After missing each other by a few years as students at Trinity, Matt Steigenga ’92 and Steve Cooper ex ’86 eventually ended up being not only fellow alumni but brothers-in-law and business partners.
The two will open their eighth Batteries Plus store in Florida this September. The first opened in 1997 after Matt and his wife Mary Beth (Steve’s sister) moved to Bradenton, Florida. The couple had researched the opportunity offered by the franchise on the suggestion of Mary Beth and Steve’s father Marv Cooper, benefactor (along with his wife Joan) of Trinity’s Cooper Career Center.
The Coopers operated an office products and furniture store for many years in Milwaukee, and acting on their passion for using education to launch a career, they established the Cooper Center in 1997. The Center offers Trinity students a variety of services including resumé writing guidance and networking events.
“I think my dad saw people needing a boost to apply their degree to a career, to take the next step,” said Steve.
Steve’s brother Bob Cooper owns stores in Washington, and their brother Craig works in the Batteries Plus corporate office. Steve’s nephews Bryan ex ’06 and Brett ’06 Cooper have also worked in the stores.
The “tight” economy has been one factor in the success of their businesses, said Matt. “People are hanging on to equipment and replacing batteries rather than buying new.”
Steve, who is married to fellow alum DeAnn (Vegter) ex ’88, also credits his family, as well as his Trinity education, with his personal business success. “We’re family, but we’ve learned to be partners. We have support from each other and operate with a Christian attitude,” he said.
And he integrates what he learned at Trinity into his business, especially “interacting with people and operating in community.”