Members of the young
professionals group with the Mequon-Thiensville Chamber
of Commerce participated in a work day at the Mequon
Nature Preserve last summer.
The group removed invasive species.
MEQUON — “Leadership in the pipeline.”
That’s how the executive director of the
Mequon-Thiensville Chamber of Commerce views its
expanding young professionals group.
“It really has enhanced our programming,” said Tina
Schwantes, the M-T chamber’s executive director. “It’s
another opportunity to have young professionals be with
The group started four years ago. There were several
successful events, but it started treading water after
some of the individuals who did much of the organizing
moved from the area for new jobs.
“About two years ago, we had a second wave,” said Mike
McDonald, a wealth manager with Spectrum Investment
Advisors in Mequon. His boss, Jim Marshall, then the M-T
Chamber president, asked if he’d be interested in
helping to revitalize the group.
McDonald got together with a few other younger members
of the M-T business community. The group discussed
events their peers would find interesting – and got to
work organizing. They hosted a half-dozen events last
“Each was well-attended,” he said. “We had 30 to 60
people at each event.”
There are six activities planned this year. Organizers
of the group say they are focused on offering
substantial and useful programming that also provides
social and networking opportunities. The group is trying
to mix it up by offering programs at different times of
The year kicked off in January with a group fitness
class at Mequon’s Burn Boot Camp. Last week, there was a
before-work opportunity to network over coffee and
pastries. The next program, planned for May 16, brings
together established industry professionals for a
mentoring luncheon featuring small-group discussions.
Plans for the remainder of the year include a community
service project in July. Group members will spread mulch
and help with other improvements as part of
Thiensville’s Village Park Reimagined! effort. The fall
event features an Oktoberfest celebration and a trivia
competition. The year will wrap up with a holiday party.
“We’re trying to stray away from the cookie-cutter young
professionals over happy hour,” McDonald said. “We want
to add value and provide events that help members be
engaged and learn how to be successful in their careers
at an early age.”
Colleen Landisch-Hansen, just promoted to Thiensville’s
village administrator, also helps lead the group. Some
members have gotten involved in other chamber
activities, such as the annual golf event and as chamber
ambassadors, she said.
Many who are coming to young professionals events work
in Mequon or Thiensville, but live somewhere else.
“This gives them another tie to the community,”
Landisch-Hansen said. “Maybe they’ll get married, move
out here and raise their family here.”
She added that while there are some who participate in
most activities, not everyone can come to a lunch event
or something immediately after work.
“We try to offer different events that are geared to
young professionals at different stages of their lives,”
Schwantes said she has been impressed that the group has
“It really is the young professionals deciding what the
programming should be,” she said.
Participants in the M-T group range from newly minted
college graduates, who may be 22 or 23, up to members in
their late 30s or early 40s, McDonald said.
“We’re not going to push anyone away,” he said with a
chuckle. “If you feel young at heart and want to embrace
that, we’re happy to have you.”
McDonald returned Schwantes’ compliment. He said he has
been thrilled with the “buy-in” from the chamber to the
young professionals’ activities.
“They’ve let us run with it,” he said. “It’s been
successful, in large part, because of that freedom.”
Schwantes said the group has been beneficial for the
young professionals, the chamber’s more-established
members and the chamber itself.
“I think it’s nice for employers that they can offer
something for young professionals,” she said. “It’s just
win-win-win all the way.”