Mike Thorpe started the first Drones Plus store in 2013, selling the unmanned aerial vehicles through an e-commerce website. Fast forward to 2015 and his initial $30,000 personal loan had turned into millions reinvested into the company, which is now a 15-store chain throughout two countries. Thorpe sat down with Business News Daily to tell Drones Plus' story.
Business News Daily: In a nutshell, what service does your business provide?
Mike Thorpe: Drones Plus is the largest consumer drone retailer in North America, a premium seller of the top-of-the-line manufactured drones by DJI. Currently, there are 15 Drones Plus stores spread out across the US and Canada which sell toy, consumer, and professional drones ranging in price from $30 to $15,000. Drones Plus sells the latest in drone technology while providing customer service, education, ongoing support and training.
BND: How long have you been in business?
Thorpe: In early 2013, Drones Plus was "launched" as an e-commerce store and after seeing the demand first hand, we opened our first brick and mortar location in June of 2014.
BND: Did you start with a formal business plan? If not, how did you lay the groundwork for your business?
Thorpe: The business plan at Drones Plus was not planned out like a traditional company, which could very well be the reason for our rapid success. Most of the decisions made in our first year in business were based on trial and error of past and present experiences. As the company grew, structure began to be put on paper in order to send a clearer message about operations and strategy.
BND: How did you finance your endeavors, both initially and as your business grew?
The Drones Plus e-commerce store was tremendously successful and the profits from sales provided enough capital to fund the first Drones Plus brick and mortar store in Las Vegas, which quickly became our headquarters. The profits from this first store coupled with personal funding gave Drones Plus enough capital to begin the expansion for a second location. This formula continued with stores opening one right after the other. The explosion in drone popularity was something that Drones Plus had anticipated and our business model to keep moving forward by reinvesting all revenues has propelled us into a leadership position of having a 15-store chain and e-commerce operation.
BND: How much did you invest personally?
Thorpe: Drones Plus was self-funded with a $30,000 personal loan. This promptly grew into millions by continuing to recycle profits back in the company and with all of us agreeing to lower salaries because of our shared commitment.
BND: Is your business today what you originally envisioned at the outset or has it changed significantly over time?
Thorpe: Even in the early days, Drones Plus had sound success with customer-demands exceeding our inventory at times. We have transformed to meet and exceed all expectations and consider ourselves to be very lucky to be at the forefront of a growing market and industry that continues to gain in popularity and purpose.
BND: What are some lessons you’ve learned? Is there anything you would have done differently?
Thorpe: With the usage of drones having grown so quickly by individuals, small businesses, local governments, and entrepreneurs, it is clear that we could have sought investors earlier in our journey.This is something that we are currently exploring in order to continue as the leader in the retail drone industry.
BND: What were the most important factors that contributed to your success?
Thorpe: We took risks because we believed so strongly in the growth of the industry.
BND: What are the next steps you want to take as a business owner? How do you see yourself achieving these goals?
Thorpe: Drones Plus plans to start franchising in early 2016 in order to speed up its rapid expansion. By building solid systems around a proven concept, opening a Drones Plus store will become more and more turnkey.
BND: What is your best advice to someone with a great business idea who is ready to give it a shot?
Thorpe: Stop thinking about it and do it. And when the going gets rough, put your head down and do the work to turn it around. Don't allow yourself to be held back by the fear of failure. Your idea could be the "next big thing," so pursue it fearlessly because you’ll never know unless you try!