CoB Graduate Inspires Students to Turn Challenges into Advantages

Southern Illinois University



Successful CoB Graduate Inspires Students to Turn Challenges into Advantages

December 09, 2015, Svetlana Bondar


Nathan Stooke, 2002 SIU CoB graduate

Nathan Stooke, a SIU College of Business 2002 graduate, and his company, Wisper ISP, have been recognized by St. Louis Small Business Monthly as one of the area’s rising companies.

Nominations by readers placed the company among the publication’s “Future 50.” The annual award lauds both the top companies and the companies to watch. Stooke and Wisper ISP were featured in the publication’s September issue.

Wisper ISP, headquartered in Belleville, Illinois, offers wireless Internet and cable services to clients in various industries. Wisper serves residential and business clients, and even reaches farmers in rural areas of the region. Since its founding, Wisper has acquired five competitors’ companies. Stooke, the firm’s CEO, is working on one more acquisition that would bring the number of Wisper customers to nearly 18,000. The company’s revenue has grown to more than $4 million.

The first successful attempt to provide wireless Internet to his neighbor gave Stooke, an IT consultant at the time, the idea to start a wireless company. In 2003, he and his wife purchased equipment and started the business out of their garage. Wisper ISP now has 46 employees and provides services to more than 8,500 customers in Illinois and Missouri.

Stooke said he dreams to see Wisper ISP continue to grow to cover all of the Midwest – and, hopefully, providing its services nationally someday. He also wants his business to continue to “treat the customer like a hometown business,” because that’s how Wisper sets itself apart from its competition, he said.

Stooke is a graduate of SIU’s computer science bachelor’s program, as well as a graduate of the MBA program in the College of Business, and he has served as a member of the Department of Management’s advisory board. While at SIU, Stooke was a member of the U.S. Swim Team and ranked third in the world in a 25-kilometer race in 1997.

When asked about what it means to him to be a Saluki, Stooke emphasized the unique family connection between the school’s graduates. He also mentioned that whenever he’d run into a fellow graduate during his travels across the United States and internationally, he found it to be a good icebreaker to talk about his time at SIU.

Stooke also said he’s impressed with how the school has progressed since he graduated while still providing the same quality education he enjoyed.

Stooke earns recognition for not only for his professional success, but also for his perseverance and hard work in spite of the challenges he faced as a student. He is an advocate and a board member for Dyslexic Advantage, an organization dedicated to promoting awareness and education about the strengths and advantages associated with dyslexia.

Stooke is open about the fact that he has dyslexia, and that his college coursework wasn’t always easy for him. However, despite his struggles, he was an excellent student and graduated with a 3.95 and a 4.0 GPA from SIU’s bachelor’s and master’s programs, respectively.

Stooke said the main reason he went to SIU was for the Achieve program, which is the university’s academic support program for students with learning disabilities and attention deficits. He said the extra support is what helped him to do so well in his classes.

He also mentioned that, at the time, very few high schools and colleges offered those kind of services – and that those schools missed out on the unique qualities dyslexic students have to offer, including their out-of-the-box thinking. Stooke quoted statistics showing that more than 30 percent of entrepreneurs in the United States are dyslexic.

Stooke said that his experience at SIU, including the Achieve program, prepared him for the dynamics and fast pace of the business world. He said he doesn’t feel any disadvantage for attending SIU instead of a school such as Harvard or Stanford, and added that the university adequately prepared him for running his business.

Based on his personal experience, Stooke’s has some advice for all SIU students, including those who face unique challenges: “Don’t use your challenge as a disadvantage, and don’t turn it into a reason why you can’t do something. You need to turn it into your advantage.”

Stooke also encouraged SIU students to seek out help on campus and to get the skills to turn their challenges into strengths.