesperson, entrepreneur and PR executive. 
  • From 2004 to 2010, I served as spokesman and deputy chief of staff to Governor Tim Pawlenty. 
  • After leaving the Governor’s Office, I started a PR firm and in 2015, co-founded MZA+Co with Kurt Zellers and Chas Anderson. 
  • Our bipartisan team works with organizations to move public opinion, influence decision-makers, enhance reputations and inspire action. 

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? The ability to read super fast. There’s so much to learn and not enough time to read everything. 

Biggest issue the business world is facing today? Finding ways to bring people together to tackle problems in a polarized world. 

Laura Boyd

CEO, Leadership Delta

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? Fire — the fire that lives inside each of us. Fire allows people to push hard and be excited for the growth in people, products and organizations. 

What’s your morning routine? 4:45 a.m. wake up, LifeTime, social media, email returns, prayer. After the workout, return home to sing the “The Good Morning” song to my teenagers (they love it) and enjoy breakfast with them (my husband has made them eggs every morning since they were little — he’s amazing!).

What charitable and industry organizations are you actively involved in or support? TeamWomenMN, U of M - Women Invested in Leadership and Learning, Center for Girls Leadership, and MN Chamber of Commerce.

First job? Worked for my grandpa’s grocery store, Hartz Foods, in Cass Lake. 

Erin Procko

President-Minneapolis, Bell Bank

A snapshot of me:

  • I am the first woman market president at Bell Bank. 
  • I work for an amazingly generous company and am surrounded by talented people who are humble and put their values first.  
  • I’m crazy about to-do lists and keeping my calendar organized. 
  • I can’t say an idiom correctly!

If you could have one business super power, what would it be? Teleporting. 

Biggest issue or opportunity the business world is facing today? Workforce development presents challenges in our world of rapidly changing technology, but I think of the glass as half-full, because I believe tremendous opportunity exists for those who can embrace the changes. 

First job? A carhop in high school. 

Eric Taipale

CEO, Sentera

A snapshot of me:

  • I have more than 20 years of experience leading teams and organizations that advance remote sensing and data processing technology. 
  • I began my career as an engineer in the defense industry, building advanced sensors and artificial-intelligence technology.
  • I’ve been a part of three successful startup companies. 

 If you could have one business super power, what would it be? Networking and communicating externally. I’m a huge introvert, so I have to self-inflict these behaviors very intentionally. 

Biggest issue or opportunity the business world is facing today? Artificial intelligence and autonomous machines are both issues and opportunities. They have the potential to make human existence better in so many ways, but also to generate wrenching economic displacements in the process.  

What did you want to be when you were a child? I wanted to be an engineer. I was under the impression that they did things with pushbuttons, motors and computers. It turns out that they do.

Amy Langer

Co-founder, Salo, LLC

A snapshot of me:

  • I am a spark plug of energy, determined to connect people to enrich lives, both in the business community and the greater community. 
  • I’ve been called an inspiring leader and visionary entrepreneur, and I enjoy connecting smart and engaged people who are motivated to solve problems and improve business.  
  • I am married to my husband, Bruce Langer, and we have three active boys who are so much fun.

  
Favorite quote? “I’m a great believer in luck,and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
 
Best business advice you’ve ever received? Be curious and ask more questions. Seek to understand and listen. 
 

Chris Carlisle

Partner, Gray Plant Mooty

A snapshot of me:

  • I’m a business lawyer focused on helping entrepreneurs take advantage of opportunities and face challenges.  
  • I have expertise in corporate finance. 
  • I like being a trusted advisor. There is nothing more fun for me than being a small part of a client achieving success. I get a front-row seat to all the highs and lows business owners and leaders face on a daily basis and am continually honored and humbled by the opportunity.  

Biggest issue or opportunity the business world is facing today? Baby boomers transitioning their businesses to the next generation.  

What charitable organizations do you actively support? I support the MS Society and do an MS Ride every year.  My mom and other family members (aunt, cousin) have been impacted by this terrible disease.  

Favorite books? “Zero to One” by Blake Masters and Peter Thiel. “Venture Deals” by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson.  

First job? Locker-room attendant (a.k.a. shoe-shine kid) for the Edina Country Club.  

Nicole Middendorf

CEO and Wealth Advisor, Prosperwell Financial 

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? To be able to read minds.

What charitable organizations do you actively support? I have the Nicole Middendorf Foundation, in which every year through our website, our community picks a charity to focus on. This year our event in May will go to support Girls Not For Sale. In prior years, it has ranged from DAP to Best Prep to MN 100 Club. Basically, anything that helps families and children in literacy (especially financial) and safety and support.

Best business advice you’ve ever received? “Give yourself grace” from John Goodman, my neighbor, friend and mentor who passed away. He also told me to trust my gut and to hire people that are better and smarter than me. 

What did you want to be when you were a child? I wanted to be like Madeleine Albright and change the world. I’m blessed. I feel like I am, through inspiring people to be happy in life and happy with their money. 

Liz Collin

Anchor-Reporter, WCCO-TV

A snapshot of me:

  • I grew up watching the news with my grandparents, and I told them that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up. 
  • I came home to work at the station I grew up watching, WCCO-TV, 10 years ago. 
  • Telling stories about the issues that help move Minnesotans forward matters most to me.

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? No fear. I find that many people (myself included) hold back, fearing their input or ideas aren’t wanted or valued. There’s a real danger in complacency and a freedom in speaking up to improve a situation. 

First job? Waitress at the Worthington Perkins at the age of 14. I lied on my job application to get the job since I was supposed to be 15 to make the cut. Whoops!

What’s your business motto? Journalism is reporting what someone doesn’t want reported. Everything else is public relations. Or — “The news is not about the newscaster, it’s about the people who make it.”~ Bob Schieffer

Marcus Owens

MBA President, Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON)

A snapshot of me:

  • I am a passionate social entrepreneur who connects resources and creates solutions to fix the issues that impact our communities. 
  • I am a pantologist. [Someone who studies all things.]
  • I have a thirst for learning and challenging myself to gain experiences that push my understanding of the world. 
  • I thrive when I make a personal connection whether it’s a CEO of a large company or the barista at my favorite coffee shop.

Biggest challenge or opportunity facing the business world: The biggest challenge or opportunity that I see is the ability to unleash the potential of minority-owned businesses by creating a pipeline of procurement opportunities and access to the appropriate capital to scale these businesses. Minority-owned businesses have been the fastest growing segment of new small businesses since the 2008 financial crisis. However, the inability to stabilize and grow these businesses due to lack of procurement opportunities and access to capital will provide a challenge for our overall economy to continue to grow. The future economic growth of our state, and even more so our nation, depends on our ability to harness and develop opportunities for minority-owned business that will employ people of color, the largest growing workforce segment. 

Chanda Smith Baker

Senior Vice President, Community Impact, The Minneapolis Foundation

A snapshot of me:

  • I am driven by a strong belief in the power of equity, collective action and disruption to spark the changes that make communities stronger. 
  • My 20-year experience working in, with and for the community has been at the intersection of the social sector, business, philanthropy, government and community.
  • Most recently I was the CEO of Pillsbury United Communities. 

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? Infused grace; for increased insight, deeper understanding, extended courtesy and seeing beyond the obvious. 

Biggest issue or opportunity the business world is facing today? Attracting, promoting and retaining a diverse workforce that not only helps business thrive, it also helps businesses stay relevant.

Favorite quote? “You don’t make progress standing on the sidelines whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” ~ Shirley Chisholm 

Best business advice you’ve ever received? Own your experience, trust your instinct and listen to what’s around you — said and unsaid. 

What did you want to be when you were a child? An author. 
 

Greg Cunningham

Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion, U.S. Bank   

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? Courage. It’s impossible to have much success or to demonstrate any leadership skills consistently without it.

Biggest issue or opportunity the business world is facing today? The rapid pace of change. Whether we’re talking the swift rise and fall of different digital marketing channels, investing in advanced technology, or changing consumer demographics, the dizzying pace of change means every executive needs to have a keen sense of how to steadily guide subject-matter experts and the entire organization through those waters.

What charitable organizations do you actively support? The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is my primary charity. My life would have been very different without UNCF, which gave me access to a quality education and launched me into adult life. I’m co-chairing the UNCF 2018 annual campaign, which culminates in a masked ball this May. 

