Students at Idea Jam.
Blair Horan (second from right) and his teammates received second place in the inaugural Idea Jam competition held at U.S. Bank headquarters in Minneapolis.

California Dreamin’ in Minnesota

Vast fields define the landscape of El Dorado Hills, a small town in Northern California. Once central in the California gold rush, the town is home to Blair Horan ’26. Just like the 49ers before him, Horan is no stranger to the search for gold.

While in high school, the California native started and ran a business clearing land, conducting outdoor maintenance of properties. The company, The Hills Lot Clearing, specialized in fire prevention, including creating defensible space. Peaking at seven employees, Horan’s dedication to responsible and personal business practices made it a competing contractor with the county fire department.

Aided by his brothers attending St. Thomas and the Schulze Innovation Scholars program made his decision to become a Tommie easy. The program creates a community grounded in the spirit of innovation, developing thoughtful leaders and entrepreneurs. Horan sold his company and made Minnesota his future. 

Falling in love with the beautiful campus was inevitable. However, it is the people at St. Thomas that have made the biggest impact on Horan. The relationships with both faculty and fellow students have extended beyond the classroom. 

Jessica Cooley speaking at e-Fest.
Executive Director of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship Jessica Cooley. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

Program director Jessica Cooley thinks community is essential for the program. “One of the hallmarks of the Schulze Innovation Scholars program is the cohort experience. Students are surrounded by peers who share their passions, offering a platform for idea exchange, collaboration, and mutual support. However, this sense of community doesn’t just happen; it requires active participation from scholars in shaping their program experience,” she said.

Calling the program a blessing, Horan is visibly touched when he describes Cooley as family. “Considering that my family is so far away, it’s nice to have someone like Jessica that you know is going to be there for you,” he said. 

Horan is a valued member of the St. Thomas community as well.  

“Blair is a community builder; he has a remarkable ability to inspire and motivate others and create a sense of belonging,” Cooley said. “He demonstrates personal responsibility and accountability, entrepreneurial drive, kindness, and gratitude for the gift he has been given. Blair embodies what it means to be a Schulze Innovation Scholar.” 

Horan raved about the opportunity to experience the unique aspects of Minnesota nature, from ice fishing on frozen lakes to woodland adventures.  

The outdoor experiences gave him an idea that would widen his horizons and challenge him. Horan started a new business in summer 2023, still centered on environmental maintenance. Brush removal and fire prevention turned into snow removal and landscaping. His business, North Star Property Services, LLC, aims to be a one-stop shop for clients needing outdoor property maintenance.  

Customers have high praise for the St. Thomas student. “I highly recommend Blair for lawn care and landscaping services. I have referred him to many of our clients over the years,” said a representative from Keller Williams Realty. “He’s highly skilled, professional and very reliable.”

Blair Horan headshot.
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Starting out fresh in a new state and in a niche industry while balancing full-time studies means that Horan had his hands full. Having to recreate his entire network, he knew the importance of building trust by being reliable and accountable.  

“Leveraging connections and building relationships with mentors has been especially critical to the success of both of my businesses,” Horan said. 

The St. Thomas community connections helped.

“The Tommie network is unbelievable. For a guy that came knowing nobody, it’s pretty incredible how many people I’ve been fortunate to meet with,” Horan said. “Some opportunities I just don’t think you would get without St. Thomas,” he said. 

What’s Horan’s key to success?  

“You just have to go for it. I think it’s really important to not let predetermined things stop you from doing anything you want to,” he said. Driven to always seek out opportunities, Horan wants to learn and grow before deciding what direction he wants to take after graduation. Thanks to St. Thomas, he feels confident to have every opportunity.