Ever think about enjoying a fine dining experience while floating in a hot-air balloon over the Animas Valley – the San Juan Mountains’ magnificence in the background?
Tristan MacLean and Megan Wellnitz have, and they’ve developed a business plan around the idea.
Always Time to Fly, their proposed business, is similar to many business plans presented at Hawk Tank, a business plan competition based on the television show “Shark Tank” for Fort Lewis College students and recent alumni. Their business sprang from a personal passion, their love for hot-air ballooning.
“Every time we got closer to completing the plan, whenever we added new details, I thought: ‘Hey, maybe this is something we can actually do,’” said Wellnitz, who shared a $5,000 check with MacLean after their plan was chosen the best student business plan at the 2018 Hawk Tank competition.
MacLean, a business management major and hot-air balloon pilot from Albuquerque, said the idea of taking in a gourmet meal on a hot-air balloon is something he borrowed from high-end tourist markets in Europe.
He already has a hot-air balloon and he’s working on getting a commercial pilot license, so the idea of going forward with the business plan, which was a semester-long class project for a business class, is not so far-fetched.
The price of your high-priced meal in the clouds? MacLean and Wellnitz currently have it pegged at $425 per couple.
They admit they’ve got a long way to go before the whole thing flies: There’s the kitchen part of the deal that they have to work out.
In total, 46 different business plans were submitted for Hawk Tank, which awarded $5,000 prizes for the best student and best alumni business plans. In addition, student teams could earn $2,500 for second place and $1,000 for third place. Also, a new prize was added this year, the third year of the competition. It’s a $1,500 prize for the most innovative product or service envisioned in the plans.
Mark Daigle, president and CEO of First National Bank of Durango, the main sponsor of Hawk Tank, said, “This is one of my favorite things that we’re involved with. It’s inspiring to see the ideas these young people come up with and the passion and work they put into it. I learn something every time.”
A sampling of the ideas for startup businesses and nonprofits:
Setyl, an idea from Greyson Junggren, an economics graduate from 2017, and Josh Hicken, who want to develop the next great payment system in Durango. Their app would allow you to leave after eating out without having to wait for your check. An application on your smartphone would automatically bill your credit card. The app would even allow you to split the check or decide on a tip amount.Safe Sound, a nonprofit that sprang from Dylan Ross, an engineering major, and business administration major Aaron Poole’s passion for attending live music festivals and the subsequent hearing issues many suffer from loud sounds. Ross suffers from tinnitus, which is constant ringing or noise in the ears.High Pine Regenerative Design, another nonprofit designed by Max Kirks and Duke Jackson, both FLC alumni with degrees in environmental studies, who converted their passion for permaculture, a system of agriculture that uses natural patterns and features of the ecosystem to create sustainable landscapes with edible plants.Durango Pedal Club, a business dreamed up by Sean Huber and Michael Watchman, two accounting majors, based on a 15-person tandem bicycle. The bike would make the rounds as a mobile party venue as a group tours Durango’s brewpubs and microbreweries.One unique attribute of the business plan for Setyl, which won the alumni contest for best business plan, is that waiters or waitresses get a cut of the action, and they become marketers for the app.
Junggren said a surcharge of 3.7 percent of a meal’s price would be added to people who settle their bill using the Setyl app, and 0.7 percent of that would go to the server. In addition, a server would get $10 for every person they convinced to download the Setyl app.
“We want the servers to be ambassadors for Setyl. We’d offer tips on how to bring up Setyl in the conversation with their customers. Servers are already great at making sales pitches,” he said.
Junggren envisioned a server being able to add up to $100 in extra income for a daily shift if they were proficient at pushing Setyl’s attributes.
Of course, the biggest cut of the 3.7 percent surcharge would go to Setyl, which would collect 2.5 percent of the meal’s price. The final 0.5 percent of the surcharge would go to a payment processor like WorldPay for processing the payment.
Justin Bates, director of internal operations with Swan Global Investments, said of Hawk Tank: “Swan is a pretty entrepreneural firm so this is the perfect event for us to sponsor. It’s really fun to see people take an idea and move it from their head to paper. We’ve wanted to steal the main sponsorship for this for three years, but First National Bank won’t let us.”