Favorite book? “Notes of a Native Son” by James Baldwin.

First job? Cutting grass for my uncle’s landscaping company.

Business motto? Let’s make it better.

Susan Bass Roberts

Vice President/Executive Director, Pohlad Family Foundation

A snapshot of me:

  • I’ve led major foundations for 20 years, allowing me to marry my career with my passion for making a difference. 
  • Although I have worked really hard to build this life, I know that I am the product of many mentors and colleagues who believed in me along the way. 
  • My husband and son are my greatest gifts. 
  • My super power is positivity; I believe every day is a gift. 

Biggest opportunity the business world is facing today? I think one of our biggest opportunities is to figure out how to use diversity and inclusion to our advantage. If we continue to limit the number of women, people of color and differently-abled people in positions of leadership and power, we will never live up to our potential as a nation. We need as many minds as possible working together to solve complex issues. Research shows that diversity drives innovation. We can’t afford to leave smart, talented people on the sidelines because they don’t fit outdated ideas of what leaders look like. 

Dana Nelson

Vice President, Legacy & Community Partnerships, Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? To remember peoples’ names. I can remember someone’s complicated coffee order but not their name!

Biggest opportunity the business world is facing today? The opportunity to incorporate diverse points of view without having to come to a consensus. I think we need to learn to sit in the discomfort of opinions that differ greatly from our own without trying to
change them. 

What’s your morning routine? I call Alfonso Wenker and drink several shots of espresso. Not necessarily in that order. 

What charitable organizations do you actively support? The 52 organizations the Super Bowl Legacy Fund invested in that are doing innovative work to improve the health and wellness of kids and families across Minnesota.

Favorite quote? “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” ~ Robin Williams

What did you want to be when you were a child? President of everything.

Lisa Christianson

President, Christianson & Company Partner, The Greystone Christianson Group

A snapshot of me:

  • I work hard and play hard.  
  • I love all things “Cinderella” because 
  • I believe that good overcomes evil.  
  • I am more motivated by helping others than I am by money (but the money is nice, too).  
  • I tend to see the best in people, but I’m not afraid to tell you what I think and push you to be all that you can be. I like it when people are direct with me as well. 

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? I’d like to read other people’s minds.  It would be easier to solve the problem if we knew exactly what the other person was thinking. 

What charitable organizations do you support? I have a big heart for kids who have parents who don’t have the capacity to meet the emotional needs of their children. I am board co-chair of Connections to Independence which helps kids ages 15-24 successfully emancipate from the foster care system, and I am also a guardian ad litem in Hennepin County. 

Krista Carroll

Owner and CEO, Latitude

My company in a nutshell: Since 2009, Latitude’s significance has been using its success in design, advertising, interactive and print production to invest more than $5 million dollars to empower women and children living in extreme poverty around the world. 

What charitable organizations do you actively support? Over the past eight years Latitude has directed $4.3 million to nonprofits to partner on numerous projects in the field. Our pillar nonprofit partners include Healing Haiti, with whom we have partnered to build a medical/dental clinic, family homes, a bakery and job creation center, and a farm. We have focused our partnership with Opportunity International on community development and an Entrepreneurial High School in Nicaragua. We have partnered with International Justice Mission to fund rescue missions that have freed over 3,500 people in India, the Philippines and the Dominican Republic. Another pillar partner is Hope International, with whom we partner to provide micro loans to entrepreneurs in Rwanda and the Congo. I also serve on the board for Calvin Christian School and Healing Haiti and attend church at Eagle Brook. 

Scott Litman

Managing Partner & Co-founder, Equals 3

A snapshot of me:

  • I am an entrepreneur in search of new ways technology can advance the mission of professional marketers. 
  • From the early days of the Internet to the market-leading AI of today, my business partner, Dan Mallin, and I have a long history of building businesses that help clients, take advantage of cutting-edge,digital transformation.
  • I also founded the Minnesota Cup, the largest state-wide business plan competition in the country.

Biggest issue the business world is facing today? Automation. For entrepreneurs, the ability to create new systems that automate past work, bringing new efficiencies that disrupt markets is going to create great opportunities for new businesses and new models.
But automation is going to cause displacement and while past waves of automation moved people from farms to factories, then later factories to service jobs, what happens when automation eats up those service jobs, where will people go?

