Drone company soars out of BHSU-Rapid City MBA program

Author: BHSU Communications/Monday, May 7, 2018/Categories: Students, Academic Affairs, Alumni, College of Business and Natural Sciences, Community, 2018

At Black Hills State University-Rapid City, two students turned an economics discussion into an emergent drone services company.

Trevor Plett, Black Hills State University MBA alumni, and John Herrera, BHSU MBA student who graduated May 5, come from drastically different academic backgrounds—banking and medicine—but met through the MBA in Applied Management program at BHSU-RC. Plett and Herrera recently founded Rushmore Drones in April 2017.

Founded just over a year ago, Rushmore Drones has since partnered with Measure, the nation’s leading drone service company, and now operates the largest Measure franchise region in the U.S.

Rushmore Drones uses advanced drone operations to make collecting data for commercial and industrial operations less expensive and safer than previous methods. One of the more interesting projects the company has had was inspecting the entire perimeter of the Minnesota Viking’s U.S. Bank Stadium in 2017.

Plett explains how his business partnership with Herrera formed organically, through classroom conversation in an economics class at BHSU-RC: “We were studying what makes a market a monopoly or perfect competition. At the same time, I was reading about the drone industry being deregulated. I told John about how the market was going to change from an oligopoly to a monopolistic, perfect competition market and how that would present a lot of opportunities for people who are first-movers in that market—all using these economic terms that we were literally studying in class.”

Herrera notes that the material learned in the MBA classes aligned with the steps they took to found, grow, and promote Rushmore Drones. “All of the professors have helped in different ways,” Herrera says. “I’ve put every single one of those classes to use while building this business with Trevor.”

Plett says the network of local leaders at BHSU-RC was instrumental in the founding and success of the company. “When I was looking for a master’s program, there were multiple ones I could take online, but then I would be sacrificing the networking aspect, which has made all the difference for Rushmore Drones,” Plett says. “I really wanted to meet the local people who were going to be the future leaders of the companies and organizations in the area. Because Rushmore Drones is right here in Rapid, it was important to meet the people in the area who were going to school for the same reasons I was.”

Connections soon blossomed across the state and region, culminating in the partnership with Measure. Rushmore Drones also entered multiple business competitions, placing second in both the 2017 SDSM&T Student Business Plan Competition and the 2018 S.D. Governor’s Giant Vision Business Competition.

Plett reflects on the strides the company has made thus far: “I’m very happy with how much interest we have across our entire four-state area—people are looking at us to grow into this region. Running it all out of Rapid City, it’s a perfect centralized base of operation.”

Plett says that Rapid City was also a great location to continue his education. “A lot of people my age have full-time jobs and children. Because of this, we couldn’t drive to another location to continue our education.”

While these two emerging business leaders are keeping busy with homes lives and expanding Rushmore Drones, both are continually advancing their education. Herrera, who graduated from the BHSU MBA program earlier this month, says, “I think that if someone like me with my busy lifestyle can make this happen, then anybody can do it.”

BHSU-RC is a diverse educational resource for the Southern Hills community, offering master’s, bachelors, and associate degrees, as well as high school dual enrollment courses. BHSU-RC offers morning, evening, and weekend classes. Semester long and 18-day block courses are available.

“The MBA program at BHSU-RC is the best bang for your buck, no matter what you’re looking for,” says Plett. “You get to meet local people who are going to be managers or already are managers in all sorts of organizations. It’s affordable. The professors care. I can’t think of a good reason not to do it.”

Learn more at www.BHSU.edu/RC

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