Name:Jonathan and Patricia Porter
Business:Metal Seagulls Ltd
Date:19th July 2017
We provide support to people building kit aircraft at home as well as consultancy to aerospace and engineering companies. We also provide training, kit aircraft, spares, product development services, etc. We also use our flight and engineering experiences to provide motivational speaking to a wide range of companies.
Q: What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
Having been in the aviation industry a long time, we noticed that the UK had few companies who provided a turnkey service to those wanting to build their own aircraft. That coupled with our passion to share our knowledge and international recognition of our achievements lead us to the creation of the company.
Q: Tell us about your business:
Our support to the lighter end of the aviation industry is based on many years of building and operating aircraft in West Africa for humanitarian purposes. Whether a client is ‘wanting to discover if building their own aircraft is for them’, a ‘serial builder’ or an owner of a small aircraft operating under the LAA/BMAA permit to fly system, we have a full service to offer. We provide the Zenair range of aircraft kits and are representatives for Aircraft Spruce (the largest supplier of homebuilt aircraft parts worldwide).
Q: How did you go about setting up your business?
We decided to start the business 2 days after our daughter was born, and both quit our employment at that time. It meant that we had more time with our daughter and could work from home – and together. It is not easy raising a child – nor is it easy starting a business – but doing the two together is a fantastic challenge! We decided to use Trinity Accountants, as they offered a turnkey, monthly payment accounting and business support service. Soon, we realised that in order to advance our business in the shortest time possible we would need more capital than we had already ploughed in.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge so far with running your own business?
Gaining market penetration and recognition. There are about 80 new aircraft builds started each year in the UK. The market is tight knit and the community based on a great deal of personal recommendation. Although we were relatively well known for our work on Rotax engines, we needed to get the folks out there aware of our wider service offerings.
Q: How did/have you overcome these challenges?
Good trade press relationships and creative ‘real estate’ opportunities in the magazines. Advertising judiciously, being visible at events, using social media appropriately (not just on our own pages but by contributing to others too!) Getting out and about on the airfields and meeting people!
Q: What do you love about running your own business?
The flexibility – especially with a young child at home – and the ability to make rapid decisions, standing or falling by them! (generally standing – but we all get ‘grazed knees’ sometimes!)
Q: Are there any top tips that you would like to share with others thinking about starting or growing their own business?
When you see somebody else with a business and you are yearning to have you own business, just remember when you have you own business you will no longer be yearning but yawning from the hard work and long hours! Having said that, working for yourself is rewarding and satisfying – it is a long hard slog that leads to personal satisfaction, and hopefully a bit more than just making a living!
Q: How much did you apply for and over what term?
£25k, 5 years
Q: Why did you access financial support through CWRT?
Practical, rapid and cost effective
Q: What support did you receive from CWRT? i.e. did you find the process simple? Were you helped to improve your business plan and financials? Anything else?
CWRT provided support from the very beginning of the process and have kept contact post loan too.
Q: How has the loan provided helped you?
It saved us 2 years in development work by providing cash flow needed in establishing prototype products ahead of the ‘organic’ growth of the company. This has already paid off in orders and will bring much more benefit in the coming years through a good foundation.
Q: Has the loan helped you to create any jobs?
Not YET, but certainly will in due course.
Q: Anything else that you would like to add to your case study?
We are currently looking at setting up a base on an airfield (or even starting a new airfield if we cannot find a suitable base). That will open up the possibility of creating a builder support centre and aircraft servicing base.