What did you want to be when you were a child? By the time I was 12, I wanted to be a tech entrepreneur.

Jennifer Laible

President, Antenna Inc.

A snapshot of me:

  • Antenna is reshaping the way people connect with meaningful work and the way companies utilize talent in an on-demand economy. 
  • I left my Fortune 100 corporate career six years ago for the excitement and challenge of running a rapidly growing small business, and I love it. 
  • I’m also a proud mom of two school-aged boys, and you’ll often find my husband and me running around after them.

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth, because honesty really is the best policy.

Biggest issue the business world is facing today? The demand for talent.

Best business advice you’ve ever received? “Why not you?”

Favorite quote? Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

What did you want to be when you were a child? An astronaut. I attended space camp when I was in middle school at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama.

R.T. Rybak

President and CEO, The Minneapolis Foundation

Me in a nutshell: I’m a hometown guy whose life work as a journalist, marketing and technology executive, mayor and civic leader has been about making the greatest place on the planet even better. As CEO of The Minneapolis Foundation, I’m focused especially on creating education and job opportunities for those who have gotten less, which means that in the long term, we’ll all have more. 

Biggest issue the business world is facing today? A crucial worker shortage that can be solved if we create more opportunity for those who have suffered from less opportunity in education and career paths. 

What charitable organizations do you actively support? Three that I’m very focused on are the Northside Achievement Zone, the STEP-UP summer job program and Rochester’s Destination Medical Center. My favorite new group is ConnextMSP, an alumni database and social network that connects alums of high-performing youth organizations with employers. 

Favorite quote? “The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.”~ William Sloane Coffin

What did you want to be when you were a child? Mayor of Minneapolis.

Paul Batz

Founder and CEO, Good Leadership Enterprises

A snapshot of me:

  • I’m a leadership coach, author and professional speaker who helps leaders and organizations grow with goodness. 
  • My Good Leadership Breakfast Series has raised more than $250,000 for charities. 
  • The framework for good leadership is the seven “Fs”: faith, family, finances, fitness, friends, fun and future.
  • The success of Good Leadership Enterprises demonstrates that goodness pays in business.

Biggest issue the business world is facing today? Society is struggling to handle the power of information transparency. We’re bombarded with the “dark noise” of the mainstream media, and confused by our power to be real-time journalists who broadcast our thoughts and feelings instantly via the internet, with hardly a second thought. We all know transparency cures a lot of ills that prosper when hidden from others. But we’re still figuring out how to use that power for good.
 

Lou Nanne

Senior Managing Director, RBC Global Asset Management

A snapshot of me:

  • I came to Minnesota in 1959 to play for the Gophers and studied business. 
  • I then worked at Mackay Envelope Company until I played for the 1968 Olympic team.  
  • I turned pro and played with the Minnesota North Stars for 10 years and then became the coach, general manager and president until 1991.  
  • I then entered the finance world and have been with RBC Global Asset Management since 1995.  

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? The ability to own the best real estate in the country, because it is finite.

Biggest opportunity the business world is facing today? One of the biggest opportunities is to be at the forefront of stem cell technology.

What charitable organization do you actively support? The University of Minnesota. I’m chairman of the athletic facilities fundraising campaign.

First job? Chemical sales at Archer Daniels Midland.

What’s your business motto? Don’t let anybody outwork you and do what’s right for your customer.

Beth Miller

Chief Marketing and Chief Strategy Officer, Magid

A snapshot of me:

  • I am an enthusiastic optimist who has unending curiosity.
  • I strive to leave every situation, person and organization I encounter better and more positive than I found it. 
  • I believe that leveraging empathy and human-centered design makes all business decisions better. 
  • I believe that your people come first.  

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? Instant empathy. If you could understand, immediately and purely, where everyone was coming from, you could get to solutions much faster. 

Favorite quote? “Alice laughed: ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said; ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’ ” ~ from “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll

Liz Ross

A snapshot of me:

  • I am an eternal optimist who believes that the power of marketing can change a company’s trajectory. 
  • My entire career has been focused on advertising.
  • I am also the mom of three small children, including a set of twins, and through their incredible eyes, I can see the power of potential and what is coming next.

