Student businesses in running for awards

Vanessa Marcano

Vanessa Marcano

Let’s face it: Most people in their 20s are usually not in the best economic situation. Whether it’s due to college payments or working a meagerly-paying job that barely pays the bills, there are no “moneybags” among this age group, let alone many trying to start their own business. Yet, at SDSU, there are two such people who now have a chance to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality after qualifying in an important statewide competition.

On April 20, the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry will be hosting the Governor’s Giant Vision Business and Student Awards Competition at the Sioux Falls Ramkota. The competition is gathering 12 qualifying business applicants and eight qualifying student applicants to compete for financial awards to put their business ideas in motion.

While new business ventures have a chance to win up to $20,000, student ideas can win up to $3,500 as a means to turn the project into a tangible venture. Brian Grode, an entrepreneurial studies and agricultural systems technology major, along with Tom Eitreim, also an entrepreneurial studies major, have made it into the final eight student qualifiers for the award.

Applicants had to submit a three-year financial outlook for the company, including real-world estimates on how the company would do over time. Additionally, applicants had to submit a 10-page business plan with every detail about the business venture, said Grode.

Eitreim, 21, came up with the business plan for Help Around the House, a company that will offer person-for-hire assistance to people who want to do special projects in their homes or need physical aid in clearing windows or doing yard work, among other things. Eitreim said his inspiration came after trips back home made him realize his grandparents usually needed help doing some of the more physical tasks around the house, such as clearing gutters or moving heavy objects.

“If all these chores were done by someone else, it could help elderly people remain in their own home &-instead of a nursing home8212;for longer. It would help them maintain their independence,” Eitreim said. Yet, Help Around the House not only seeks to benefit the elderly, but simply anyone who needs an extra hand in performing repairs or typical house projects.

“There’s still some work to do on [the business] but I’m happy about having qualified in the competition,” said Eitreim, who came up with the business plan in a little more than a month. He said the competition was a good opportunity to get feedback, build experience and network with others in the state.

“If you have an idea, just do it. There are lots of resources around the state and if you have a drive to do it, there are great opportunities in the state,” said Eitreim. “Just try to get that ball rolling.”

Grode, 25, explained that he began his project &-BFG Enterprises8212;nearly two and a half years ago. This is one of eight total business ventures he is leading in the state. BFG Enterprises is a company that manages the rental of houses and mobile homes in Brookings.

“I own or sell the properties, collect rent, do the repairs, pay the utilities, do the taxes &- pretty much everything,” he said. With BFG Enterprises, Grode received the first prize of $500 for his business plan in 2009, as a result of a business writing class and subsequent competition at SDSU, while two of his business ideas made the top five in the Idea Competition in February.

“[BFG Enterprises] was self-funded for one and a half years, and then I finally got a bank loan to keep it going … I even sold my car and started driving a Geo Metro just to save money and get my business going,” said Grode, who with all his business ventures &-including a snow removal and an irrigation and seeding company8212;manages about 20 employees.

“I do all this with no special help or education from SDSU,” Grode said. “Classes are amazing, but for me they are more for networking than anything else.”

Regarding the Giant Vision Award, Grode said he was “very hopeful and excited” to have qualified for the event, especially since qualifiers are guaranteed at least $500 for participating.

“To student entrepreneurs, I say “don’t give up’. I went to 26 banks before finally qualifying for a loan for my business,” he said. “Networking is half of the work. It’s not about what you know or who you know, but who knows you.