Have you ever started a business only to find out it didn’t grow the way you hoped for it to? Or maybe you had an idea to create change and disruption in the marketplace, but you weren’t quite sure how to do it? Our guest today is Marc Sellouk the Founder and CEO of Flewber, a private air taxi service.
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ABOUT OUR GUEST:
Marc is the Founder and CEO of Flewber, a private air taxi service that is priced and accessible to the public, not just the elite. Flewber was launched by combining Marc’s lifelong passion for aviation coupled with his corporate experience from his previous endeavor Transbeam. Marc founded Transbeam, an Internet technology, and managed services provider, at the age of 20, while attending college full time. After selling Transbeam more than two decades later, Marc pursued his lifelong dream of becoming a pilot, which only fed his passion and vision for his next path in life. Today, after bringing together an exceptional team from various divisions of the corporate and aviation world, Marc is poised to bring Flewber to a new level of private air travel unlike any ever experienced.
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Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:00):
Welcome to the Multiply Your Success podcast, where each week, we help growth-minded entrepreneurs and franchise leaders take the next step in their expansion journey. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team. And as we open the episode today, I’m wondering, have you ever started a business, only to find out it didn’t grow the way that you would hope for it to? Or maybe you had an idea to create change or real disruption in your market space or marketplace, but you weren’t quite sure on how to do it or implement it?
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:31):
Well, our guest today, Marc Sellouk is the Founder and CEO of Flewber, which is a private air taxi service that’s priced and accessible to the public, not just the elite. And this is a really cool business model that he started. It was launched by combining his lifelong passion for aviation, coupled with his corporate experience from building and growing another company that he had started when he was just 20 years old, and grew, and sold that company. And now, he’s disrupting the private air travel space, which is really cool. He shares his stories about how he came to where he is today and what his company is doing. So, let’s go ahead and jump right into my interview with Marc Sellouk.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (01:20):
I am with the venture called Flewber. That’s F-L-E-W-B-E-R. And I am the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of the company.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:30):
I’ve learned a little bit about your business model, a little bit about your background. And before we jump into Flewber and what Flewber is, I’d love for you to just give a little background on you and how you ended up coming here.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (01:43):
Well, I’ve been in business for well over 25 years now and always had the entrepreneurial spirit, if you will. And I guess we’ll cover a few things with some of the questions that I anticipate you’re going to ask, but I’ve always enjoyed a challenge, always enjoyed learning from my experiences, and setting the bar high to achieve the success that, as an entrepreneur, you set out to achieve. So, that’s, in a nutshell, what I’m all about.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (02:27):
Okay, great. And give us a little background on Flewber. It’s a cool-sounding name. And tell us what you’re doing. I love what you’re doing with the innovation and disruption I think you’re onto here.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (02:40):
So, we’re, essentially, bringing what ride share was to the terrestrial marketplace, we’re bringing it to the aerial marketplace. We are simply building a marketplace. We are building an alternative to commercial aviation by connecting consumers and operators with aviation in a way that it hasn’t really been done before. Oftentimes, you associate private jets with those that are catering to the upper echelon of the marketplace.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (03:10):
Well, we’re changing that. We are building something that is going to be a hybrid. And it’s going be specifically catering to the regional marketplace. Right? So, think about it. I used to travel locally in the Northeast, New York marketplace. New York to D.C. Often, New York to Boston. And for a two-hour meeting, it was a whole… Let’s take D.C. as an example. It was a whole-day ordeal. For an 11 o’clock meeting, I’d have to wake up at five o’clock in the morning, get to the airport by eight, go through all those logistical nightmares that we all know very well about.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (03:48):
And again, we’re trying to change that. We’re trying to change the marketplace, create a new marketplace, and make it a lot easier, and bring what ride sharing was to the terrestrial marketplace, and introduce it to the aerial marketplace in a very unique and exciting way.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (04:06):
So, that’s really neat. So, if I’m understanding this correctly, if I’ve got a, let’s say a business meeting, we’re based in the Atlanta area, and I want to get to, let’s just take a regional one, to Savannah. I’ve got a meeting in Savannah, where it’s close enough I could drive if I wanted to, but it’d be a pretty long drive. I could catch a flight, but the nuisance of, like you just described, it’s a short enough flight that, is it really worth the hassle of going through major airport security, and the waking up early, and this, that, and the other? So, how would I work… Or what does Flewber offer that I’d be able to do in going through that scenario there?
