Mader wins city startup competition with drone services plan

December 13, 2023

Craig Press

2023 Business Plan Competition 1st Place Winner - Grant Mader (left) and Economic Development Manager Shannon Scott (right)

This week, the City of Craig’s Economic Development Advisory Committee announced the winners of its inaugural Craig Business Plan Competition.

The competition launched this past summer. It was initially conceptualized as a way to support existing businesses and encourage potential startups, with a $15,000 prize for the winner of each category.

The city’s Economic Development Advisory Committee teamed with the Northwest Colorado Small Business Development Center, which offered free consulting to contestants throughout the process. The Moffat County Local Marketing District signed on to provide the prize money.

The two competition entrants were aspiring startup entrepreneurs.

During the awards presentation, City of Craig Economic Development Manager Shannon Scott recalled the “extensive process” involved with the three-phase competition, which spanned seven months.

Throughout the competition, the contestants had to submit a detailed business overview, a draft business plan, and a final business plan culminating with an in-person presentation. A panel of judges that included local entrepreneurs and business experts provided feedback along the way and ultimately selected a winner.

First place went to Grant Mader for his business plan for Mountain West Drone Services. He was awarded $15,000 in prize money.

Mader described his business as a “startup that’s going to be offering (drone) services to quite a few industries such as real estate, construction, energy and more.” He said the business idea was something he’d had in mind “for years, since 2019 or 2020.”

The competition gave Mader the opportunity to put together a startup plan for what he described as “a really cool endeavor.” His business will “bring the efficiency and precision of drones to a whole batch of industries” such as real estate, construction, special events, surveying, inspections and agriculture. He added that one of the unique benefits of drones for many of the industries is the ability to “capture a really different vantage point.”

Mader shared that his initial work is likely to primarily focus on the agricultural sector.

“Agriculture is the big one — our agricultural services include drone seeding and spraying.”

According to his website, Mader is a University of Wyoming graduate with a degree in Resource Management and Development, as well as a minor in Reclamation and Restoration Ecology. He has held professional environmental science positions in both Wyoming and Colorado and is a licensed Colorado Pesticide Applicator who has previous experience piloting drones for energy production companies. 

Mader said he hopes his clientele will come from the local community, including Routt and Rio Blanco Counties.

He encouraged prospective clients to visit his new website,

“I really think (the website) conveys what my start up is going to be all about,” Mader said, adding that it also “conveys the professionalism that you’ll see from Mountain West Drone Services.”

Mader thanked the coordinators, judges and funders “for giving (him) the opportunity and putting together a competition like this.”

He also shared that while “it’s a little cheesy,” he wanted to thank his parents and girlfriend.

“They always thought I could do something great, and I really think this company is going to be great.”

Scott shared that while the committee’s initial plan was only to award the first place winner in each category, “the judges were really impressed with both entries (in the startup division) and wanted to give prize money to both.”

The second place startup winner was Jeana Womble, who created a business plan for a community theater and indoor children’s play-space. Womble received $5,000 in prize funds.

Economic Development Advisory Committee chair Chris Jones congratulated both of the winners.

He expressed his hope for the competition to continue in future years, citing Craig’s “need to diversify our economy more, as certain things are being pushed up on other companies’ agendas (for closures).”

Scott commended the contestants for “the level of information and effort” they put into their business plans, and told them that the committee would stay in touch with their respective businesses’ progress.

She affirmed that the competition would return, sharing that “overall, it was a really fun process.”