St. Olaf student’s Entrepreneurial Scholars internship helps career take flight
As part of a St. Olaf College program for aspiring entrepreneurs, Steve Peper ’22 spent several months last summer working with Perceptive Avionics, a business that specializes in selling and installing equipment like flight instruments and dashboards into small private planes.
One of three day-to-day business operators, Peper created branding materials and conducted in-depth market research for a franchise model and developed unique business plans for individual avionics manufacturers.
“It was quite rewarding to gain some hands-on experiences in both marketing and sales of the business. I got exposed to many aspects of the entrepreneurial and startup world,” says Peper, who is majoring in economics at St. Olaf.
The startup was founded by the leader of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago. Peper says it was a great opportunity to connect with a highly successful person who mentored him and shared his experiences with him.
“The founder of the startup, Jay Schrankler, found what I was good at and we communicated so well that I was able to use those skills every day,” says Peper, who continued working with Perceptive Avionics after his summer internship and is currently assisting the Finance and Development Team. “That makes working with him fun and exciting every day.”
This type of hands-on experience, combined with mentorship, is exactly the point of the St. Olaf Entrepreneurial Scholars Program. The program offers a chance for St. Olaf students to participate in challenging and meaningful projects in entrepreneurial ventures while receiving mentorship and support from their supervisors. Students participating in the program receive a stipend through funding provided by alumni.
St. Olaf faculty, coaches, and peers give me abundant resources to develop academically, athletically, and personally. Professors support my interests, athletic staff dedicate themselves to my success, and my friends and I challenge each other. I owe so much of what I’ve done and will do to the people in my life here on the Hill, many of whom I plan to start the next phase of my life with. St. Olaf has inspired me to take initiative on what I truly desire to be a part of my life going forward.Steve Peper ’22
Peper’s experience with the Entrepreneurial Scholars Program helped him hone a wide variety of skills, from creating marketing materials to data organization to developing market research for competitor analysis purposes.
All of these skills helped Peper solidify his career plans. After graduation, Peper will be joining Turnberry Solutions as a crew business analyst. “I don’t think I would’ve gotten an offer if I didn’t have the experience that Perceptive Avionics gave me,” he says. “The market research aspect of working at Perceptive Avionics was probably the most useful to employers when viewing my resume. Right now I am working on a consulting project for the company, and it’s reaffirmed my desire to pursue a career in consulting. I love how interdisciplinary it is, and it doesn’t rely on just one skill.”
In addition to his academic work and his position with Perceptive Avionics, Peper has also developed strong skills in teamwork and leadership as a member of the St. Olaf men’s track and field team.
Last spring, Peper became St. Olaf’s first Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) high jump champion since 2001 and went on to become the program’s first All-American in the event since 1993 when he placed fourth in the country at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. This season, he broke St. Olaf’s school record in the heptathlon and finished 11th in the high jump at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Peper is inspired by his team members and always finds role models to look up to in order to manage and balance the academic, athletic, and professional aspects of his life on campus.
“St. Olaf faculty, coaches, and peers give me abundant resources to develop academically, athletically, and personally. Professors support my interests, athletic staff dedicate themselves to my success, and my friends and I challenge each other,” he says. “I owe so much of what I’ve done and will do to the people in my life here on the Hill, many of whom I plan to start the next phase of my life with. St. Olaf has inspired me to take initiative on what I truly desire to be a part of my life going forward.”