Favorite quote: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” ~ Alvin Toffler

Best business advice you’ve ever received? Couple my tenacity with an understanding that everyone just wants to be loved. 

What did you want to be when you were a child? In elementary school, I wanted to live on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago and work in advertising. Yes, I was a very strange kid.

Molly Jungbauer

CEO, Hollstadt Consulting, Inc.

A snapshot of me:

  • I am a passionate business leader who firmly believes in the concept of servant leadership. As Eleanor Roosevelt so aptly said, “It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.” 
  • I also believe leaders have a responsibility to engage with their community. This includes local and state government, nonprofits, your industry and other industry business leaders. 
  • Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people.

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? To be able to foresee the future. It would be wonderful to have the foresight to know what is coming down the pipeline economically that could affect my business.

Biggest issue or opportunity the business world is facing today? The globalization of all industries. When people think about globalized industries, they tend to think mainly of retail, but the reality is that very few industries exist that are not affected by global competition or opportunity. 

First job? Detasseling corn.

Best business advice you’ve ever received? Lead with your heart. 

Jennifer Olson

Senior Vice President System Operations and Chief Strategy Officer, Children’s Minnesota

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? A wand of compassion. We need to increase our collective compassion and make thoughtful choices about how to harness those resources to best advance both business and community. I inherently believe that successful businesses can ignite creativity, drive growth and inspire greatness with their people and their products/services if they weave compassion into their core values.

Biggest issue or opportunity the business world is facing today? Change: the incredible, awe-inspiring, never-ending pace of change. It’s an incredible challenge to stay current and resilient as a leader while motivating others to accept and adopt change. It’s a delicate balance to embrace changes that move your business forward, while concurrently keeping your focus on critical priorities relevant to 
the current state.

What did you want to be when you were a child? Ironically, a pediatrician. I think a connection to kids is at my core. Patients and families are a part of my motivation, and it drives how I make business decisions every day.

Susan Denk

Owner & CEO, White Crane Construction

Me in a nutshell: I am a builder. For me the building begins with every relationship. It might end in a world-class design/build remodeling project, or maybe in the quorum required to advance an important initiative by the Women’s Foundation of MN; maybe it’s simply a successful fundraising ask for a great cause, or the ability to be there for a friend in need. I love to build! The old adage about the importance of a strong foundation is true, it all begins there; whether in relationships, in community, or for the addition to your home. It’s critical to build and to build well.

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? I would desire to have the X-ray ability of Superman to see through materials, specifically, to the human heart. It has always been my goal to know what most inspires employees, what creates loyalty with suppliers, and how best to transform a vison of functionality and beauty into reality for our clients. 

First job? Sea World, working at the Hawaiian Punch food venue.

B. Kyle

President and CEO, Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? Time travel. I want to go into the future, see how certain decisions made today affect the future. Then come back, make a different decision, and show how that one works out! And omnilinguism. (I want to be able to speak every language!)

Biggest opportunity the business world is facing today? The biggest opportunity is tomorrow’s workforce. We have minority workers on the sidelines; we have new people groups who are not aware of all the possible career pathways, we have students who need to be introduced to all the career opportunities in front of them (particularly the potential in the skilled trades).

What industry organizations do you actively support? I’m actively involved in the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association (MPMA), current past-chair. I’m a strong supporter of trades/engineering/STEM as a career pathway.

John H. Stout

Officer and Shareholder, Fredrikson & Byron P.A.

A snapshot of me:

  • I have a lot of energy. 
  • I like to give back in a positive way to family, community, my firm and organizations I’m associated with. 
  • I’m fortunate to have many opportunities, and always to have had good people around and supporting me: my wife, children, grandchildren, work colleagues, friends and associates from various activities. 
  • I’m a product of the civil rights era and believe passionately in human rights and diversity. Treating all people well is incredibly important.  

What charitable organizations do you actively support? Years ago I helped start Meda, Milestone Growth Fund, the Minnesota Film Board and the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Corporate Directors. I remain active with all. My wife and I support local arts organizations. We like music, dance, art and theater. She is a founding director of the Jungle Theatre, which is a focus of much of our support.

