At Thought Into Action, we are very fortunate to have an incredible group of alumni and parent mentors who volunteer their time throughout the year to coach our student entrepreneurs on their ventures. Each mentor brings with them a wealth of experience from the entrepreneurial world – either from starting their own ventures, venture capital or angel investing, or providing services such as legal or marketing to start-ups. Likewise, each mentor has their own story to tell from the bumpy, bruising, uncertain, and immensely rewarding entrepreneurial path. Here is one story we would like to share with you. Jason Griswold ’97 is the founder and Managing Director of Brown Aviation Lease, LLC.
I “started” Brown Aviation Lease, LLC in 2008. What that meant was that I had a website (more like a .gif file), phone number (which forwarded to my cell phone), and $500 which quickly went to the state of Massachusetts to pay for my LLC filing fee. Just to make things even more difficult, I was starting an asset heavy/capital intensive business while my previous eight years’ experience had been in internet advertising technology. I didn’t have any employees, customers, or investors, but I had an idea – which was to address a market with a need to transition old technology to new. I DID have a nice logo embossed on fancy stationary in preparation for writing thank you notes to my future customers and investors….I put that on a credit card.
In mid 2008, I was fortunate to have been introduced to a large university flight program in need of a new lease on training aircraft. I hopped on a plane and went to see the dean of the program. He told me his needs/wants and I shared our beliefs (that’s all I had at the time) in hopes that he would not dig too deep. After a few days, I went back to Boston with a signed proposal in hand to lease over 20 aircraft starting in 30 days ….. although I still had no money, employees, or investors.
Over the next 30 days, I worked tirelessly with my advisors/friends/contacts to raise the necessary debt equity and team to fund the deal. We closed on time and on budget. It’s not to say it was easy – I worked around the clock, worried endlessly, pressed people to commit and produce, and slept little. But I had a belief in myself, my team, and my idea and I was determined to make it happen. All of the above happened in the real world, not in the classroom, and the passion/anxiety/fear/elation/doubt all motivated me to follow through on what I had committed to the dean of that university.
Today, we have roughly 100 aircraft with clients all over the country (soon to be world) and have diversified into a number of related product areas. We still operate as a start-up and each day I learn more about our market, customers, and competition.
For TIA entrepreneurs, you have an amazing opportunity to change the world and do it now….. not when you are ‘old and wise’. The world needs more people simply doing and trying rather than reading or talking about it. I am fortunate to be a part of this great program and can’t wait to engage with more TIA’ers putting their thoughts into action.