My first interview – and a bit about my new company

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Lee and I had filmed an interview with Cotswold TV promoting Air Experiences. Well today it went live, and we’re really pleased with it! Click the image below to watch it – the actual interview starts a minute in.

Air Experiences interview

I thought I’d also take this opportunity to write a bit more on here about why we started the company and how we did it, as I’ve not really properly introduced the business on this blog. If you’ve not yet visited the website, you can see it here:  http://www.airexperiences.co.uk.

Why did we set up the company?

Lee had had the idea for an aviation experiences company for quite a long time, as he had managed a couple of gliding clubs and had dealt with the bigger voucher companies from the supplier end. He felt that they offered quite a poor deal to both the flying clubs and the customers, as they required quite big discounts on flying club prices and the cost to the customer was quite a long way above what the actual cost of flying is. I’ve always quite fancied having my own business, particularly being my own boss, and when Lee mentioned the idea, it sounded like a great way of making money, together, doing something we both love. I didn’t realise when we first had the idea for the business, but it would turn out that by the time we launched the business, I would be a freelance copywriter, with Air Experiences as another string to my bow.

I can’t remember the exact moment we decided to go ahead and set up Air Experiences, but it started sometime in August when we purchased a few different domains after a lengthy discussion of what to call the company (and finding that pretty much all the names we thought of had already been taken!). We eventually settled on Air Experiences and I started setting up the website.

Setting up a website takes AGES

Setting up the website was a laborious process, as the first WordPress theme I bought turned out to be a dud, so that wasted a lot of time. I found the current theme and got the basic structure in place, before writing all the copy and getting that fine-tuned. The worst bit of the process was trying to get the e-commerce functionality set up – something I have no experience with, so there was a good deal of trial and error. Still, I am very happy with the result and have had loads of compliments about it. Lee was a massive help in the website build, as among other things he designed the logo, sourced all the images and helped write a load of the copy as well.

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There was just SO much to think about and organise…

Lee also masterminded the other major part of this process – getting flying clubs to sign up with us. We initially aimed for a basic minimum offering of gliding, light aircraft and helicopters, but thanks to his hard work and dedication (and mine too!), we ended up launching with flying clubs offering vintage aircraft flights, aerobatics and microlights in addition to what we’d been aiming for. We visited quite a few suppliers in person by flying in to different airfields, and Lee also spoke to lots of clubs up and down the country on the phone and email. This also entailed getting them to sign supplier agreements and negotiating prices, so it was a lot of work.

To support the website, we also got some other marketing materials printed. I wrote a leaflet that we can give out to people, and Lee did the design. Lee also designed some pull-up banners to use for trade stalls, and branded clothing that helps us look the part (as you can see in our interview video!). Oh, and he designed the actual vouchers as well, and business cards. We also had to source nice gold envelopes for the presentation packs, and write booking notes on how people should book their experience and what they should expect on the day. We did our own photoshoot ourselves, at our local airfield, photographing ourselves in and around various aircraft, which we use on the website and in promotional material. I set up social media accounts as well and have been tweeting and Facebooking regularly. Then there’s been the nitty gritty business side of things – setting up a bank account and so forth.

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There has been SO much to think about – so much hard work went into launching the business on 16 October, but it didn’t take long before we had our first order, a £175 hour-long flying lesson. I’m really proud to have got to this point, and it’s nice to have an additional income stream for us both, just in case my freelance copywriting goes through a quiet spell (not looking likely at the moment!). That said, our focus is not on making money, but on being able to run a business together and share our passion for aviation with other people. Our profit margins are low, so we don’t make much from each flight – but that’s not the point. Setting up Air Experiences has been great for developing my own skills too, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of managing our PR, communications, social media and of course copywriting.

What’s next for Air Experiences?

So what’s next? Now that we’ve launched, our aim from here is to publicise the company both locally (in the places we offer flights) and nationally, and get more flying clubs to sign up with us. We’ll be doing some Christmas markets to sell our vouchers on the street and hand out as many flyers as we can, and we have other interviews in the offing as well. We also hope to expand our offering to cover all kinds of aviation, from hot air ballooning to skydiving and wing-walking. 2014 is going to be a busy year!

If you’re stuck for ideas on what to get someone for Christmas, do bear Air Experiences in mind – our vouchers make the perfect present for someone who already has everything they could possibly want!

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Facing my fears: my first venture into public speaking

Last night saw me facing one of my fears and stepping way outside my comfort zone in my first attempt at public speaking. It’s another one to tick off my list of New Year’s Resolutions and I definitely feel a sense of achievement from having done this.

The event I was speaking at was a local networking event for people in the digital industry – OxonDigital. I gave a talk about link building and covered a range of link building techniques that businesses can use to strengthen their websites. The material I covered was all to do with the things I do in the day-to-day course of my job, and with an audience of about 50 people, it was a good introduction to public speaking.

I had obviously given presentations before – to clients, fellow students at university, colleagues and so forth – but never to a group of this size and in this kind of setting. I was really nervous beforehand, but I worked hard to overcome nerves and hope that I came across as more confident than I actually was! I had lots of lovely comments on Twitter after the event, so it seems to have gone down well with the audience, which is a massive relief!

I won’t say “I don’t know what I was so worried about”, because that would be untrue. I know exactly what I was worried about: making a fool of myself, crumbling under pressure, not speaking coherently. It was a big deal for me – that’s why it was one of my New Year’s Resolutions, because it was something I felt would benefit both my personal and professional development. I think it’s always good to challenge oneself by placing oneself in unfamiliar and maybe even scary situations.

So what did I think of the actual experience of public speaking? A lot of people had told me that I would get a massive adrenaline rush after the talk and that I’d want to do lots more of it. I didn’t really experience this, however. I’m glad that I did it – I’m glad to have confronted one of my fears, and glad to have been given the opportunity to raise my profile in the local digital community. It wasn’t as scary as I was expecting and I have no doubt that I could now get up and speak in front of big groups again without a problem. But I wouldn’t say that it gave me a massive thrill or adrenaline rush – just a feeling of satisfaction, increased confidence and yet more professional experience under my belt.

If you’re interested, here are the slides from my presentation: