Trevor Plett, Black Hills State University MBA alumni, and John Herrera, current BHSU MBA student, placed second in the SD Mines Competitive Entrepreneurial Opportunity Student Business Plan Competition. This annual competition introduces South Dakota college students to entrepreneurship by providing training, mentors, and the opportunity to pitch their ideas for a cash prize.
This year, Plett and Herrera presented a business plan for Rushmore Drones, a company they co-founded in Jan. 2017.
After 10 years of working in banking and finance, Plett noticed an opportunity in the growing and commercializing drone technology services industry. Plett and Herrera partnered to create a business that would make data collection cheaper and safer.
“We can accomplish a lot of difficult tasks without putting people in high-risk situations,” Plett says. “We feel that anytime you can reduce cost and improve safety, there is a strong business case for that technological use.”
The most innovative project Rushmore Drones has been able to tackle was inspecting the entire perimeter of the Minnesota Viking’s U.S. Bank Stadium. By taking on large-scale projects like this, Plett and Herrera are making strides towards their future goals for Rushmore Drones, which includes a partnership with Measure, the nation’s leading drone service company.
“Our goal is to professionalize. We need to stand out from anyone else who can enter the market by having the best certifications and best training the skills to make us the premiere drone service provider in the region,” says Plett. “Measure provides training. They want Fortune 500 companies as well as local contractors and engineers to feel comfortable using our services and knowing that we are certified, ensured, and capable of handling complicated projects.”
Entering the competition allowed this team to recreate and refocus their company’s business plan.
“It gave us structure for what the business plan was supposed to entail, an executive summary of financial projections, market analysis, and operating strategy,” says Herrera. “It gave us a good instruction of how they wanted it outlined.”
The team was given seven minutes to present their business plan to a panel of judges before a three-minute question and session. They also featured one of their drones as part of the presentation.
“What gave us an edge in the competition was that both John and I had already had a lot of experience writing marketing and business plans for our BHSU MBA program,” says Plett. “For us to write another business plan didn’t seem very intimidating.”
“Whether it’s marketing, accounting or strategic planning, these are all skills you need to run a business. At BHSU, you learn it all first-hand,” says Plett. “Professors Don Looney and Jeff Wehrung were great resources, helping us review the business plan and give us feedback.”
With the second place finish the team earned $2,000 in the overall competition. Additionally, they were awarded the Agriculture Industry prize, $1,000, from Sioux Steel Company for making the best business case in agriculture with their crop scouting and plant health detection services.
I would encourage other students to participate in this competition,” says Herrera. “It was a great learning experience and, of course, there is the opportunity for cash prizes which can boost your company.”