Tag Archives: Michelle Schrage

Expanding Times, Expanding Horizons

June 14, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Networking groups offer ideas and kindle relationships, but they also have drawbacks. “John” only sees the same people at his networking luncheon. “Bill” might desire to join the coffee group, but he needs to open his store by 8 a.m. And “Jane” doesn’t have $200, let alone $1,000, just to come once or twice per year. 

Michelle Schrage and Jay Miralles can relate, which is why they started Business4Business Professional Society in 2014, using a different business model that includes a variety of networking events like morning coffees, afternoon luncheons, and evening gatherings. 

They have been a part of traditional networking groups, including some based on professions such as bankers, drywallers, or real estate agents. Schrage and Miralles decided to bring together connected, motivated, and forward-thinking people, regardless of profession.

In the first couple of years, B4B’s leadership team and board were concerned that not having a regular, predictable meeting schedule might be making it difficult for businesspeople to connect and engage. It soon became evident that this strategy was actually advantageous. 

“We now embrace it,” Schrage says as the organization enters its fifth year and has hosted more than 100 events, or nearly two events per month. “Our members are busy professionals and we’ve found that they want access but not necessarily commitment…we have a core group of regulars but there are always new people from various walks of life and industries.”

As a single mom to a 13-year-old son and a busy professional herself, Schrage understands firsthand how important flexibility is to today’s professionals. 

The B4B founders discovered early that a lot of people did not want to pay a membership fee for a professional networking group. So, although a $249 one-year all-access pass allows unlimited entry to all events, attendees can also simply pay as they go on a per-event basis, Schrage says. Every event is self-contained and offers something different; i.e., in March, B4B was the first group to host an event on Blackstone Social’s new patio. 

“We maintain that our events are held at places that have a unique, interesting aspect to them whether they are brand-new, not accessible to most people, or not known to most people,” she adds. “It’s a great way to bring people together.”

Event elements may include workshops, efforts to support nonprofits, gala-quality fundraisers, speakers, and behind-the-scenes tours in addition to face-to-face networking opportunities. Speakers have included Firespring CEO Jay Wilkinson, Peter Kiewit Foundation Executive Director Emerita Lyn Wallin Ziegenbein, and motivational speaker Ron ‘Gus’ Gustafson.

“We’re constantly thinking, ‘what’s something new?’” Schrage says. “It gives us a lot of flexibility to keep our eyes and ears open to amazing people, amazing endeavors, and amazing companies we feel the community can benefit from knowing about.”

B4B regular Christopher Pfanstiel, director of business development for Hustad Companies Inc., says B4B has presented opportunities to connect with new people and businesses, and even helped him gain a new client or two.  

“I really enjoy B4B…it’s networking that’s done in a loose fashion versus a very canned environment,” he says. “You meet new owners, and managers, and entrepreneurs…you get to meet the key players and learn a little bit about them and their businesses.”

B4B succeeds because developing a face-to-face rapport is still important and relevant in the age of electronic communications, Schrage says. 

“When you get to share space with somebody, and read each other’s body language, and make eye contact, and exchange ideas that aren’t necessarily electronically communicated, you create strong bonds,” she says. “I think people are missing the mark if they rely too much on technology.”

To find out more about upcoming events, visit b4bsociety.com.

This article was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. 

Michelle Schrage

Michelle Schrage

May 19, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

When women are looking for a place to grow their careers, they want to be at a company that recognizes that work-life balance is important. They also take into consideration that family is a big part of their lives, says Michelle Schrage.

“It’s important to see our team members not just as professionals, but as passionate people. Driven women want to do well for our company, and we expect our company to do well for us,” explains Schrage, a single mother of an 11-year-old son.

MassMutual was named one of Working Mother magazine’s “Top 100 Best Companies” for 2016. Schrage says that the company deserves the prestigious ranking: “Our commitment to progressive workplace programs, our advancement of women, our flexibility, childcare, and paid parental leave all excel.”

Women do very well in the financial services industry because they have a natural ability to build relationships, says Schrage. “We’ve got a team of motivated women who want to earn what they are worth and build long-term relationships with their clients,” she continues.

MassMutual Nebraska has a team-oriented environment. “We’ve created a culture of idea sharing and collaboration. We also have specialists who can come to the table to help our advisers succeed,” says Schrage. “In our office, we have fun and laugh a lot. We are involved in the community through charitable and education-focused events, and we bring in speakers frequently to talk about important issues. Everyone on our team believes in keeping a ‘door always open’ approach.”

“At MassMutual, we are proud of our ability to access a variety of different carriers for financial solutions. We truly have the ability to do what’s in the best interest of the client,” she says. “At MassMutual, we empower our advisors to build their client base and know they’ll never lose them if a company change should occur. Relationships are important, and we protect the right of our advisors to always keep their clients, no matter what.”

MassMutual has a prestigious list of rankings and honors, among them:

• Named a World’s Most Ethical Company by Ethisphere Institute for three consecutive years, 2014-2016.

• Named 2016 “Insurer of the Year” by Risk Management Association.

• Ranked No. 76 by Fortune Magazine in the “Fortune 100” list.

“Our company goal is to establish MassMutual Nebraska as a premier financial firm where financial specialists aspire to build and grow their practices,” she says. “My personal goal is to always connect with people. I love meeting people and facilitating powerful connections. So in my role as the Marketing and Recruiting Director, I connect people with their desire to have a great career.”

Schrage has contributed greatly to the community. She is the founder and Executive Director of Business4Business Professional Society, planning programs that bring together people who want to make a difference.

An actress for 20 years, she founded and ran the Nebraska Film Association for seven years. She lobbied state senators to provide tax incentives for the film industry. “It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. But because we don’t have incentives, filmmakers often won’t come here,” she says.

She also is a board member of The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and serves on the board of the Engagement Council of the Greater Omaha Chamber.

“I’m always looking for ways to make a positive difference,” she says.

10250 Regency Circle, Suite 250
Omaha, NE 68114