By George Pearson III

At Old Dominion University, a lot of talent goes unseen. Students illustrate ideas outside of the classroom that showcase their smarts and creativity.

Jack Hawkins provides an example for students succeeding in the classroom - and thriving outside of it.

"I got the idea for aerial mapping a couple of years into my business. About two or three years ago, I began pursuing it as another form of service," the rising junior international business major said.

His business, Flying Fitz Photography, involves using drones to shoot aerial footage and collect data. It is mainly run in Virginia and neighboring states, but Flying Fitz has provided services across the country.

"While the pandemic might be impacting the United States, I've gotten one of my best clients during this time," he said. "They've got me set to do the entire coast for their work. I even took my recertification for commercial flying. It's an unfortunate circumstance with COVID-19, but I have to keep pushing while maintaining safe practices if I want my business to grow."

Hawkins' business began at the local level with the home construction industry.

"I really realized the potential to make a profit with my drone as soon as I put it in the air and saw the rooftops of my entire neighborhood," said Hawkins, who grew up in the Richmond area. "Each house was an opportunity."

Hawkins said given the opportunity of aerial photography of a home, construction companies could build 3D models of their sites to compare to their original site plans. They also were able to conduct inspections with minimal risk and greater efficiency.

Hawkins realized at a young age that he loved the remote-controlled helicopters.

"I've always loved drones. I'd been asking for an RC helicopter since I was a little kid until I finally got a drone at 16 or 17 for my birthday," he said.

Even when he first went about making it a business, it was more than just work, which helped motivate him to succeed.

"I'm very passionate about drones, so putting in the sweat and time for the business was enjoyable, for the most part," he said. "There'salways some sort of self-motivation in every business. Giving people a product that puts a smile on their face puts one on mine. I'm also very wanting to travel in my future, so owning a business gives me the flexibility to do so."

Hawkins said ODU's Strome Entrepreneurial Center "has been a huge help."

"They've offered me a space in the offices where I can do my work," he said. "I've done my research, called clients. That's actually where I've done a lot of my business work."

He has branched out of real estate photography and looking to move into the mining industry.

"I started this business because I want to help other people get what they need for the right value," he said. "I'm driven to pursue this business for a lot of reasons. One of the two biggest, in all honesty, is that I work best when I take all responsibility - being a boss is when I thrive.

"I want to build something that I can watch grow."

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