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By Ryan Angelo ‘12

When you think of Vermillion, South Dakota, chances are, your

imagination is not filled with self–driving cars, drones delivering

packages or a Silicon Valley headquarters. In fact, Vermillion is home

to none of those things. However, located in the bluff–side town just

off I–29 are many opportunities waiting to be taken advantage of –

and a couple USD entrepreneurs are out to do just that.

Michael Helgerson didn’t know what he wanted to do when

he exited the Navy, he just knew he wanted to change the world.

Working at a local gym as well as doing some modeling on the

side, Helgerson was just finishing up his education at local Santa

Monica College in Santa Monica, California (whose notable alumni

include Arnold Schwarzenegger). It was at that gym in 2010, the

place he spent much of his time, where he began to run ideas by

of some of his clients, many of whom were very successful business


“I was like a sponge,” Helgerson said. “I started asking them

all sorts of questions and that was where I knew the spark of

entrepreneurship was ignited inside me.”

Not knowing exactly what the next steps were, the Yankton,

South Dakota, native was out to create his own “thing.” After

coming up with an idea, he met with a few venture capitalists who

were patrons of the gym to vet his idea. However, without much

business experience and with only a concept for a pitch, he was met

with a harsh dose of reality.

“They said it wasn’t bad, but that I needed business plans, all

these documents and requirements that I didn’t know anything

about,” Helgerson explained.

Seemingly stuck, Helgerson was at a crossroads. The way he

saw it, he had two choices: transfer to another local university and

continue his studies, or come home. With his future on the line,

Helgerson elected to return to Yankton. With the support of his

parents, Helgerson enrolled in the USD Beacom School of Business,

where he was determined to make his mark.

“That’s when things really started to take off,” Helgerson stated.

“I enrolled in my entrepreneurship, finance and small business

programs, and guess what? They taught me how to create a business

plan, how to analyze a financial document, how to do all that stuff.”

Tools for Success at Beacom