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (04:49):
Well, part of the marketplace, for us, was leveraging technology. And what we’ve done, is we’ve built a very advanced, if you will, application, a phone application, that you can simply download and use to book a flight within a minute-and-a-half. And, essentially, what it is, is it’s connecting consumers to operators. So, we have operators that join the marketplace. You enter your origination and your destination. And, essentially, within a minute-and-a-half, you’re connected to an operator that will get you on your way.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (05:26):
So, within two hours of your flight, you’ll have the flexibility to book, drive right up to the aircraft, and everything that you need will be there, in order to get you back, either that same day or the next day. So, we’re built to be really flexible, really unique, really different. And I think it’s something that’s really, hopefully, going to catch on sooner, rather than later.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (05:51):
Yeah. And when you say operators, is that the pilot or the owner of the aircraft that you’ll be traveling with? How does that work? Do you have to be a pilot to fly this? How does that work?
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (06:03):
Right. So, in the world of aviation, you have two types of operations. One is what we all know as the airlines, what we call that is Part 121 operators. So, those are your typical American, Delta, United. And then you have your Part 135 operators, which is an on-demand air taxi-type operator, which are under the same strict compliances and regulations as airlines.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (06:30):
And so, you can’t just own an aircraft and decide one day that you want to fly a passenger. You have to be a full compliant operator, in order to have all the compliances in place, and all the skill sets in place, and all the maintenance, and safety procedures in place, in order to fly passengers. And so, essentially, we connect those operators within our marketplace. And once you make that connection within the app, you know that you’re flying a very safe air carrier [inaudible 00:07:13].
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (07:13):
Very neat. And as someone coming in, I’m just curious, as I am not a customer at this point, probably will be in the very near future, but just curious, in terms of how this works, is this going to have a similar type of a rating system? You described the ride share or something like maybe a Google Reviews, or Yelp, or something that you’re rating an operator, if you’re a customer. And then the operator gets to rate you as a guest coming through. How will that work?
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (07:46):
Well, our platform is designed in a way where it’s going to be dynamic in nature, right? So, we’re going to look to evolve and include all these type of different features, if you will. And as we grow, we’re obviously going to implement a lot of these neat little features and review-type, really, features. And like I said, we’re dynamic enough, where we’re going to be able to include these, and grow with our customer base, and grow with our customer demand, consumer demand, and even operator demands.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (08:24):
Very nice. And, tell me, I guess, a little bit here of what prompted the idea for this. I know we talked a little bit about it, but was there this light bulb moment that went off? Or what happened?
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (08:39):
Well, think about the ride sharing market terrestrially, with a car, right? So, before you had these ride sharing companies, you had these black cars lined up, picking up the executives and folks that are the top 1%, if you will. And so, in thinking about the business model, I built a parallel to that and said, “Hey, this is similar to what’s happening in the private jet space, in the private aviation space, that these jets are really associated with catering to that type of clientele.”
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (09:10):
And so, I said to myself, “How can we build this in a way, where we know people want to fly private?” We know people are sick and tired of going through what they go through at the airports, especially these days with the pandemic. Every other day, you hear about a fight on a flight, right? So, how do we create this model where it works? And so, that’s, essentially, when the light bulb went off and said, “Hey, we can leverage technology. We can leverage relationships. And we can put things in place that can really create a marketplace that will bring a breath of fresh air to this industry.”
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (09:45):
And so, we talk about makes, and misses, and multipliers. I think in business, you have to always have your misses, in order to identify what the real model is. Essentially, whenever you start a business, I would venture to say, that it never ends up being exactly what you first envisioned it to be. And so, when we first started two years ago, it was, essentially, a try and trial. You have to trial what works, what doesn’t, what’s welcomed in the marketplace, what gets good reception, what doesn’t. And those misses end up bringing you to what the makes… Sorry. And ultimately, what made us today.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (10:34):
And it’s challenging along the way, right? So, you’ve got to make sure that you take those challenges and break those barriers. And what I heard in the aviation industry is, “You’re crazy. You’re nuts, what you’re trying to try here, because the way to make a billionaire or millionaire, is to get them into the aviation world.”
