Region’s young leaders find it important to enhance their communities
Profiles by Lee Reinsch
Introduction by Sean Fitzgerald, New North B2B Publisher
Our 2nd annual 3 Overachievers Under 30 program again promises northeast Wisconsin professionals that the future of the region’s economy and our communities is in capable hands.
Just as in our inaugural year in 2014, New North B2B put a call out to our readers asking them to nominate some of the brightest, most enthusiastic 20-somethings already demonstrating a knack for leadership in our businesses and as stewards of our communities. This year we received nearly 25 nominations, just shy of last year’s pool, and once again found ourselves deeply impressed with the crop of young leaders from which to select our 3 Under 30.
It was anything but an easy decision. Our team hemmed and hawed evaluating the merits of the candidates, scrutinizing their accomplishments in the workplace and the charge they’ve taken in advancing regional and community initiatives that extend beyond the scope of their job. We did a good deal of due diligence beyond the nomination letters to ensure we made worthy selections.
In the end, we chose three 20-somethings who’ve accomplished extraordinary feats in their careers and in their communities – not at all because it enhances their resumes or because it affords them any prestige – but simply because they’re genuinely driven to make their workplace and their communities better. They’re perhaps too young to have learned the art of saying “no” from time to time, but meet each challenge head on with the enthusiasm and energy many of us recall having at that age.
On the run with Katie Braun
Name: Katie Braun
Lives: Green Bay
Occupation: Marketing manager at Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists of Green Bay.
Education: UW-La Crosse, bachelor’s degree in marketing and information systems.
What’s on her playlist? Anything country; Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.”
A small illustration of her overachiever-ness: Chasing Katie Braun is a little like chasing fog. Even if you manage to reach her (and at an hour when the sun isn’t yet at its highest), you’re still her third or fourth meeting for the day, and there’s one right after you. Her day rockets early and often lands her in back-to-back meetings starting at 7 a.m. It’s enough to make a person yearn for a nap just thinking about it. She probably even runs eight miles before going to work, right?
“When I’m training, I do,” she says.
In addition to her fulltime job directing marketing for nine Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists in northeast Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, the Seymour native volunteers as Northeast Wisconsin regional director for myTeam Triumph Wisconsin, overseeing staff to plan events while working with captains, volunteers and families as an able-bodied athlete.
The national nonprofit athletic mentoring program lets people with disabilities participate in races with the help of special wheeled race chairs and angels who push or pull them. Unlike Special Olympics, myTeam Triumph doesn’t create its own events but brings athletes to existing events. Executive Director Christian Jensen said each year myTeam gets athletes to 15 road races, walks and triathlons, such as the Bellin Run, Green Bay Marathon and Y to Y Run in Appleton.
Running is her “me” pastime, Braun said.
Three years ago her employer sponsored a myTeam chair in the Packers 5K run. “Being a runner, I always saw the red shirts running around and I always wanted to get involved,” Braun said. “They (myTeam) offered me the opportunity to come in and help plan an event and after that, it kind of led to my role. I fell in love with the organization.”
Braun devotes hours after work and on weekends to myTeam, Jensen said.
“It’s definitely a very time-consuming, intensive process,” Jensen said. “She definitely is someone who takes a lot on. She’s very dedicated and reliable.”
And Braun does it with a smile.
“She’s constantly positive. She’s someone that always searches for a positive solution, in any situation,” Jensen said. “Stuff is going to come up where, ‘Oh, man, this happened and how do we deal with this?’ but she’s always like ‘How can we have a positive energy, a positive vibe toward creating a solution?’”
Braun chairs the steering and executive committees for the Greater Green Bay Chamber’s Current Young Professionals group where Current YP Program Manager Brian Johnson finds her irreplaceable.
“I would be lost without her,” said Johnson. “Her leadership has been tremendous through a challenging transitional time, and she has been very impactful with securing support of additional members in a lot of critical areas.”
Johnson called her “advanced beyond her years” and said she’s one of the most fantastic people he knows.
