Two USD students are hoping to score $5,000 from the state to help them develop an app.
Sam Hummel, an MBA graduate student, and Tyler Frank, a senior accounting major, are competing in the Governor’s Giant Vision Student Competition. Their app idea is called “The Knack.”
“The Knack is an e-commerce based app focusing on hand-made goods and services,” Hummel said.
The two are competing against nine other projects put forth by college students from all over the state. The other nine projects address several topics, including automatic livestock feeding, energy generators and an open-source robotics platform for education.
The annual competition is held by the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SDCCI).
Mary Anne Boyd, vice president of program services for SDCCI, said the competition was designed to show South Dakota residents and students that it’s a great place to start a business. Contestants’ business ideas will be evaluated by multiple judges.
“For the student competition, (judges) take a close look at completeness of their business plan,” Boyd said. “While not all applicants will become a fully-fledged business, judges look at the feasibility of the company and how realistic it is that it will succeed.”
Funding for the event is provided by private business donations, some of which are matched by the Governor’s Office, Boyd said.
Buyers and makers
Hummel came up with the idea for The Knack while he was an undergraduate student, he said.
“Multiple people would email me, Facebook me, and say, ‘I found this on Facebook or Pinterest, can you make it for me,” Hummel said. “I had a little side business going and it only grew because of word-of-mouth. I was thinking, ‘There should be an easier way.’ And I decided I’ll create an app that connects buyers of home-made goods and services to those that can actually make or do them.”
The app’s concept is similar to Etsy or Pinterest, but focuses on delivering hand-made and custom products on demand.
“Our app takes what you’ve pinned on Pinterest and send it out to local makers and craftsmen, and they bid on it,” Hummel said.
Users will be able to see the history of makers and review them. Payments are made through the app, Hummel said.
“If the maker backs out, you keep your money,” he said. “If you back out, the maker gets a portion of what you were originally going to pay them. That way, everyone can have a good experience on the app.”
The app isn’t developed yet, but Hummel said it’s expected to launch on Apple iOS and Android this fall.
This isn’t the first time the duo has gone to this competition. Last year, they entered with Frank’s idea for an improved water filtration system.
Having been in last year’s competition has them a little more prepared than last year, Frank said.
“The idea for this year is to really just hit on those criteria to win the big money,” he said. “They’ll highlight your strengths and your weaknesses. Sam and I don’t like any B.S., we’re pretty straightforward.”
Frank said he feels good about the app’s future.
“It’s a way to connect the ideas with the doers and offer something unique and interesting,” he said. “I think it’ll be able to do well when it hits the market.”
Hummel and Frank became business partners after an entrepreneurship meeting at the Beacom School of Business.
“I walked in late and all these people were staring at me and Sam was the only one I knew,” Frank said. “I knew Sam from a class we took and he would sit in front of me, to the left and he would be Googling all these interesting things, cars, motorcycles, business things, hiking outdoors – we had similar interests. And I would talk with him during class about whatever he was searching.”
Hummel said they work well together.
“We grew a friendship and (Frank) is one of my better friends,” he said.
Frank said the key to success is just going for it.
“If you’re nervous about anything or you have an idea, don’t set any expectations, just do it,” he said. “The things I learned not just about businesses and start-ups, but about myself are invaluable to me today. I’m a 100 percent different person because the people I’ve met, the things I’ve experienced. It changed my perspective completely.”