McGuire Center’s Newest Lecturer an Entrepreneur Who Follows His Dreams

Sept. 6, 2016


The McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship’s newest lecturer, Mark Peterson, has a bio that reads like a lesson in following your dreams. Before joining the McGuire team, Peterson worked as a ski instructor and a pastry chef, founded successful bakeries in London and Tokyo, worked as a business news writer and producer for CNBC Business News in London, and taught English in Japan and entrepreneurship in Hanoi. 

Peterson’s global jet setting started early. He was born in Denmark, but his family moved regularly so he attended international schools while growing up. After getting an undergraduate degree in Politics and History from Durham University in England, he moved to Japan to teach English, but he couldn’t ignore a life-long aspiration.

“I’d always wanted to open a bakery,” he said. “It was a childhood dream.”

He trained as a pastry chef in Copenhagen and worked in bakeries in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills before founding his own in London in 1990. He grew the American-themed baked goods shop, Beverly Hills Bakery, opening several outlets. In his spare time, Peterson, a self-described news junkie, worked as a business writer and then producer for CNBC in London. 

“The bakery was very successful,” he said, “but I sold the business after 10 years because I thought, ‘there must be more to life.’”

He moved to Park City, Utah, and became a ski instructor – fulfilling another life-long dream – before returning to London to complete an MBA from Imperial College. 

In 2004, Peterson and his wife were ready to embrace a new challenge, so they moved to Tokyo and opened a British-American-themed bakery called Notting Hill Cakes.

“That was a lot more challenging,” said Peterson, who speaks Danish and German but had only a basic conversational knowledge of Japanese. “There were language issues and cultural issues, but the business did well.” 

Notting Hill Cakes gained prestigious corporate clients such as Dean & DeLuca, maker of gourmet foods and gift baskets. Peterson opened a baking school in Tokyo and found himself regularly invited to speak to groups about being a foreigner starting a business in Japan. 

In 2010, he seized an opportunity to combine his interests in teaching, business and entrepreneurship. He licensed the Tokyo bakery to a food and beverage operator and accepted a position at RMIT University, Australia’s largest university and was posted to their off-shore campus in Hanoi, Vietnam. He taught introduction to entrepreneurship, applied entrepreneurship, family business and other business courses. Teaching inspired him to go back to school again himself, and he began a doctoral program in Entrepreneurship with RMIT University, Australia. Next summer, he will travel to Melbourne to present his dissertation on hybrid entrepreneurs, people who maintain paid employment while also starting a business.

“In the West, being a hybrid entrepreneur is used for testing an idea, but in Asia’s developing economies, there’s a lot of prestige around being attached to a good job, so entrepreneurs are reticent to leave their jobs even when they start successful businesses,” he said.

This fall, Peterson begins yet another new chapter as a Lecturer in the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at The University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. He is teaching two classes and an online section of ENTR 485 – Innovating: Creating the Future, which is part of the Eller Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiative to have every business major graduate with transferable knowledge and skills in innovation and entrepreneurship. 

While Tucson’s ski season is shorter than he’s used to, Peterson is already enjoying the dry heat, especially compared to the humidity he endured in Hanoi for 6 years.

“I really like Tucson,” he said. “I’m excited to be part of a growing top-ranked entrepreneurship program.”