Braun also finds time to be the corporate chair of the Walk to Cure Arthritis the last two years, and she and her family host the Ride to End Alzheimer’s equestrian event in Seymour. The latter cause is near to her heart, as her grandmother has the condition. The first year, the event earned more than $6,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association. Helping others is a way of life she’s always known.
“I always remember my parents being involved in things, which got me involved,” she said. “My dad was a volunteer firefighter my whole life, and my mom’s been very involved in Green Bay. So that probably pulled me in at a young age. I thought it was normal.”
So how does she do everything she does without going crazy?
“You have to really like what you are doing,” Braun said. “If I was running a lot and didn’t feel a lot of passion in what I was doing, I would get burned out, but I really like what I am doing, whether it’s for myTeam Triumph or Current or work or whatever, I just really like what I’m doing. And I like what those organizations are about, so that keeps me from losing my mind.”
Brad Cebulski: Creating the world he wants to live in
Name: Brad Cebulski
Occupation: Owner and founder of BConnected LLC, a social media management company based in Appleton that employs eight people.
Education: UW-Eau Claire, bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurial management.
What’s on his playlist? He has a large collection of Spotify playlists containing anything but pop: New-school R&B, soul, blues, Americana, rock ‘n’ roll, alternative, rap, electronic. “It really depends on the mood and time of year,” he said.
A slice of his overachiever-ness: Cebulski says he’s nothing special. “I don’t think I do any more than anyone else,” he said. But from the sounds of it, he accomplishes more by noon than many others do in a week.
Cebulski founded social media management firm BConnected LLC in 2011, a week after graduating from college. The Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce presented the agency with its Rising Star Award in 2014. That same year, Cebulski was named one of the Pulse Young Professionals’ Fox Cities Future 15.
He’s on the board of directors for the History Museum at the Castle and the leadership committee with the Fox Cities Chamber’s Pulse YP, where he also chairs its marketing committee. He’s also been active with the start-up Fox West Chamber of Commerce.
But it’s Cultivate Fox Cities, where Cebulski serves on the planning committee, that strikes a chord with his approach to life. Cultivate is a full-day event with keynote speakers from outside the area and panel discussions with local business and organizational leaders.
“The premise is that we’re all trying to cultivate the community we want to live in,” Cebulski said. “That’s my philosophy. I’m not going to sit around and wait for somebody else to create the kind of community that I want. I want to actively make it happen myself.”
Cebulski started his own company because he saw an unmet need for businesses to contract out the management of their social media, rather than hire someone for the job or throw the responsibility on the plate of the marketing director. He felt he could help more businesses with BConnected than he could by joining an existing company.
“I had some people that I really looked up to in my life that were entrepreneurial, so that really drove me (to develop) that sort of urge to create something that really makes a difference to people and helps people instead of just working on something that’s already there,” he said.
“I’m really passionate about being able to create something new…. I combined my passion to create things with seeing a need in the marketplace and took advantage of that. There was that moment in college where I thought ‘Why don’t I do that? Why don’t I create a business out of it?’”
He and fellow entrepreneur Jess Dennis co-founded a brainstorming group called The Fox Den to gather like minds: young entrepreneurs who want to shape the face of the community. They’re also launching Appleton’s first Restaurant Week in August.
“He’s very resourceful … he has really good rapport with people,” Dennis said of Cebulski. “People trust him. He has a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and his heart is always in the right place.”
The projects Cebulski are involved in aren’t to bolster his own ego or reputation, Dennis said. “It’s really to build a better community and a place where people want to be. A lot of people want to help him and get behind him.”
Yet another project he’s helping direct? He helped start The Alley Project on Kickstarter, raising more than $4,300 to beautify an alley in downtown Appleton with a bicycle-themed mural by local muralist Chad Brady. The project will launch during the city’s Mile of Music Festival in August. So does he have any time management secrets? It’s priorities, he said.
“Everybody has the ability to look at yourself in the mirror and say ‘Do I want to spend time shopping tonight or do I want to spend that time calling some people and making something great happen? Do I want to spend time working out in the morning or are you going to a meeting at 7 a.m. because that’s the only time people can meet?’ One of my top priorities is to get involved and make a difference.”
