AVIATION ENTREPRENEURS – RISING AGAINST THE WIND
By Makeda Mikael
Handing over skills to a younger generation is the way small business endures and it was no different at V.C.Bird International Airport where my first endeavor in Ground Handling morphed into the first Full-Service Fixed-Base Operator (FBO) in the region.
As we are about to establish a local team of corporate aviation entrepreneurs, it is important to reveal that in 2002, we held the honour of being told by the President of Raytheon that I was the only woman of color to own and operate an FBO in the world.
Years later, I assisted who I believe to be the second woman of colour, a Tanzanian, to get fuel and establish a Full- Service FBO.
The time has now come for me to pass on my knowledge of the ownership of an FBO Service to a group of young Antiguans skilled in corporate aviation.
It is only right that we should pass on the ownership rights of what I have pioneered in Antigua and St. Kitts and Nevis to young entrepreneurs. Whereas the ownership of an FBO in these COVID times would be out of reach for the group, in that premises and equipment require serious outlay, being able and willing to have the operation exist under the umbrella of our current premises and its excellent logistics, the entrepreneurs will overcome that first hurdle.
It is also important to know that the team have all been previously engaged as corporate aviation personnel and will therefore require little re-training in operations and management. This will preserve a deep sense of ownership on the part of the new team as this is the most important area to be developed.
This is the sort of initiative which should be heralded by those in charge, and most importantly by those who are endeavoring to launch entrepreneurialism as Antigua and Barbuda’s post-COVID survival mechanism. We have to work with what we have available and encourage our people when retired, or fired, or just fed up and wanting more – to organise into groups, seize a place in the business economy and own it.
Necessity is the mother of invention and COVID-19 will force us all to go to the marketplace with our service skills offerings much like the independent stall owners we see popping up along the streets.
Government will have to be inventive in protecting its human resource service skills during this downturn in tourism by encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs in aviation at the airport and other entrepreneurs in government controlled and protected zones.
Senior staff in companies operating at the airport and ports that have downsized, need to pull their star staff members and solicit work through outsourcing to government agencies and even their old workplaces who will no doubt have a need for independent contractors.