When an injury changed his career plans, James Moon started a non-profit aviation company which led to the founding of Moon Jet. The self-confesssed plan geek explains how.
After being nominated for the BQ Festival's Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year award, we caught up with James Moon to find out more about his business...
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Moon Jet Group is a global leader in private and commercial aircraft sales. We know that our clients have one objective to buy or sell an aircraft easily, in practice it is complex but we keep it simple. What makes Moon Jet Group unique is fact we have transformed the aircraft sales industry and carved a substantial niche for ourselves in a highly competitive sector.
What did you do before you started this business?
I left school at 16, as always wanted to become an airline pilot but a broken back changed things for me whilst I was training to become a pilot. Due to the injury I decided at age 18 to launch an aviation non-profit that did flights in a light aircraft for disabled and terminally ill beneficiaries from across the UK and USA. I still do this in my spare time, as I love every minute of it and I learnt a lot of how to run a business from this non-profit.
What inspired you to start up?
I am a massive plane geek at heart in all honesty and this is the best career in the world for me as I love aviation and business. From inspecting an Airbus A330 to taking photos for a client on board a former royal family private jet, every day is different which is what I find most exciting. I founded Moon Jet Group as I was asked to sell a Citation Private Jet for an aircraft owner in the USA, sold it for him and soon discovered how poorly run the aircraft sales industry was, from rogue traders to people selling aircraft that didn’t even exist! So I knew something had to change for good.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
An estate agent, but for planes.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
I have two fantastic mentors and investors who I cannot thank enough for giving up their time to help me get where I am today. They challenge me every week and make me accountable for not doing things, I need that accountability and for someone to ask the questions I don’t want to hear.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
Moon Jet Group was founded for under £50, so a really lean start up business. We have also not spent a penny on marketing or advertising either as a business, all of it has been word of mouth and organic which has worked extremely well for us and is something we will continue doing going forward.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Landing a $168m remarketing deal to sell two Airbus A330 airliner aircraft on behalf of an Asian flag carrier airline, no one had even heard of Moon Jet Group so landing this deal “turned heads” and got us instant industry recognition, people began to take us seriously after that deal and because of that A330 deal we are now working with over 100 airlines in over 64 countries…
How do you differentiate your business from others?
When Moon Jet Group was founded I was keen for it to not be “just another aircraft sales firm” I knew we had to be different and we had to have something unique about us in order to generate that initial interest in our brand. I spent two years learning what was wrong with the aircraft sales sector, all the problems that plague this sector and from speaking directly with airlines, aircraft owners and charter operators worldwide – I was able to launch a service offering which was highly attractive and appealing for buying and selling an aircraft.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
Love every minute of it, but there are times when a 9-5 job looks so appealing to me. Everything stops with you when you are your own boss, you are accountable for every single bit of your business and the success of the business rests entirely on your shoulders but apart from that I do enjoy being the face of my business and having that freedom to try things where others in my sector daren’t go. I do hold my hands up though as I am not the best boss in the world, I am still learning as there are numerous things I could be doing a lot better.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
The market leader in aircraft sales and aircraft leasing. At the moment we have conquered a lot of the aircraft sales industry and taken over a lot of the aircraft sales sector worldwide but to become the market leader in aircraft leasing will be some challenge for us, but one I am confident we will achieve - Bring it on.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Just go for it and don’t look back, I have no business experience whatsoever having left school when I was 16 but anyone can set up and run a business – you don’t need a fancy degree. Just learn along the way of what works and what does not work, speak to your clients and find out what they want and need from you.
I was tired of constantly being told I was too “young” to do aircraft sales, learn to accept people opinions and criticism of you – don’t take it to heart, follow your arrow and don’t be afraid to seek advice or help from people as there is so much support out there and people who are willing to help you and your business vision succeed…