When Casey Schmidt told his parents he was dropping out of college just a couple of semesters in, they were understandably upset. Things have worked out well in the years since, however, and Schmidt has joined the likes of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Apple founder Steve Jobs and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as college dropouts who went on to start their own successful businesses.
Schmidt's company is Ideal Builders, which focuses on the construction and remodeling of new homes, pole barns and shops.
"We do mainly everything, we sub out a lot of the concrete and all that, electrical and stuff," the 23-year-old Schmidt said.
Currently they are working on a 60-foot by 80-foot shop, and in the past they've built shops as big as 60 feet by 120 feet. Schmidt said shops are even more challenging projects than houses just because of their sheer size.
Schmidt, who graduated from Minot High School in 2006, started college that fall at North Dakota State University to get a construction management degree. He made it through the first semester, but realized during the second semester that college wasn't working out for him.
"College isn't for everyone and it wasn't for me," he said. "I just came back and worked for another company for a while and a few years later started my own."
The company he went to work for in 2007 was Future Builders, which is owned by Schmidt's former construction tech teacher at Minot High, Dwayne Johnson.
It was during the two-year construction tech class his junior and senior years at Minot High that Schmidt fell in love with the trade. He even participated in the SkillsUSA contest, which tasks students with building items such as staircases from a set of blueprints and just enough material to finish the job. After winning the state competition, Schmidt finished 12th or 13th at the national level, and that's what ultimately got him excited about a future in construction.
"That's what really kind of got me going too, because I did so well," he said.
After working at Future Builders for a while and learning more about the construction industry he finally started Ideal Builders in the summer of 2008. Schmidt knew it was an incredibly big risk to take, but he had confidence in himself and believed the company could be successful.
"I knew that I could do it. It was quite a big risk at the time, you know, dropping out of college," Schmidt said. "I hit it at the right time, too, with all the building that's going on."
He also got help from his former boss at Future Builders, who sent some sub-contractor work Schmidt's way to help him get going. Schmidt said this allowed him to get his foot in the door and get his name out in the community.
Needless to say, when his parents found out about Schmidt's plans to drop out of college, they were less than amused. At least at first.
"They weren't too happy, but they ... knew I was ambitious," he said. "They didn't like it at first, but now that everything has happened, I think they're really happy the way things turned out."
During the slower winter months Schmidt has three full-time employees, but things always pick up during the busy summer construction season and his employee count doubles.
"It seems like every year I get more and more employees, with all the work and stuff," he said.
Schmidt works with his crew all day and then goes home to do the bookwork, which can make for some very long days. He'd eventually like to take a less hands-on role with the company and focus on running the business while his employees do the heavy lifting. He's getting married next month and his wife-to-be, Shannon Koble, will be helping him with the bookwork, so that will help shorten his workday a little bit.
"It gets (to be) long days when you have to work all day and then come home and do more bookwork," Schmidt said. "Try and stay on top of stuff."
Expansion is definitely something Schmidt is thinking about in the near future. He figures he'd need two separate crews to allow him to step back and focus on running the business. Right now he only has one crew, and while it can split off for certain projects, anything big requires all hands on deck.
With all the work available in the Minot area, hiring more employees in the future shouldn't prove to be too big of a problem.
"There's kind of a point in there where you either get really big or you stay kind of small," Schmidt said. "If you're in the middle it's kind of hard."
"In the near future I would like to expand a little bit," he added. "Depending on what the oil (industry) does and the housing market."
When Schmidt first started it was just him and his younger brother Matt. Now he's hired some friends from high school, which makes the long work days a little less tough because he gets along so well with everyone.
He hopes to hire on enough employees for two crews this summer, and will slowly keep building up his business and realizing the dreams that led him to drop out of college and succeed far more than he ever thought possible in just a few short years.
"When I first started I thought someday, eventually, but not this fast," Schmidt said. "I like to say I'm pretty ambitious, too. I could have kept this business small but I wanted to get a little bigger, do bigger projects. I like challenges."