Startup Week event hosts business leaders

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Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News (From left): Tricor Insurance Vice President and Partner Keith Kruse, Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther, First National Bank & Trust President David McCoy and Geronimo Hospitality Group Chief Operating Officer Jeff Whiteman speak to Rising Professionals of Beloit as part of the third "Breakfast with the Big Cheese." The breakfast lecture was part of local Startup Wisconsin Week.

BELOIT - As part of Startup Wisconsin Week, Beloit Rising Professionals hosted business leaders at truk't street tacos who shared their stories of success and gave advice to young professionals.

The event marked the third "Breakfast with the Big Cheese" morning event that drew speakers Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther, First National Bank President David McCoy, Tricor Insurance Partner and Vice President Keith Kruse and Geronimo Hospitality Group Chief Operating Officer Jeff Whiteman.

All speakers reminded young professionals that everyone's path to success is different; urged them to seek out mentors along the way, while stressing hard work and dedication.

Luther told the group of past challenges she faced rising through the public service ranks, and spoke specifically to the young women in the room.

"My message is don't prevent yourself from having the opportunity to move forward," Luther said, referencing data that showed women are less likely to apply for a job based on experience compared to men. "Don't limit yourself to what's possible."

Luther also stressed that people's career paths didn't need to be "sequential or linear," noting the ability young people have to change career fields.

McCoy focused on his career in banking, recalling how he was let go from a job at a Chicago-based bank before coming on board with First National. He told the group that networking was akin to a safety net for new opportunities.

"Surround yourself with good mentors," McCoy said. "Hire people that are smarter than you. Always treat people with respect and use high ethical standards for everything you do."

Kruse recalled his path from self-starter entrepreneur to partner of Tricor.

"What I thought about early on was working hard for your employer, being dependable, do whatever is needed, learn always and find a mentor," Kruse said. "Those foundational stones are the things that I started with."

Whiteman urged the group to forget the phrase "life-work balance," saying that it was important to focus on finding balance in life rather than dividing things up.

"Do what you are passionate about, put yourselves out there," Whiteman said. "Take a risk and have some fun."

Beloit will see nearly a dozen business-focused events as part of Startup Week, with highlights including a pitch showcase event Tuesday at the rooftop space of the Hotel Goodwin, 500 Public Avenue, as six Irontek member companies presented plans to grow businesses. Over 50 business leaders, mentors and community members attended the pitch night.

On Thursday, LiveBeta celebrated its latest class of innovative startups and entrepreneurs as part of gBETA Beloit. For the last seven weeks, gBETA's cohort of entrepreneurs have worked on business models and preparing pitches. Each startup will pitch to over 150 investors and community members.

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