By MaryBeth Matzek
Susan Finco is one of the best-known businesswomen in Northeast Wisconsin — running a successful public relations firm and serving as a member of the Green Bay Packers Executive Committee and countless nonprofit boards and committees. But back in 1992, it was a completely different story. That’s when Finco and her partner, Charlie Leonard, wanted to start a public relations firm — as the first one north of Milwaukee, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion it would be a success.
Leonard & Finco Public Relations is now the largest PR-only firm north of Milwaukee and serves clients throughout North America.
“Charlie and I both came from a media background, and the biggest challenge was just to learn how to run a business,” says Finco, who had a long career in broadcasting before teaming up to launch the public relations firm. “I knew journalism, public relations and my own skill set, but you don’t know what you don’t know. I learned what it really takes to run a business.”
After running the Green Bay firm successfully for several years with Leonard, he decided to retire and Finco bought him out. “Some people didn’t think that as a woman I would be able to successfully keep it going,” she says.
Finco was happy to prove them wrong. “It’s really important for women to support each other,” she says. “I’m always open and willing to talk to other women. I feel like I need to give back more than I was helped. I always think once you get your foot in the door, that you wedge your foot in there so others can follow you.”
That’s something Cole Buergi, vice president of business development for Leonard & Finco Public Relations, has noticed firsthand and led him to nominate Finco for a Women of Influence Award. “Susan also takes the time to talk with and mentor others, including dozens of women over the years as well as students interested in the PR profession,” he says.
Finco says many women have inspired her throughout her life, starting with her mother. “She was always an inspiration to me,” she says. “I later had teachers who encouraged my love of writing and mentors along the way in my career.”
While Finco has won numerous awards and became the first woman to serve on the Packers’ executive committee, she says building her business with a team of people who are “well known and respected and that businesses and organizations trust” is her biggest achievement.
A former chair of the Greater Green Bay Chamber, Finco has helped many nonprofits by leading capital campaigns or other fundraising efforts, including United Way of Brown County, the Oral Health Partnership, the Golden House, Bellin Health and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. She also founded A Pair & A Spare: The Undercover Challenge, which collected thousands of pairs of new socks and underwear for those in need. That effort was eventually transitioned to the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition.
Click here to view Susan Finco’s acceptance speech.