Jesse Stukenberg of Suamico (aka Nurse Jesse) says she had checked all the boxes of achievement but didn’t feel the happiness she expected.

"I was left feeling unfulfilled even once I had arrived at my goal," she said.

It was her friend and now business partner, Karla Brooks, who arrived in her life at just the right moment. Brooks, who along with a group of friends, had published a book entitled, "It Makes Me Happy," had begun to look at their lives in a new way. The group focused on gratitude and started to take notice of life’s simple pleasures whether it be a white, fluffy cloud or a bar of handmade soap.

The book helped Stukenberg find joy by learning to express appreciation, love and gratitude. It also forged a partnership between she and Brooks, and in 2017, the start of a business, "It Makes Me Happy." ( Bob Jahnke and I, both Green Bay SCORE mentors, met the pair over a year ago when they had big dreams and were working on putting a business plan together. They are well on their way.

"What started out as personal or group coaching has evolved as a result of our co-design efforts with the Wellness Council of Wisconsin and their corporate learning circles, where we presented our message and found that everyone wants the opportunity to be happy," Stukenberg said. "The corporate arm of the business was birthed."

The corporate aspect includes keynote speeches with a focus on discovering 12 key areas for happiness and a simple process for finding joy in everyday living; two distinct workshop programs; and a virtual program that is still in development.

"Emotional health concerns have a significant impact on work performance," she said. "Each day, most employees walk into work distracted by a personal issue. These sessions offer a fresh perspective and new take on mindfulness, gratitude and resilience to address thoughts which lead to anxiety and increased stress levels."

The results, she says, are seen in more productive and happier employees. An added benefit is attracting and keeping talent, because employers are seen as caring for their well-being.

Speeches have been overwhelmingly received, and the business is growing mostly through word-of-mouth. For Stukenberg, who has years of experience in nursing, coaching, health management and wellness, the success led her to obtain certification as a Professional Public Speaker through the National Speakers Association. It also led her to take the next big step and leave her job.

"It honestly was really hard. I had my dream job. Yet, there was this sense that I could give more and have an even bigger impact on the world. As my leader described it after I told him, ‘Jesse’s got to spread her wings and fly,’" she said.

She will continue to partner with that employer, Bellin Health, in various ways. But she, along with Brooks, will follow their vision to have a global presence and empower people to find joy.

There are Circles of Friends Small Groups that meet in groups of up to 12 with a trained facilitator who guides individuals through a trademarked curriculum.

"The need to belong and feel accepted is one of the most primal of human needs," Stukenberg said. "Circle of Friends is a safe space offering love and acceptance where healing begins, and empowerment takes root and grows."

Reviews from participants say that not only have the sessions been life-changing, they also have built lasting friendships.

With the curriculum in place and the benefits obvious, Stukenberg and Brooks plan to expand efforts by certifying facilitators and offering programs throughout the world. Branding will include a variety of merchandise to help provide daily reminders of participants’ journeys and happiness.

As partners, Stukenberg said she and Brooks, who still works full-time, have a fantastic business and personal relationship that allows each to use their strengths. They believe that a red light means it’s time to set aside fear and "go."

"In 2017, the seed was planted but there was an internal tug of war," Stukenberg added. "I turned 40 this year and there was that sense of urgency. I was like, ‘If not now, when?’ My heart was straining to jump in — to go all in — to give it a try."

Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.


Green Bay Press-Gazette

Jesse Stukenberg RN, BSN