By: Heidi Kronaizl, SDSU Marketing & Communications
While walking around the South Dakota State University campus, Merrick Erickson had an idea.
“My freshman year, I noticed that there were a lot of people riding their longboards on campus, yet there wasn’t any place for people to buy longboards or parts for them,” Erickson said.
Nearly two years later, the idea came back to Erickson, this time in the form of a longboard with the SDSU logo on it.
“I thought it sounded like fun and was something I could swing,” he said.
Erickson, a junior mechanical engineering student from Watertown, began the project as part of an independent study class for his entrepreneurial studies minor in August 2016. He orders the parts and puts them together to sell at the University Bookstore and on their website. The longboards debuted in the campus bookstore this past November. Since riding season is usually in the spring and summer, Erickson hasn’t seen a large sales response. He is hopeful that changes when the days warm.
While Erickson was completing the business plan for his independent study, assistant professor Craig Silvernagel approached him about submitting his plan in the First Dakota National Bank New Venture Competition. Students who enter in the competition write an essay about their business plan and describe the market demand and the business requirements.
Erickson was one of seven finalists in the December competition, taking home a $1,250 prize.
“It was really cool. It just made me think, ‘Wow, people actually think that this seems viable,’” he said.
He hopes to continue selling the longboards as a side business through the next year and after graduation. Erickson’s aspirations after completing his education include working in automotive engineering, an interest developed through his involvement with the Formula Society for Automotive Engineers Club at SDSU.
Erickson started working with the Formula SAE Club during his freshman year. The club spends one year designing and building a car to race. In the first semester, club members use software to design the racecar and obtain sponsorships to buy parts or have companies donate custom parts. The members then create whatever else is needed and assemble the car. Once complete, the club races the car in competitions.
Erickson is now the electrical lead for the club. He took on the position because that was the engineering area he knew the least about. He enjoys putting his engineering skills to use firsthand.
“It’s just a great experience to work with a team on something that’s actually being made, like a real-life application.”
He feels that working on the Formula SAE car directly translates to his passion for automotive engineering. Erickson owns two Mazda Miatas and to open his own shop someday exclusively for this brand and model of car to improve the systems within.
“They’re really fun cars and they’re reasonably cheap,” Erickson said. “I just like learning how different things work.”
Whether it’s the wheels on a longboard or on a car, Erickson hopes to continue his passion for things that move after graduation.