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Connie Shaikh

Philanthropist & Restaurant Entrepreneur

Why She’s Amazing

Connie Shaikh doesn’t want to be a princess. She wants to be more.

At first glance, Connie is a busy mom raising three active children, two dogs and an assortment of other animals at any given time.

Dig deeper, however, and you will find that she has a heart of gold and a will of steel. This combination makes her one of Milwaukee’s most influential philanthropists and a behind-the-scenes catalyst to SURG Restaurant Group’s continued growth.

From organizing a Christmas benefit event for a local small business owner with four children whose husband passed away to volunteering at the Humane Society to hosting Milwaukee’s most anticipated fashion show to benefit the Sojourner Truth House, Connie is driven to make the world a better place.

She also provides counsel to her husband and SURG Restaurant Group co-owner on many areas of the business, including expansion opportunities, interior design and philanthropic efforts. Connie’s humble and gracious demeanor should not be underestimated.

We had a chance to ask Connie a few questions. Read on, and we think you’ll agree that the world needs more of this type of modern day trailblazer!

“Being a role model for my children is key, and I hope they follow in my path someday.” – Connie Shaikh

Q & A

Q: When you were a young girl, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?

A: I wanted to be a makeup/special effects artist. I loved watching music videos by Michael Jackson and Madonna. We didn’t have cable so I would watch at my friend’s house and, let’s just say, I was obsessed!! I still love makeup to this day and can do it off and on the set of a production.

Q: What did people think when you told them that?

A: My family thought I was crazy because I wanted to move to Hollywood to study make-up and make-up effects for film.
They were set on me becoming a veterinarian because we lived on a hobby farm and loved animals.

Q: Did people call you “princess” when you were a little girl and, if so, how did that make you feel?

A: I was never called a princess until high school. It was my sophomore year, and I finally took interest in liking hair, makeup and clothing. I also came out of my shell and stood up for myself and others. I was extremely thoughtful and kind at a young age so I guess the combination of the two labeled me as one. I never understood why looking the part, always being ready to go and acting with kindness would label me as a princess when clearly there wasn’t a “regal rank” in our family! Haha. I would just ignore the claim and carry on.

Q: How did you become interested in philanthropy while also building a successful restaurant empire?

A: I honestly give all the credit to my husband and our business partner, Michael Polaski. In the restaurant business we’re able to meet the most amazing people within our community and are then introduced to many wonderful organizations. We simply help in any way we can. I’ve been inspired, motivated and touched by many people right here in the Milwaukee area, and it only makes sense to me to pay it forward. With making connections and getting involved within our community being essential to our businesses, and with Omar and Michael working in the day-to-day operations of our businesses, it enables me to be involved in charitable opportunities.

Q: Did you have a mentor or role model who inspired you?

A: Oprah! I grew up watching Oprah and have the utmost respect for all she has done. She is a true inspiration and motivator. We need more people like her! And, no, I’m not speaking in terms of money…she walks the walk! If she says she’s going to do something, she does it! So many of us “talk” but, for some reason, never follow through.

Q: Did your family and friends support your aspirations?

A: Yes! Without my family’s and friends’ support, I would not be able to do what I do. They’re the best!

Q: Did you think about being called a “trailblazer” for choosing this path?

A: No, not really. I simply enjoy what I do. I give 100% and hope that I’ve touched or made a difference in some way.

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Q: What motivates you?

A: My family motivates me. Being a role model for my children is key, and I hope they follow in my path some day.

Q: Of what are you most proud?

A: I am most proud of my work with the Sojourner Truth House.

Q: What would you like people to learn from you?

A: That anything is possible! And that you can make a difference; you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.

Q: What three words would you like people to use to describe you?

A: Strong. Silly. Kind.

Q: What do you want people to know about you outside of your professional and philanthropic accomplishments?

A: Just be you! I feel for the younger generations with the negative use of social media today. Social media is pretty amazing if you really think about it, but it can also be very devastating at the same time. If you’re comfortable in your own skin and truly love yourself, people around you will do so the same. We are all meant to be different; that’s what makes us unique and interesting. Life would be so boring if we were all the same.

Q: Who do you follow on social media that shares your passion for making our community a better place?

A: I am not on any social media, but if I were, Oprah and Ellen.

Q: If you could eat lunch with one person, whom would it be?

A: Oprah, surprise!

Q: Which woman would you choose to have on U.S. currency?

A: Any of the First Ladies.

Q: What advice would you give to a girl who right now wants to be just like you?

A: Follow your dreams no matter how big or small they are. Be passionate, truly enjoy what you do and don’t take no for an answer.

Bonus Question: What question would you ask the next Modern Day Trailblazer we interview?
What is your favorite movie?

A: Did you know you would have the focus you have now when you were younger?

Fun Facts:

  • The last book Connie read was The Wizard of Oz with her girls.
  • She doesn’t do karaoke. She sure can lip-sync, though!
  • She’s usually right on time.
  • Connie’s favorite quote is “Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live life like it’s heaven on earth.” by Mark Twain.
  • She prefers CHOCOLATE over vanilla!