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Building blocks for small, growing businesses at the heart of new program

First Elevating Your Business event in the series is set for May 21

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May 13, 2024

WAUSAU – What are some of the things that weigh heavily on entrepreneurial and growing business people’s minds?

Brian Otten – marketing director for the Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce – said the chamber has found it often comes down to marketing, human resources (including hiring) and business planning.

So, when a local member came forward with a fresh take on some hot topics, Otten said the chamber was all in on the idea.

And so, the Elevating Your Business program was born – spurred by some idea generated by Nathan Pezewski, client executive, and Makenzie Loveland, client executive of employee benefits lead, both of whom are with M3 Elevate.

A division of M3 Insurance, Pezewski said M3 Elevate focuses on helping companies and individuals develop unique partnerships, programs and playbooks to support their growth and protection.

He said the company’s Marshfield presence in the insurance realm regularly brought them into contact with entrepreneurs and other business owners who not only needed guidance regarding insurance and employee benefits, but a host of other topics. 

“Our big thing is, we work with small entrepreneurs and growing businesses, and unfortunately, there are many challenges to starting and growing a business,” he said. “We see many that affect our entire book of business, regardless if they’re in manufacturing or retail.”

Sometimes, Pezewski said “it’s paralysis by analysis.”

“But other times, it’s about (these businesses) needing more resources to get a business off the ground or grow it to the next level,” he said.

When the M3 team meets with business owners, Pezewski said they are not singularly focused on insurance.

“We try to ask about their challenges to getting their business to the next level,” he said. “Other clients ask as well, and that’s where our value lies in combining the resources we offer from our clients and our experience to others we know of as well.”

Loveland said M3 Insurance does business statewide and is even starting to trickle into other areas of the Midwest, such as Rockford, Illinois.

However, it’s their home community focus, she said, that drove their outreach to the chamber.

“Our local offices are immersed in our communities,” she said. “That’s why M3 is so strong. We (recognize) small and growing businesses are the heart of our community and influential to the growth of Wausau and Central Wisconsin. This program was born out of the need for unique partners and programs that can support the growth and protection of these businesses, allowing them to stay focused on their goals.”

Loveland said M3 not only sought out to help its clients, but other like-minded people as well to learn about what expertise and other resources are available to them, right in their backyard.

Of course, she said, the chamber came to mind, and Otten confirmed that education on topics like these resonates strongly with the 800-member businesses. 

“It is a good fit in that it reaches a broad swath of our membership that we offer programming for in terms of industries and size,” Otten said. 

Program details

The initial Elevating Your Business, Otten said, is the first in a series, and is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 21, at the Business Advancement Center at the chamber’s depot headquarters in downtown Wausau.

“The location was chosen with intention, as a lot of the programming we’re building for the Business Advancement Center space focuses on an innovation theme,” he said. “The powering innovation theme is at the heart of a lot of the new programming we’re developing. We want to make sure we’re fostering an innovative atmosphere and environment in Central Wisconsin, and that involves getting to that growing business.”

The presentation will feature speakers on three key topics:

  • Jessica Subach with The Employer Group will offer a presentation on human resources.
  • Speaker and Coach Todd Kuckkahn will discuss business planning.
  • Brandon Zunker of Drip Media will focus on marketing along with an opportunity for attendees to ask questions during a question-and-answer panel session at the end of the event.

Feedback on this session and other input, Otten said, will help steer the focus areas of future Elevating Your Business programming.

“Often, it’s the anecdotes from presenters and member businesses that fuel a lot of thought,” he said. “That’s the most inspirational part of what we have to offer.”

A good fit

The new educational series, Otten said, also dovetails nicely into the chamber’s complementary work in what it’s calling Powering Innovation – an initiative that taps into three platforms:

  • Awareness to seed new thought
  • An ecosystem toolbox to foster innovation
  • Entrepreneurship and storytelling, including case studies

The chamber began rolling out the Powering Innovation concept this year, and Otten said they have worked closely with a couple of members to connect them to resources they would have had a difficult time connecting to on their own. 

“There’s an ecosystem toolbox within the scope of this, and the Elevating Your Business program fits into that in terms of resources,” he said. “People will have access to three speakers’ expertise on three distinct parts of their business. Again, the chamber is serving as the conduit to resources many businesses are either unaware of or unable to make the contacts necessary on their own.”

Powering Innovation, Otten said, will delve more deeply, providing timely insights into industry 4.0 and digital transformation and other resources to further business growth in Central Wisconsin.

“We have to foster innovative new companies and help them grow,” he said.

For more information about the event, visit

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