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (10:55):
Well, I said to myself, “Look, we’re creating some really unique opportunities here. We’re creating a unique business model. We’re creating a marketplace that, I think, is going to bring a breath of fresh air into the industry.” And so far, the reception has been, as we evolve and as we’re adapting to this market, I think the reception is, and I know the reception has been ever so, getting stronger, and stronger, and been more promising.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (11:25):
Yeah, absolutely. And certainly, it sounds like it’s going to fill a market need and a market gap, from what you’ve described in just even thinking about someone that’s operating an aircraft. I would imagine there’s plenty of time that aircraft is grounded. It’s just sitting somewhere in a hangar, or runway, or wherever it’s sitting. It’s parked. And what you’re doing, sounds like it certainly could provide an opportunity for greater use and then greater convenience for the passengers, for the customers that are coming through your system.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (12:02):
Well, not only the passenger, but also the operators. This industry, historically, has been seasonal in nature. So, when you look at places that have good weather, those are where the aircraft thrive and where they operate, typically. And then you go to the airlines, which operate around the clock everywhere, right? So, there’s got to be a hybrid somewhere there. And that’s been the marketplace that we’re trying to fill.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (12:28):
And so, what we’re bringing to the operators is a business that they can feel consistent with. So, by way of example, here in the Northeast, when aircraft are not being utilized, guess what they do? They ship them down south, so they can facilitate… They can continue the flow of cash in another marketplace, in another area. And so, we’re going to build that consistent flow, where they don’t have to do that. And I think this, from an operator’s perspective, brings an opportunity that’s really different from what’s out there.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (13:03):
Yeah. It’s brilliant. And I like that it’s focused regional. And as you start to expand. So, I guess, in today’s world, what’s your general coverage area look like today, and where is this going? What’s your vision for this?
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (13:18):
Well, today, we’re in the Northeast. So, we’ll facilitate flights in the New York tri-state region within 500 nautical miles. And roughly, by the end of [inaudible 00:13:31], we’ll be a nationwide coverage.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (13:34):
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (13:36):
Our objective is to take this platform globally in 2022.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (13:44):
Fantastic. Well, Marc, I’d love to jump into, you alluded to this a moment ago, but I’d love to jump into our questions that we always like to ask every guest before they go. So, your turn now. And I’d love for you to share. We start with a miss first, that may have come along the way, and something you’ve learned from it.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (14:04):
Well, when I started my first business 20 years ago, I put together a business plan that depicted selling a bunch of computers and designing websites for companies. And as I embarked on that business, I realized more and more, that the model that I’m working with here is really not going to achieve what my objectives are. And that’s to build a scalable, thriving business.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (14:36):
And so, you have to learn how to adapt with the marketplace and you have to learn that you have to really be ready to pivot. Right? And so, that opportunity that I had with the sale of computers really led me down to selling people connectivity, because back in 1998, people were trying to connect to the internet faster and faster, right? So, you have your dial-up servers and then your broadband servers.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (15:08):
And I said to myself, “Well, hey, wait a second here. I’m getting more requests on connectivity than I am on buying computers. How about I pivot and start looking at building an ISP, or an internet service provider?” Fast forward 25 years, we became one of the largest… 22 years, sorry. We became one of the largest managed service providers in the Northeast.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (15:30):
And so, you just have to learn to adapt in the marketplace. Most of the time, it’s misses that you learn from, but that’s one miss that I can remember. And then, obviously, starting this new venture, I started wanting to have my own air operator with scheduled regional flights. And as I started understanding the marketplace, and understanding what the need was in the marketplace, and what the void was in the marketplace, I quickly adapted to that environment and said, “Hey, this is really how the platform should look like. These are really the folks that we need to cater to. And let’s build a business around that.” So, I think it’s always misses that create opportunities for you to leverage.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (16:18):
Absolutely. Yeah. Thank you for sharing those. I completely agree. And, well, you’ve shared some makes here, but is there another make that stands out, that you’d want to share?
