Driving Social Business, Championing Innovation, & Inspiring Creativity

A Look Back and Looking Forward

Last year brought many new experiences my way, several of which consumed my attention and threw me off the content creation course (writing).  I can think of two things that have significantly impacted my life for the better even though my goal of being a more proactive writer became distant.  For starters, I’ve been really enjoying being a father. You’d be surprised just how much time it takes, but every minute of it worth it.  This year my wife and I celebrated our daughters first birthday; and have witnessed so many more of her milestones.  All this as she grows into her larger than life personality, what a ride it’s been thus far.  We’re also excited to welcome a second Renno baby into the world this June. Excited for what the addition to the family will bring but now the parents team and kids team will be at equal strength. Only time will tell who has practiced more.

Second I had the opportunity to take on new roles within my career journey this year.  This summer I took on a role in Chicago, kick starting the organization’s first official social media department and helping to develop and implement several social business ideas across the enterprise.  I wanted to pause a moment and recognize all of you that helped me to achieve this opportunity.  There are far to are too many to call out individually; but confident in the fact that the tremendous support shown by the Milwaukee Twitter community and significant increase in local brand recognition they helped me to achieve, aided in paving the way.  Later in the year as our organization’s social efforts grew, so did the need for additional headcount.  It was during this period of departmental growth, I was afforded the opportunity to lead the social media team and program for the business.  I am grateful for this new team and tremendously excited for the skill sets they bring to the table, as together we’ll be able to accomplish so much more.

As we move into the New Year I feel more grounded, more thoughtful, and more open minded to new ideas than ever before.  I am continuously learning both personally and professionally from those around me and through the relationships I have made with all of you.  For this I am forever grateful.  Twenty Twelve brings about another change, made possible by a good friend of mine Phil Gerbyshak.  His thought leadership and digital experience has helped me to expand the way I think about the social / digital space, as well as helped to breathe new life into my own little corner of the web.  Thank you for taking the time, sharing your knowledge, and above all being a good friend.

This year I am looking forward to sharing new thoughts and ideas with all of you.  I am looking forward to asking more questions, seeking different opinions and challenging the status quo.  I look forward to learning more and perhaps even teaching at times.  I look forward to making the time to connect with more people and build new relationships. I look forward to giving more time to my growing family.  Along the way, I look forward to sharing my reflections with you.

*Photo Credit*


From Tragedy to Triumph: A Social Media Win in Milwaukee, WI

Imagine with me for a moment…

After a series of storms, which made road travel nearly impossible, you choose to stay the night at a relative’s house to ensure your family’s safety. The next day you’re excited to return to your residence which was just made officially a home as you welcomed a new baby to the world just months earlier. Life is good for your young family, and the future is looking pretty bright. Morning now, the rain has passed and you start your journey home; only to realize as you drive through your neighborhood that something’s not right. Piles of wet carpet, garbage, and damaged furniture line the street leading up to your home.

Thoughts of happiness turn to quickly fear and uncertainty as it is clear the neighborhood was flooded during last nights storm. You pull into your drive way, sick, realizing you had no basement, and are reluctant to open the door to your family home for fear of facing reality. Eventually you muster the courage to enter your abode, yet what you find is surreal. The flood waters clearly breached the dwelling and reached depths of 2-3 ft throughout. Your home, now severely damaged and unlivable is completely destroyed.

The dream is gone.

Not knowing where to start, you make several calls to your insurance company, at least they can help.  Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse your agent delivers a below the belt punch and tells you the damage to your home is not covered. You don’t have flood insurance, says your agent, thanks for playing, we wish you well in your future endeavors.  Flood insurance?  Why would you ever consider flood coverage? As you live no where close to a lake or river.  Maybe there is hope? What about FEMA? Wrong! The damage was not substantial enough to qualify (at least for right now).  What would your young newly formed family do now? There is no way possible you could afford to rebuild your home without taking out significant loans, and becoming overrun by debt.  Luck, if there is such a thing has run out.


