Carol Cork on starting private jet booking platform PrivateFly.com

Carol Cork launched online private jet booking platform PrivateFly.com with her husband in 2007 and the company now turns over £4 million.

How did you get the idea?

We have a lot of experience in the sector with my husband’s background as a private jet pilot. We wanted to make private jet travel more transparent, accessible and efficient. There is an increasing demand for private jet travel from the leisure traveller, disillusioned by the commercial airline experience. We make it easier to charter by offering the search and price comparison functionality that consumers are familiar with – but which had not been available for private jet travel in the past.

How did you finance it?

Originally we sold our house to fund the launch of the business and moved into rented accommodation. Last year we raised £2 million through private investors to scale the business. We decided to go down this route because private aviation lends itself very well to investors who are also passionate about and understand the sector and our backers are very knowledgeable.

How was it marketed?

We already had a lot of industry contacts, and had some early beta clients. Everything grew from there through word of mouth. The concept of having an online booking network was a very disruptive and challenging one for something like private aviation, which has been extremely traditional up till now. We also had a strong SEO presence from the start and our online marketing has been effective.

What has been a big challenge?

Marketing is a great challenge because when you’re marketing a product like private aviation, you’re going up against the big guys like NetJets, who have very deep pockets, and are able to take front page advertising with the likes of the Financial Times. If you’re going to do brand marketing in this industry you have to commit to it. It’s about how do we create a point of difference, fight our corner and grow our market share.

What next?

We’ve been working on French and German versions, with these countries bigger markets in private aviation than the UK. We’re starting to see the benefits of raising the funding last year and have expanded the team as well with multilingual staff to support this growth.

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