To decompress, Cebulski listens to eclectic music, from blues to electronic, and cooks. “It’s my creative outlet,” he said. One recent Friday found him making sockeye salmon and rosemary butter potatoes to 90s hip-hop.
Another outlet: He’s a drummer in the HASband Jazz Band, composed of musicians connected to Hortonville Area Schools, his alma mater.
Name: Jon Dudzinski
Occupation: Portfolio manager and chartered financial analyst at Carl M. Hennig, Inc. in Oshkosh.
Education: UW-Oshkosh, bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance.
What’s on his playlist? “Uptown Funk.”
A glimpse of his overachiever-ness: A 45-minute conversation with Dudzinski quickly reveals that he does nothing in a small way. For example, the beekeeping he and his dad started with a few hives. Just a casual father-son hobby? Try 108 hives with plans to expand to 400, a yearly output of 7,500 pounds of honey and talk of exporting their bees to the West Coast.
Or his involvement with giving bone marrow. He doesn’t just donate bone marrow – three years ago he started the UW-Oshkosh charter of Be the Match Foundation, which matches potential bone-marrow donors with leukemia patients through a national database. The young chapter has already had almost 1,000 people sign on to donate bone marrow when matches are found.
Donating bone marrow has become faster and less painful than it used to be, and recovery time is quicker, thanks to medical progress. Dudzinski said he’s fortunate to have good genes and feels “morally compelled” to help others because of it. In fact, he even tried to donate a kidney.
“Be the Match gives donors the ability to literally save a person’s life – not just temporarily and/or marginally improve their life – with ridiculously little cost on the donor’s part,” Dudzinski said.
Dudzinski belongs to the board of the UW-Oshkosh Foundation and the Board of the Alta Resources Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In 2014, the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce named him the Oshkosh Young Professional of the Year. The same year, the academic publication Journal of Investing published an article he wrote on his co-authored research on Warren Buffett’s Cigar Butt equity valuation technique, and he became an article reviewer for Institutional Investor Journals. He also mentored university students in the CFA Institute Research Challenge. In addition to managing portfolios at Carl M. Hennig, Inc., Dudzinski founded his own investment company, Lotnix.
Even his leisure time isn’t small – no couch potatoing here. He sails, ballroom dances, exercises, runs, backpacks, kayaks and camps, is involved with Rotary International and sometimes leads student tours for Smithsonian Student Travel, which he’s been doing on and off since college. Oh yes, he’s a certified tour coordinator and event planner, too.
“I go crazy when I’m not doing stuff,” he said. “My mind is very active and I can become very anxious if I don’t constantly give myself something to do.”
This year, UW-Oshkosh gave him its Honors Alumni of the Year Award. Will Morrison, accounting and finance lecturer at UW-Oshkosh, said Dudzinski was the youngest person in recent history to pass all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst exam, which has a nationwide pass rate of just 3 percent.
“It’s an extremely difficult exam. Even professors don’t always pass it the first time, but he went through it in record time,” Morrison said.
Morrison, who is also UW-Oshkosh’s Be the Match program advisor, was impressed by Dudzinski’s energy and ability to get hundreds of potential bone-marrow donors signed up in a single day, including the college football team.
“In addition to working hard, he works smart,” Morrison said. “He’s very intelligent and very motivated in what he does. He uses that strategy part of his brain, he thinks things through, and figures out the best way to get things done.”
So how does Dudzinski do all that he does? He says his secret ingredient is passion for what he does.
“Because if you don’t absolutely love what you do, if you’re not enjoying it, you’re not going to be willing to put in the countless hours and you’re going to give up,” he said.
And another tip: Dudzinski delegates or hires out some of the tasks he doesn’t enjoy so much, such as lawn mowing, so he can devote his energy to things he truly loves. Like driving his truck and jamming out to Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk.”
Lee Reinsch of Green Bay worked 18 years at daily newspapers before launching her freelance business, edgewise, in 2007.