Favorite quotes? “Perfect speed is being there.” ~ from “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” (I believe in showing up). And “You can’t trade yesterday’s market.”  No woulda, coulda, shoulda here.

Ben Aase

Principal, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CLA)

A snapshot of me:

  • I’m a father, husband and St. Paul native who went off to Colorado
  • to ski (and school) and came home to build a family, career and community.  
  • I’m a principal at CLA where I work with nonprofit, foundation and impact ventures to create strategies and build teams to get them from today to their vision.  
  • Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to help build our firm into a national leader in the industries we serve.

What charitable organizations do you actively support? Our CLA team works with more than 6,000 nonprofits around the country, so I naturally get involved in a lot of civic activity. Locally, I’ve been active as a Cargill Foundation board member, a MN Cup booster, and helping launch a new collaboration between Impact Hub MSP and FINNovation Lab to create a destination experience for impact entrepreneurs in the North.  

First job? Caddying and working at the hardware store up the block. My best job was Zamboni driver.

Business motto? Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.
 

Melissa Kjolsing Lynch

Co-founder, Recovree Founding Managing Director, Lunar Startups at American Public Media

A snapshot of me:

  • I’m co-founder of Recovree, a Minnesota tech startup passionate about seeing more people stay in recovery following treatment for substance use disorder. 
  • Recovree is developing software for peer recovery specialists to connect and improve outcomes.
  • In addition to Recovree, I am the founding managing director of Lunar Startups at American Public Media, a collaborative space and experience for high-growth entrepreneurs.
  • Previously, I was the director of the MN Cup, the largest statewide startup competition in the country.

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? People who have experience with substance-use disorder instantly connect with our product and vision. On the flip side, those who don’t have the personal relationship to the disease may have a difficult time understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing. If I could have a business super power, it would be the ability to give any person who we’re connecting with the empathy and lens of what it means to have substance-use disorder, to help break through stigma and the notion that this disease is a moral failing. No one wants to be an addict.  

Jennifer Halcrow

President, Corvus North

My company in a nutshell: Corvus North produces results, generating an ROI of at least five-to-one for its nonprofit clients and improved satisfaction for individuals making charitable contributions. The Corvus North Women Entrepreneurs Networking Series (with founding presenter ACG Minnesota) presents the most influential women leaders in settings that are easy to find and interesting to explore.

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? The willingness to ask for help. The best advice I’ve gotten is not to do it all myself!

Biggest issue or opportunity the business world is facing today? Tapping human capital to its full capacity, especially from people who are older, disabled or new to this country.

What’s your morning routine? Thirty minutes of quiet — with a cup of coffee and a pair of dogs that like to snuggle!

What charitable organizations do you actively support? All of my clients! 

Favorite books? Anything by Minnesota author Louise Erdrich.

First job? Fry cook at McDonald’s.

What’s your business motto? Just get started! Stay curious and focused. 

Jeff Prouty

Chairman/Founder, The Prouty Project Inc.

My company in a nutshell: We work with 75–85 CEOs a year, running companies from $2 million to $20 billion in revenue, to help them ignite, elevate and create the extraordinary.

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why?  Impeccable, flawless listening and memory skills.

Biggest issue the business world is facing today? How can we play a role in ensuring world peace?  As a woman in Cuba recently said to me, “Anything that brings friendship is positive and good.  We’re fighting all over the world, and we don’t need to be doing that.”

Favorite quote? “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

What did you want to be when you were a child? A major league baseball player, until I batted against Mike Boddicker in Norway, Iowa, who went on to pitch in the major leagues for more than a decade. 

Gloria Perez

President and CEO, Jeremiah Program

A snapshot of me:

  • I am passionate about helping people reach their full potential. 
  • My inspiration to create pathways for success for women comes from my admiration of my mother. She worked tirelessly to provide opportunities for my advancement. 
  • As a transplant from San Antonio, Texas, I hold on to my Tex-Mex roots and have enjoyed leading Jeremiah Program’s growth as a national, two-generation strategy to reduce poverty for the past 20 years.  

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? To recalibrate challenges into conversations about what’s possible. When I’m in that space of possibility, I feel joy and energy; I believe joy and energy are contagious and will lead to solutions.

