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Local Entrepreneur Offers Students Real-World Advice

Sarasota entrepreneur Pete Petersen spoke with Upper School students at Ovation about following their passion and how they can take steps to control the path of their future professional lives.
Mr. Petersen spoke candidly about the trajectory of his career, talking about the obstacles he encountered along the way and how he worked to overcome them leading up to his success as the CEO of an influential advertising company.

“The first step is knowing yourself personally. Not what your parents tell you. Not what other people tell you about yourself. Find out what you don’t like and stay far away from it. Don’t wait for someone to tell you what you want to do,” Mr. Petersen advised.

During his talk in the Petrik Thunderdome, Mr. Petersen shared how he struggled to find what he wanted to do with his life after starting his first job at age 14. The New Jersey native worked manual labor and blue collar jobs before deciding to attend college. After quickly realizing that the four-year institution wasn’t the right fit for him, Mr. Petersen had several starts and stops before graduating from 2-year technical school and beginning work in the technology field. He started his first company at the age of 21, and after selling it several years later, started several more, increasing the levels of success with each one.

“Your biggest challenge is going to be failing,” Mr. Petersen said to a class of Engineering and Physics students in the Dart STEM Lab. “You are lucky to be surrounded by great resources: smart students, supportive parents and teachers. You may not have had the experience of failing yet, but failure is part of the journey. You have to realize that you don’t need to fail or succeed to move forward.”

Now the CEO of the online automotive marketing powerhouse, Dealers United, and a teacher at the college where he earned a four-year degree, Mr. Petersen explained how he uses his successes and failures to help him improve as he moves forward with his career. “Surround yourself with positive people who will support you. Build up your skills and find mentors you can go to,” he advises. “Quitting,” he says, “is never an option.”
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