SUSHEE PERUMAL, B.ENG, MBA
I had my Commercial pilot's license when I moved to Kingston, Ontario to go to Queen's for my MBA.
I could enjoy a quick zip to cities like New York and Boston - easy day trips there and back. Everyone else in Kingston suffered the limitations of commercial air travel - driving to the airline hubs (nearly three hours from my town), security check-ins, connection delays and cancellations.
Since I have always had an obsession to apply everything I learn and align it with a vision playing out in my head, I figured a good use of my time at university during the MBA is to apply the learning in real life to launch a business.
I would start an on-demand, personalized, affordable short-haul air travel by utilizing disruptive aircraft technology being developed at that time called "Very-Light-Jets".
The timing was right.
Innovation brought down capital costs to 1/5th the costs of traditional jets. The need was there with businesses needing to do quick day trips for meetings, back with their families for dinner that evening and at their jobs the next day. I had the vision - to make private air travel accessible as it was accessible to me.
I had subject matter experts in marketing, sales, financing, operations - profesors at Queen's who were industry consultants to coach me one-on-one at no cost, well – the cost of my tuition in the MBA program. These experts included Douglas Reid who is a go-to for the media when it comes to matters to the airline industry. I can learn what I don't know and close most of the gaps in knowledge. I even accessed Clive Beddoe, founder of WestJet through Entrepreneur in Residence Grant Bartlett. I had read every book about low cost airlines - SouthWest (Southwest Airlines Way), WestJet (Flight Path) and JetBlue (Blue Streak).
Short-haul point-to-point air travel at reasonable price, skipping line-ups, security checks and avoiding delays/cancellations due to connections. Enjoy the speed and flexibility to avoid overnight stays at the destination and drastically reduce time away from your office and family.
I'd prove the concept in my town and then launch it in every non-airline-hub town carving out a niche in the airline industry, bringing the convenience I personally enjoyed to the masses across Canada and USA.
I flew people personally, including Queen's Entrepreneurship professor Elisabeth Murray to a meeting in Waterloo, Ontario to get a case study and testimonial. I was a charter pilot with a commercial instrument rating for a local outfit, as well as a skydive pilot - so I had enough hours accumulated and access to planes on commercial certificates.
During the summer of 2008, I flew a Lehman Brothers exec and his wife to Muskoka. He was on the phone throughout the entire flight (there is no need to turn off the cell phone on private flights, and reception is surprisingly good at the altitude on the flight). This is when I knew something was going down. The financial meltdown of 2008 halted my chances to move my airline startup beyond the "minimum viable product" phase.
I put my airline startup dreams on hold and executed Plan B to pay off my massive MBA loans. I got a consulting gig with American Express where I was in the front and center of innovation leading teams cross continents, lining up major wins and learning a tremendous amount. I had the itch again to start something new now that my MBA loans were paid off. (read more)