Podcast Start Dakota

On the latest episode of Start Dakota, Startup Sioux Falls’ president, Brienne Maner, sits down with Kesmond Willert, co-founder of Unseen Outdoors and a graduate of our CO.STARTERS program.


Willert started his business, which is focused on creating portable hunting concealment products, with his co-founder and childhood best friend, Dylan Dulas, during his sophomore year at South Dakota State University. Growing up hunting and fishing, he always had a passion for the outdoors, and in college, he began creating content for a successful YouTube channel called MinnDak Outdoors. 


At the time, he and Dulas were shooting DIY-style videos for the page, and in the process, they ended up repurposing an old ice-fishing shack into a duck blind. 


“We just had this feeling of ‘I don’t think we should post this, we might have something here,’” he said. 

kesmond willert start dakota podcast

Dulas is a mechanical engineering graduate, and Willert, whose skills are more in marketing and PR, says the two complement each other well as business partners. 


They took their duck blind prototype and began working on e-commerce plans, but after graduating, progress started to dwindle. 


“We needed to get back on the right track,” he said. “We got out of college, had to pay the bills, and it felt like we were beating a dead horse for a while there.”  


Moving forward with the product would be a financial risk, and Willert says they panicked a bit. However, he ended up connecting with Carrie Kuhl, a Brookings native and CO.STARTERS graduate. She encouraged him to check out the program, and to Willert, it felt like just what he needed. 


“That's one of the things that's awesome about CO.STARTERS is you put yourself in a room with entrepreneurs — like-minded people. You have these great connections, but the other thing, too, was pivoting … sometimes you have to be willing to let go of your baby, essentially, and pivot a little bit to make something that can feed your baby,” he said.


Going through the program pushed Willert and Dulas back to the prototyping phase, and Willert says the product they have now is significantly better than what they originally created. Additionally, the CO.STARTERS team was able to connect them with Sean Weaver, head waterfowl rep for First Lite, a company Willert says they aspire to be like one day.  

Brienne Maner, Start Dakota

“We ended up calling him on the phone around 6 p.m. and talking until about 10 p.m.,” he said. “That’s what’s cool about entrepreneurs … I think they understand the struggle and how much work it does take to get going.” 


He continued, “One of the things is that you want to be wise and not smart. You do things that are smart based off of what you’ve learned … where being wise is you learn and listen from other people’s past mistakes and implement your decisions from there. In a matter of three to four hours, [Sean] probably gave us a year’s worth of knowledge.” 


There’s so much more to hear from this episode. You don’t want to miss this one. Tune in today, wherever you listen to podcasts!

Show Notes:

  • Learn more about Unseen Outdoors on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
  • Submit an interest form for CO.STARTERS.
  • CO.STARTERS Challenge: Distribution
    • Complete your “fieldwork” before the next episode:
      • How you will distribute your products or service?
      • Use your canvas to visualize your distribution plan.
      • Identify if there are any missing steps or gaps.
  • Business Minute: Learn more about business financing from internal or external sources.

This project is made possible through a partnership with Startup Sioux Falls and grant funding provided through the Community Navigator Pilot Program, powered by the SBA. More information can be found here.