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (16:30):
Wow. I think I’ve covered quite a bit. But, look, what we are today and the platform that we have today, I think, is a make, based on how we started. And so, being a global marketplace within the next year, I think, is a huge make, given where we started just two-and-a-half years ago. So, I guess I would leave it at that.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (17:02):
Yeah. I totally agree, by the way. I think that it’s amazing what you’ve done and are on track to be doing over the coming years here. And what about a multiplier? We get a really diverse range of responses from this question. Has there been a multiplier you’ve used in helping you grow personally, professionally, or any of your companies?
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (17:25):
The challenges. The challenges that I’ve been presented just get me even more excited about the opportunity. And sometimes, challenges that get into people’s way, oftentimes bring them down. Well, they make me stronger. And if you’re able to take that challenge, and turn it into a success, and overcome those challenges, I think that’s part of what really makes a difference between being successful and really making it.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (17:58):
Yeah, that’s really interesting. So, these challenges are adding, actually, energy or fuel to keep progressing, and moving forward, and growing, and developing. I love that.
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (18:12):
Absolutely. For me, at least.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:14):
Yeah. Well, and Marc, the final question we ask every guest here is, what does success mean to you?
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (18:24):
Success? Well, I guess success can be broken down into different areas. But first and foremost, it’s family. Being able to be part of a beautiful family and having a beautiful family. That, to me, is a big success. Or the most success you can have. Asking me any specific areas in business that would lead to success, for me at least, meaning family.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:58):
Yeah. Well, thank you. Yeah. And before we conclude here, Marc, I always like to ask if there’s anything you were hoping to share or get across, that maybe we haven’t had a chance to cover yet?
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (19:12):
I think we’ve done well. I think we’ve covered a lot here and I’m happy to answer any other questions. You’re welcome to throw them at me.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:21):
Yeah. No, this has been great. And, well, for someone that’s in the Northeast today, and really anywhere, coming up by the end of first quarter next year, what’s the best way for them to find out about this, get involved, whether they are an operator, whether maybe they’re someone that would be a customer, how can they become a part of this?
Marc Sellouk, Flewber (19:51):
Well, first, they can visit our website at www.Flewber.com. And, of course, download the app. Give it a try and give us your feedback. And love to hear from them.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:03):
Marc, thank you so much again, for being a guest on our podcast here. And let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So, takeaway number one is, when Marc talked about a miss, and he said, “You have to learn how to adapt to the marketplace and pivot.” And he said, when he started Flewber, he wanted to have his own local regional operator and realized the platform should be built the way it is now. So, while he started it with a different intention, it has changed and morphed along the way.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:37):
Takeaway number two, is when he talked about the multiplier, and that challenges for him, those challenges that he’s been presented with in business, those challenges are his multiplier. Without that friction, and those challenges, and those hardships along the way, he would not have created the businesses that he has over his career.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:58):
Takeaway number three, is when he talked about, he saw a need in the marketplace where there was a seasonality with small aircraft, where small aircraft in the north, during the winter months, would go to the south, in order to keep busy. And so, by offering a service, he’s helping solve a problem that exists in the marketplace, which is pretty cool. And now, it’s time for today’s win-win.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:28):
So, today’s win-win comes from when Marc was talking about, that he has to have your misses, in order to identify what model your business really will become. And I thought that was really great. And so, he shared several instances and stories about this, but I think it’s a great lesson and a great takeaway that, sometimes, those misses where you’re trying something, ultimately, lead to finding that eventual success. So, that adage of, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Sometimes you have a miss, and you have to pivot, and shift, and change along the way.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:09):
And so, that’s the episode today, folks. Please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and give us a review. And remember, if you or anyone you know might be ready to franchise their business or take their franchise company to the next level, please connect with us at bigskyfranchiseteam.com. Thanks for tuning in. And we look forward to having you back next week.