What’s your morning routine? I love to exercise in the morning! I either spin or take a yoga class but I first offer thanks to God for a new day.

What charitable organizations do you support? I volunteer as a board member at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, Artspace and I serve on a few foundation boards.

Dr. Rebecca S. Hage Thomley

Chief Executive Officer, Orion Associates

My company in a nutshell: Orion Associates provides management services for both related and unrelated companies, including for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Orion Associates and its affiliated organizations operate in seven states and Haiti. 

Biggest opportunity the business world is facing today? The low unemployment rate in our state has created the opportunity for employers to think creatively about their workforces. While it is wonderful to have low unemployment and it is a good thing for people seeking work, it is a struggle for many industries. This has led our organization to actively reach out to more diverse communities and to become more creative in seeking and retaining talented people. 

Best business advice you’ve ever received? There was a pivotal point in our business development when a colleague said to me: “Well, you can make that decision.” I realized at that moment that although I had been acting as the CEO, I hadn’t been entirely comfortable in my role with its privileges and responsibilities. I remember that it encouraged me to be independently minded about my vision for the organization.
 

Pam Kosanke

Founder, 24K Brands

A snapshot of me:

  • I’m an awarded marketing professional.
  • My blue-chip brand expertise includes executive leadership and coaching, strategic brand-building, sports-marketing sponsorship and activation, nonprofit brand and business development, multi-tier creative development and digital/social media marketing. 
  • I have expertise in consumer packaged goods and retail, and clients have included Hallmark, Toys ”R” Us and Kellogg’s.

If you could have one business superpower, what would it be and why? I would be able to choose all three parts of the “good, fast, cheap” triangle and sprinkle fairy dust on customer relationship management (CRM) and automated marketing solutions to make them work instantly and perfectly with all legacy data, third-party data and all digital assets to produce 100% accurate, beautiful, closed-loop reporting.

What’s your morning routine? Emergency phone scan, pot o’ coffee-making, triple dog feeding, healthy breakfast making and squatting at the kitchen counter for workday session part one. Then it’s “be the school bus,” “win best puppy mom ever” contest and train for the World Championships of Aquabike.

Danielle Steer

Senior Program Manager, Lunar Startups

A snapshot of me:

  • I leverage appreciative inquiry, system thinking methodologies and my zeal for collaboration to support purpose-driven entrepreneurs in achieving their dreams. 
  • I believe that Minneapolis/St. Paul are poised to be the problem-solving capital of the new economy (#forgenorth).
  • I am dedicated to ensuring that our ecosystem reflects the rich diversity of our community of innovators. 

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? To imbue radical confidence and courage. Entrepreneurs often face steep barriers, intense criticism and rejection. I have seen time and time again that look of defeat or a crisis of confidence. It takes great courage to innovate, to make tough choices, to start or even to kill an idea that’s not working. I would love to be able to generate confidence and courage for entrepreneurs when they need that extra boost. 

First job? I started my first business as a kid-entrepreneur selling beads and friendship bracelets, funded by my babysitting-and-plant-watering side hustle. First job working for someone else: barista at Kaladi Brothers Coffee in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, when I was 16. 

Matt Norman

President & CEO, North Central U.S., Dale Carnegie

Who I am in a nutshell: I help people solve two of the biggest problems today: first, the problem of conquering fear and developing confidence; second, the problem of better human relations — of dealing graciously and effectively with others. 

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? Crazy fast learning.

Biggest issue the business world is facing today? The need for busy, anxious and diverse people to work better together.

What’s your morning routine? 4:45 a.m. alarm, workout with my Pam90 boys, pray, read The Wall Street Journal, get three kids out the door, get to work.

Favorite quote? “Growth and comfort do not coexist” ~ Ginni Rometty

Best business advice you’ve ever received? Value learning more than compensation.

What did you want to be when you were a child? Governor.

What’s your business motto? Spread optimism.

