What Do Drones, Entrepreneurship and DECA Have in Common?
What do drones, entrepreneurship and DECA have in common?
Not much, except for one budding venture in the Midwest that is changing the way kids spend their summer vacations forever.
Drone Camp was founded in early 2016 by Matt King and Daniel Majestic, who met in college and realized their shared passion for technology and entrepreneurship was more than just a coincidence.
“I paid for a majority of my college by shooting commercials for local businesses with a camera I rented from the library,”
King shared. “I would always get these phone calls about doing aerial work from car dealerships or real estate agents asking if I had a drone. It was a very new field that I really didn’t know too much about.”
King explained that initially, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had pretty strict rules when it came to flying drones, including the need to have a pilot’s license.
However, in 2016, the FAA came out with a statement declaring that the need for a pilot’s license was no longer a requirement in order to fly a drone, and instead you just had to be 16 years of age and pass a test.
These rules opened a whole new world of possibilities when it came to who could operate a drone, and got King thinking.
He decided to share his crazy idea with Majestic, who had his own entrepreneurial experience from running his own car detailing company in high school.
“I remember telling Daniel this is a new field where we could train students and kids to fly drones. By the time they graduate high school, they could actually go out and do their own drone work,” King said.
King’s “drone camp” idea had legs, but Majestic worried if parents would actually sign their kids up. The idea came to Matt in May of 2016, and summer break was only a few short weeks away. How were they going to get kids to attend their camp if parents had already planned out their summer break activities and vacations?
“As we did more market research in our area, we found that most parents had already planned for week-long vacations or camps, so we decided to build our business on a two-day camp model. This worked out tremendously well for us because we found that parents had a much easier time weaving a two-day camp around their packed schedules, rather than finding a whole week that was open,” Majestic said.
Besides the tight timetable, the other problem facing the two was the fact that they didn’t own a single drone.
“The single most expensive part of our expense report was the technology,” King said. “A single drone can range from $800 to $1,500, and we needed more than one of them.”
So King, who had a background in technology, built a website for Drone Camp and decided that if they could get enough kids to register to cover the cost of the drones, they would take that as a “green light” to go through with the idea. If not, they would refund those who registered and move on.
Turns out their intuition was right and they received enough registration money to cover the costs of the drones needed for their very first camp.
So why teach kids how to fly drones? The answer is pretty simple to King and Majestic.
“Daniel was only 15 when he was detailing cars, and I was only 14 when shooting commercials, and it was hard for many people to trust us [because of our age], so we just really wanted to go back to our roots and give these kids a shot, like so many people gave us,” King shared.
“It’s eye opening to hear parents say that they hate when summertime comes around, because their child cannot participate in many summer camps because he or she has a disability or is in a wheelchair, and the best part about Drone Camp is that it is open to everyone,” Majestic added. “We have so many kids that come through our camp who have ADHD or are in a wheelchair, and it’s so great to see them be able to interact with the other kids and the technology in the exact same way as everyone else.”
Throughout the building of their business, King and Majestic had to overcome numerous obstacles to get their venture up and running. The biggest lesson they learned from their entrepreneurship experience was the importance of building strong ties in the community.
“We knew we needed a lot of land to hold our camp on, so we reached out to 100 businesses in our community asking if we could use their land, and 99 of them said no,” Kind said. “The one that finally did say yes was a local church. We were so grateful for them believing in us and our idea, so we made sure to give 10% of all our earnings from that first camp back to the church.”
The duo also used sponsorships and in-kind donations from local businesses to help offset some of their other operational costs, such as free pizza from a local restaurant to feed the campers at lunch time.
“At the end of each camp, our campers receive their “Drone Camp Wings” sort of like pilot wings, and a Drone Camp t-shirt, which lists all our sponsors on it, so it’s a great way to connect the community back to our campers and their experience,” said Majestic.
Another important lesson the duo learned through their first Drone Camp experience was to hustle. While the team has experienced success with getting attention from local news stations, as well as the Today Show and Shark Tank, the notoriety didn’t come easy.
“The news stations didn’t just call us,” Matt explained. “We sent out press releases to everyone, including a USA Today affiliate, the Indy Star newspaper, and they sent someone out to do an article on us. After that got picked up, then USA Today covered our story, and then we got calls from the Today Show and Shark Tank. We were able to reach all those bigger networks because of our hard work and being proactive in reaching out to lots of different channels.”
It’s no surprise that King and Majestic are used to hard work and hustle as both participated in Career and Technical Student Organizations in high school. Majestic was a DECA member at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind., his sophomore through senior years.
“DECA really is what taught me how to answer hard questions on my feet,” Majestic shared. “My first year competition was with my car detailing business plan, and the judges asked me really hard questions that I didn’t know the answers. When I went back the next year to compete at the state level, I was so much more prepared and ready to tackle their questions.”
If you ask King and Majestic what the future of Drone Camp is, they can tell you pretty easily. They are looking forward to expanding to more locations so they can offer even more camps to reach hundreds of more kids.
However, the future of drones in general is harder to predict. To King, the future of drones revolves around big data.
“[Drones] are the eyes and ears of the internet now,” King stated. “[With drones] we can map things and take photos and collect data in the real world and apply it to something with technology.”
Majestic on the other hand has a different take on the future of drones, seeing them as the next household item. “[I see] families buying drones for Christmas, and taking them on vacation or to climb a mountain. The prices are becoming more affordable and the size is becoming smaller, so I would guess in the next two to three years we’ll see household or lifestyle drones.”
“Drones have also made marketing tactics much more invasive and intrusive,” King added. “When you fly a plane, you cannot go above 500 feet of the highest obstacle. When you fly drones, however, you cannot go more than 400 feet.”
King elaborated with the example of planes flying advertisements or banners up and down the beach in the summertime. Well with drones, that banner or ad is going to be much, much closer to you on the beach than it was up in the air.
“Plus, drones can only fly for about 28 to 30 minutes,” King added, “So marketing will be more expensive and you’ll need to think much more carefully about where to market your message, as well as how to get your message across in a shorter amount of time.”
It’s no surprise that the world of technology, entrepreneurship and marketing is rapidly changing, and the impact drones will have on these industries and the world is unpredictable. However, thanks to the work that King and Majestic are doing to prepare the next generation as avid drone experts, it’s safe to say the future is looking bright down here on Earth, and way up in the sky.
You can learn more about Drone Camp, as well as Matt King and Daniel Majestic, at dronecamp.org.
DECA + DRONES
Interested in a DECA competitive event involving drones? DECA’s 2016-2017 Professional Selling Event challenges high school members to assume the role of a sales representative of a drone technologies firm.
A local real estate agent has scheduled a meeting with you because he/she has a desire to utilize drones to help his/ her real estate business and wants to learn how your firm’s products and services can be beneficial to his/her business.