*Photo Credit: www.teecycle.org*

Unfortunately the above story was a sad reality for the Cigelske’s, a Milwaukee area family, during the #BrewCityFlood in July 2010. Not knowing what to do or which way to turn, Tim Cigelske shared his story in a touching blog post via Twitter, which prompted many on the tightly woven online community to ask how they could help.  Tim (@teecycletim) is no stranger to social media heading up online communications for Marquette University, and founder of Teecycle.org where his company sells reclaimed t-shirts and donates a portion of the proceeds to help save urban rivers and trails in Milwaukee.  Naturally he wanted to share his experience with his connections online. What was about to ensue over the next month went beyond his family’s wildest dreams, and brought an online community closer together in an effort to help rebuild the Cigelske family home and help #saveteecycle.

The link to Tim’s initial blog post quickly spread throughout Wisconsin and beyond via Twitter, where several people, strangers really, were quick to ask how they could help.  A group in Indiana even sent the Cigelske’s an ample supply of baby supplies to help alleviate at least once necessity at the top of the young family’s mind.  Soon after the story was circulated two members of the Milwaukee area Twitter community truly came to the forefront in an effort to help this family get back on their feet.  Enter complete strangers, Sue Spaight (@suespaight) and Katie Klein-Murphy (@bootyp) and the birth of www.saveteecycle.org.

*Photo Credit: Troy Freund – Midwest Photo*

Together these two women realized a need to step up, and took immediate action to make things right for this family.  At first Sue and Katie started a website explaining the Cigelske’s story along with a link to accept donations to aide in the rebuilding of their home.  The website generated significant traffic and received an outpouring of support, including donations both personal and corporate. What happened next took me by surprise, as it’s not to often you see complete strangers make it their mission to help each other. The website served as a catalyst for greatness, creating even more interest in helping to get the Cigelske family back home.

With more awareness came an increase in people “tweeting” about the cause. This in turn inspired several businesses and individuals to partner with Sue, Katie, and www.saveteecycle.org to rebuild the Cigelske’s home. In a generous donation the Cigelske family received all new windows for their home, from Renewal by Andersen.  Another one of the key players in rehabilitating the Cigelske home was William Ryan Homes represented by Craig Vermeulen (@WilliamRyanRE).  As an avid member of the local Twitter community Craig knew he needed to do what he could to help this family in need.

Craig leveraged his connection to William Ryan Homes, and was able to donate all of the labor, and purchase supplies at contractor prices, in an effort to rebuild the Cigelske’s home. Craig and his team of contractors worked on this project before and after hours for several weeks, rehabilitating the destroyed home to it’s original glory. When I asked Craig why he worked so hard to help the Cigelske’s his answer spoke to his remarkable character. “I helped because I could…it was the right thing to do.  If my family was in a similar position, I know someone would do the same for us.”

Additional steps were taken by Sue and Katie in an effort to make things whole again for the Cigelske’s.  They planned a benefit on September 18, 2010 for the family to raise additional funds to ensure the costs to rebuild the home were covered.  With hard work these amazing women secured some solid partnerships ensuring the benefit would be a success.  Sprecher Brewery graciously offered to donate the venue, creating a perfect atmosphere for the benefit. Delicious food was donated for the event by COA (@GetCOA) in Milwaukee, who also donated a portion of their restaurant sales to the #saveteecycle fund. COA specializes in authentic Mexican cuisine, so needless to say this stuff was tasty, and was a big hit among guests at the event.  Sue and Katie also secured an extensive array of silent auction, and raffle items from various individuals and businesses throughout the community.  A final tally of supporters for the #Saveteecycle event puts attendance north of 200 people.  I truly feel passionately that because of Sue Spaight’s and Katie Klein-Murphy’s unselfishness and stewardship, a deserving family was saved from tragedy. Their courage to stand up, take charge, and make things happen for the Cigelske’s (at the time total strangers), is an inspiration and a triumph for Milwaukee’s social media scene.

The #SaveTeecycle benefit accomplished several things looking back now. First and foremost, the Cigelske’s can now move home!  Craig Vermeulen and his team at William Ryan Homes, finished the rehabilitation and were able to turn the keys over to a family that hasn’t been home in months. The big reveal was viewed at the benefit live, via video from Dan Wilde (@dwilde), to the surprise of all in attendance (watch the reveal here) (Fantastic work with the video Dan).  With the generosity of the community through various ways of donating, all of the costs of the rehab were covered. Additional funds collected will go to help neighboring families that also suffered loss due to the <a hr


Powered by WordPress | Designed by Elegant Themes