Mines News

Release Date Monday, May 18, 2020

Connecting the Dots Property Meld is Thriving in the Black Hills

Ray Hespen who graduated from South Dakota Mines with a degree in Mining Engineering in 2009 returned to Rapid City where his start-up company, Property Meld, is thriving.

“Buy the plot, I’m dying here,” says Ray Hespen (MineE 09) when describing his move back to the Black Hills. Like so many who go to school at Mines, Hespen never wanted to leave the area. “You fall in love with this place,” he says. “But the money was elsewhere.” After graduating Hespen bounced around the country in various engineering jobs: Oklahoma, California, Illinois, Maryland, and Colorado. But he never forgot his college years in the Black Hills. “The whole time I was looking for a way to come back, but the opportunities weren’t here,” he says. 

Cutting His Own Path

Hespen’s opportunity came, as many do, in the form of a problem—namely, a bad rental experience. His business partner and co-founder, David Kingman, had issues with a rental he was living in and couldn’t get a property manager to answer his phone calls. “Engineers do really well at starting with a problem and working backwards. So, that’s what I was able do,” Hespen says. The partners started by talking to twenty-five property management firms to learn their processes. From there, they built the business case to form the company Property Meld. The two men quit six figure salary jobs and put all their resources into the new company. The business they created connects renters with maintenance service providers and property managers in a simple and easy-to-use software program. This allows tenants to get issues addressed quickly and efficiently. “We solved a primary issue many renters have,” says Hespen. The process also saves property owners and managers money. “We’re making it less costly to perform the role of property management. Our service ends up being a significant cost savings for owners and managers,” he adds. 

In the early days of the company, Hespen worked out of his own basement while Kingman developed the software. “It was a little terrifying,” he says. “It’s a very complicated problem and no one we could find had done this. That gave us pause.” But Hespen’s education at Mines gave him a unique skill set that helped. “I’ve realized how my engineering degree has played a role in understanding marketing at scale and sales processes,” he says. The business gained traction and when a space opened at the Ascent Innovation Center on the Mines campus, Hespen brought the company to the Black Hills.

Today, Property Meld is one of the shining success stories in the area. The company outgrew its space in the business incubator at Ascent Innovation and moved into its own space in downtown Rapid City. The service Property Meld provides is proven in the marketplace. “Getting to watch it grow. Getting to hire a few people every month. Getting to watch the numbers keep going up. I feel very blessed about that for sure.”  Hespen says the company is at 40 people and doubling staff in the next 12 months. “We've been recognized by multiple research papers online that list us as one of the prominent software companies in real estate,” Hespen adds. “This time in COVID has forced many property management firms to embrace more technology to manage maintenance during the pandemic.  We love that we are able to be more helpful in times like these.”

Growing Pains and Future Opportunities 

When asked to offer advice to other Mines graduates who would like to come back to the Black Hills, Hespen’s answer is two words. “We’re hiring.” He laughs, but his sentiment reflects one challenge businesses in growing tech economies often face––the need for human capital. Mines and other area schools provide a stream of eager graduates and interns with the strong work ethic. But a challenge remains in finding experienced engineering managers, sales personnel, and other positions necessary for a rapidly growing company. Hespen has found success using LinkedIn to connect with professionals who were educated in the Black Hills. “It’s amazing how much conversation it generates when you dangle a carrot in front of someone and say ‘Hey, you want to come back to the Black Hills?’” Hespen adds, “All my classmates at Mines wanted to stay in the area and there is a demand for quality jobs here.” In this demand, many like Hespen see opportunity. “Things are moving in a very positive direction. I’m legitimately excited for this city. It’s going to be fun,” he says. 

If you want to know more or are interested in job openings at Property Meld, check out the company website: Careers.PropertyMeld.com.


About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, Mike.Ray@sdsmt.edu

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