The youngest child in a large, Irish Catholic family, John Sweeney was raised on a farm near Madison, WI. Sweeney graduated from St. Norbert College, and entered the workforce as a bright-eyed, ambitious, corporate real estate consultant. Never one to sit still, he quickly climbed to the top of the corporate ladder and became a partner in the business. He was very good at his job, but it still felt like a job. It was missing something. So Sweeney gave up his lucrative professional income, sold his shares and took a job with aspirations of comedy and minimum wage at the Brave New Workshop. His big, 5-year-old-with-a-sugar-high personality had found the perfect fit: the world of improvisation as a performer and speaker. It fit so well that he bought the Brave New Workshop in 1997. Sweeney’s focus now is building the Brave New Workshop’s Creative Outreach division, where he uses the skills of improvisation to teach businesses how to apply those tools to overcoming business challenges. To date, his message and methods have helped an extensive list of clients including Ceridian, Microsoft, Target, General Mills, US Bancorp, Medtronic, Hampton and many others. To learn more about Sweeney and the Brave New Workshop’s Creative Outreach programs and products, visit Creative Outreach.
Jenni Lilledahl graduated Summa Cum Laude from Augsburg College in 1987 with a degree in Communications and Public Relations and a minor in theatre. An ambitious Minnesota native, she got right to work. After eight years of work in the field of public relations, she decided to leap off the corporate ladder to pursue her passion, comedy theatre and improvisation. So she took a job working for the corporate entertainment division at Second City in Chicago. Two years of the windy city was enough and she returned to the Twin Cities, with husband John Sweeney, to take over the Brave New Workshop from founder Dudley Riggs.
Today, Jenni’s core belief is the driving force behind the Brave New Workshop—people from all walks of life can embrace the philosophies of improvisation to find their most creative, innovative, and confident self. With that belief, she’s transformed the Brave New Workshop Student Union from a school with a total of seven students into one of the world’s leading schools for the study of improvisation, with more than 150 students every week. She retains an active role as the executive director of the Student Union, and her ability to speak about, perform and teach improvisation has helped her inspire thousands, including Fortune 500 clients such as Sprint, Texas Instruments, and Hewlett Packard. She has lead improvisation workshops at the prestigious Chicago Improvisation Festival, the Big Stinkin’ Improv Festival in Austin, TX, Funny Women Fest in Chicago and at colleges and universities across the US. If you ever have her as a teacher, ask her to show you her deer impersonation.