Laura Marie Kaiser

My day job is the communications director for the Wisconsin Technology Council.

We’re a 501(c)3, nonprofit bipartisan advisory board to the legislature and the governor for science, technology, entrepreneurs, investors and the business ecosystem of Wisconsin. In addition to all entrepreneurs succeeding, I want to make sure diverse entrepreneurs are seeing equal opportunity—for instance, female and underserved entrepreneurs and investors have been a big recent initiative.

My primary role is to make sure our outreach is reaching our entire target market: the entire state of Wisconsin. After all, most people either know, support or are themselves an entrepreneur or investor. We send out a weekly newsletter with events, job opportunities, member information and more. Please reach out if you’re interested in subscribing!

Each year, we host four major events. One is the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest. This annual competition happens between late November and January 31 and is open to absolutely anybody in Wisconsin with a business idea. Through a series of judging sessions, we whittle down the entrants to what we call the Diligent Dozen. They compete for a number of wonderful cash and in-kind prizes at the Entrepreneurs’ Conference in June, such as legal and social media assistance, office space, etc. It’s a great way for entrepreneurs to get exposure and the opportunity to connect with mentors and resources.

We also host three major conferences: Entrepreneurs’ Conference, Wisconsin Tech Summit (which provides a unique opportunity for major companies and emerging firms to meet each other strategically) and our Early-Stage Symposium that links investors to early-stage companies. 

We have a very small, dedicated team and we each wear a lot of hats and exchange hats when needed. Prior to COVID, I was the conference director and also handled social media. But as the pandemic hit, we transitioned our conferences and webinars to virtual and my old role didn’t make sense. So, I’ve pivoted to this and it’s been a natural fit that I really enjoy. Working within and expanding my network is a fun way to learn more about people and the ecosystem.

Before the Tech Council, I worked in banking for over 20 years. A lot of the skills and experience I gained there translated very well to working with entrepreneurs and a non-profit, surprisingly. It’s been nice to look at my resume over time and see how my skills translate to new roles. I highly encourage others to do the same to appreciate their journey!  

Fun fact: I’ve always been a disrupter—just ask my sister! Allegedly, kids didn’t always like to play with me because I never liked to play by their rules. I’ve never been a fan of doing things a certain way just because they always have been done that way. I like to find ways to make things smart and more efficient—that’s what motivates me! “Work smarter, not harder.”

When I’m not busy with my job, I also have two side gigs.

One is engage social media. I’ve enjoyed using social media for years—I honestly go back to MySpace so that gives you an idea of just how long! When I first started at the Technology Council, we had a contractor who handled it for us. When the contractor left the role, my boss asked if I’d like to try handling it and I took it on. Twitter was a learn-on-the-job venture that I really now enjoy. It’s rewarding to consult with others on how to best use each platform for maximum results.

Another fun fact: It takes an amazing amount of time to do social media well. A lot of people don’t realize it’s about mutual engagement. If people comment on your LinkedIn post, you need to go and comment on theirs—it’s rude not to. If someone asks a question or compliments you, you need to follow up. It takes a lot of effort to do social media well on the backend—you have to nurture each platform and each post, as well as your business partners and connections. People started asking for advice and help on their social media so often that engage social media was born.

My passion project is simply impeccable fudge. I started this dangerous initiative in September 2020 with one flavor – dark chocolate peanut butter – and it’s really grown from there. I love experimenting with flavors—and will do try to honor custom requests, just ask. I love having a side business that gets me away from screens. The feedback has been so validating.

My most memorable caffeine is a combination of the decaf coffee my mom always drank when I was a kid and the first time I had caffeinated coffee. Decaf was all I ever drank until college because that’s what was in the house. When I had my first cup of caffeinated coffee, one night while I was studying, it hit so fast. I felt like, “Holy cow! I could study like this forever!”

To this day, whenever I pour a cup of coffee I think of my mom and her decaf. I’m pretty sure I haven’t had decaf since. Ha.

My current caffeine of choice is typically one I make at home and add a few squirts of Jordan’s Skinny Syrups, like you see at Kwik Trip, but sugar- and calorie-free. They come in any flavor you can think of—my current favorite is dark chocolate caramel—and they make any coffee instantly better. They also sell squirty foams to top them off. My current favorite is unicorn, it comes out purple and pink.

My favorite place for caffeine is typically Starbucks for a “chider”—hot cider and chai tea—or a hot chocolate from Panera, which comes with homemade marshmallows. It’s the fanciest hot chocolate you’ll ever have.

The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with would be my friend Stacey Montezon.

She passed away my senior year of high school. She was killed by a drunk driver. I lived in the small town of Eagle River, Wisconsin: There were 99 kids in my graduating class and Stacey would have been 100. When you lose a friend at that age, it’s incredibly impactful. And when you live in a small town, a death like that ripples through the entire community and hits hard forever.

Losing someone to drunk driving affected my attitude about partying, drinking and driving. I hope a lot of other people in my high school also took those lessons away too.

I think of Stacey all the time.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: financial stability.

I didn’t grow up with a lot of money and I went from being a broke college student to a broke single mom.

I think part of the reason I originally went into banking was because I wanted to help people do a better job managing their finances. Just because you’re broke doesn’t mean you have to have horrible credit and live with that stigma. People would come into the bank and it was very personal for me to help them get in a better spot; help them repair their credit and learn to manage their finances with confidence. I’d love for more people to know what it feels like to be financially stable.