CEO Shirley Wikner of Aviation Charter has built the Eden Prairie-based fly, fuel and repair business into a 10-plane, 54-employee company that has improved its financial performance and deepened its purpose since she took over for her late husband in 2011.
Wikner will be honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in May as its Minnesota business person of the year.
A court reporter by profession, she said she was wary when her late husband, Roger Wikner, a real estate financier, started a one-plane operation in 1988, in a bid to turn his love of flying into a small business in a volatile industry.
Wikner, who didn’t pull a steady paycheck for the first 20 years, taught herself to run day-to-day operations. She learned accounting and finance after her husband suffered a brain injury six year ago.