UMSL alum Laura Burkemper helps others build their brands and scale their businesses

by | May 30, 2024

She also recently co-authored a book, “Empathy and Understanding in Business,” with expert negotiator Chris Voss.
Laura Burkemper

Laura Burkemper is the CEO of Scaleblazer and recently co-authored a book, Empathy and Understanding in Business.” (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

HOMETOWN: St. Louis

CURRENT LOCATION: St. Louis

OCCUPATION: Chief Executive Officer at Scaleblazer


Two years ago, University of Missouri–St. Louis alum Laura Burkemper entered a global negotiations contest for fun and self-improvement. It was an area that she perceived as one of her weaknesses, one that she wanted to improve in both personally and professionally. To Burkemper’s surprise, she placed in the top 10 out of 100 contestants. Encouraged by that unexpected outcome, she enrolled in a program at Harvard Business School Online and earned a certification in Negotiation Mastery in May 2023. A week later, she signed on to co-author a book, “Empathy and Understanding in Business,” with expert negotiator Chris Voss. She has spent her career working in strategy, brand, business development and innovation, holding key leadership roles at some of the world’s most recognizable companies, including Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Today, as CEO of Scaleblazer, Burkemper uses her expertise to actively guide CEOs, entrepreneurs and corporate innovators in building their brands and scaling their businesses. And as an UMSL donor and volunteer, she’s helped ensure students and alumni have access to resources that can impact their experience.

Tell us more about the book and what you hope readers take from it.

The book is a definitive guide to achieving massive success through helping others. In business times of the past, many questioned the compatibility of empathy and understanding with sound business decisions. However, today’s entrepreneurs recognize that successful and long-lasting relationships depend upon both qualities to build a solid foundation. Voss reminds us that entrepreneurs want lasting relationships that build trust and clientele. He challenges the perception that empathy is unrelated to entrepreneurship, asserting that trust and relationships stem from mutual understanding. This book unveils the insights, accomplishments and the do’s and don’ts of several celebrity experts, serving as valuable mentorship. Each of the 30 co-authors shares practical lessons on successful negotiation and business strategies, offering a shortcut for others to save time and resources on their journey to success.

What lessons from UMSL have helped you along the way?

Business programs at UMSL helped to emphasize analytical thinking and problem-solving skills, enabling me to approach complex issues with a strategic mindset. Being a part of the Alumni Association offered me a chance to build a professional network through alumni events. Lastly, I’ve learned that cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset is not just for those who want to start a new business, but also for those wanting to help their current organizations identify opportunities and become market leaders.

Why is it important to you to support UMSL?

It’s been an honor to serve on the UMSL Alumni Governing Board since 2015. UMSL represents the past, the present and the future. Therefore, it’s important for me to remember to “hold the door open” for others – be courteous, be supportive and create opportunities. Build upon your education and experiences, take the world as you found it and make it better. Hold the door open.

What is some of the best advice you have received?

Lead with integrity and by example, as exemplified by my parents, Lee and Marlene Burkemper. They are what I term “show-up people” – they show up for others – whether it’s to help, to guide or to celebrate. They are go-getters, but they are go-givers first.

This story was originally published in the spring 2024 issue of UMSL Magazine. If you have a story idea for UMSL Magazine, email magazine@umsl.edu.

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