Sadiq Abdirahman

Business Project Manager/Supervisor Data analytics group, State of Minnesota, Department of Administration, MMCAP division

What I do in a nutshell: Minnesota Multistate Contracting Alliance for Pharmacy is a free, voluntary group purchasing organization for government facilities with data on 1.6 billion-member sales in 2017. We have been delivering pharmacy and health-care value since 1985. What is unique about MMCAP is that it is a self-sustaining government entity that does not get any funding from the State of Minnesota general fund. It is a cooperative social enterprise designed to reduce health-care cost for member states through volume contracting and careful contract management. MMCAP does not keep any profits, and at the end of the year, all the money collected minus the admin fees go back to the member states through share-back. 

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? It would be the ability to see and cultivate talents around us. Businesses cannot survive without a constant innovation. 

Favorite book? “Building Social Business” by Muhammad Yunus. It is a great book to read for anyone interested the social business model and how it can transform developing nations.

Lani Basa

Chief Facilitator and Owner, The BWC

A snapshot of me:

  • I am a child of a military family. 
  • I’m a “corporate intrapreneur” of 22 years, a volunteer, a city councilor and a parent.
  • I am the owner and co-founder of The Business Women’s Circle® which brings together like-minded women to talk business, leadership and life. 

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? Either cloning myself to be able to do more or the power to help people see each other beyond the perceptions, stereotypes and profiling that exists.

Biggest opportunity the business world is facing today? Seeing people as the biggest asset and competitive advantage of a company. 
 

Bo Thao-Urabe

Network and Executive Director, Coalition of Asian American Leaders | Chief Operating Officer, RedGreen Rivers

Me in a nutshell: I am a social entrepreneur who brings people and ideas together to create social good. Because I believe we exponentially grow our ability to solve our most challenging problems when we do it together, you’ll find me often in groups. 

Favorite quote? “Don’t become too narrow. Live fully. Meet all kinds of people. You’ll learn something from everyone. Follow what you feel in your heart.”~ Yuri Kochiyama

What did you want to be when you were a child? I grew up with adults who told me what I couldn’t do because I was a refugee, a multilingual speaker, a girl, poor and so on. It was like every adult looked at me and decided for me, so mostly what I wanted as a child was to decide for myself. 

Karrie Willis

Chief Financial Officer, United Language Group

A snapshot of me:

  • I attribute my drive, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit to my parents and my experience growing up on their dairy farm. 
  • I am passionate about starting and growing businesses, developing teams and fostering collaboration to drive results.    
  • My family is an extremely important part of my life. 
  • I’m passionate about the outdoors, reading, travel, golf and our 7-month-old cockapoo.

What’s your morning routine? I’m up at 5:30 to head to our home gym, often reading and responding to emails while working out. My amazing husband gets me out the door with a breakfast smoothie and lunch that he prepares for me.   First job?  Driving a tractor and doing chores on my parents’ farm. What’s your business motto? If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

Sally Sullivan Mainquist

CPA, CEO & Co-founder, Veritae Group, LLC 

A snapshot of me:

  • Veritae Group is a 100% woman-owned business providing interim finance leadership. We give back one-third of our bottom line and this year it was 40%. 
  • I grew up in Iowa, started at KPMG, worked at Graco, PUR, and Certes Financial Pros before starting Veritae.
  • I’m married to Kent, and we have two children.  
  • If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why?  Photographic memory. I would love to retain more!

What’s your morning routine? Coffee!

What charitable organizations do you actively support? I am on the Boards of the Alzheimer’s Association of MN & ND, Center for Ethical Organizations at the University of St. Thomas, U of M Masonic Children’s Hospital Philanthropic Board. I also co-founded the Veritae CFO Women’s Forum and am active in Financial Executives International.

Jen Ford Reedy

President, Bush Foundation

A snapshot of me:

  • I began my career as a strategy consultant, and I love solving problems.
  • As president of the Bush Foundation, I get to learn about all kinds of issues facing communities and support people and organizations trying to find lasting solutions. 
  • My job is joyful work, and I feel lucky to get to do it! 

If you could have one business super power, what would it be and why? To be able to measure net social impact as precisely as net income. This could transform how we define a great company and reward those that are truly creating the most value.

Biggest issue the business world is facing today? Developing enough leaders with the mindset and skills to make our institutions work well for everybody.

What’s your morning routine? My favorite part of the morning is waking up my kids. I am trying to become a person who drinks tea.

First job? Newspaper carrier.