Gabriella Somerville launched her business Connect Jets in 2009. It’s a boutique private aviation company that focuses on bespoke solutions for the private travel needs of individuals, businesses, governments and royalty – including jet and helicopter charter and sales.

Gabriella was shortlisted for our International Business of the Year Award and was Highly Commended in our Retail Business of the Year Award (London and The South), so we wanted to hear about her journey so far.

Forward Ladies: How did you come up with the idea for your business?

GS: I’d been planning to set up my own company in business aviation 8 years prior to starting ConnectJets. I purchased the domain name some 4 years before I launched. The vision grew steadily and when the right time came I had everything in place.

ConnectJets was launched during a depressed and struggling marketplace. But the downturn actually produced opportunities for new players (like us) to broker secondary market deals, so we happily adapted to this climate. Owners needed to leverage [unused] hours, clients needed to sell their fractions and companies who wanted to cut travel spend asked us how they could do it. In that respect, it was the perfect time to start.

Forward Ladies: What were some of the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

GS: Aviation is full of challenges – operational, cultural and economic. Covering an International marketplace means there are a number of variables that you have to manage. It’s a 24hr operation and you need to think fast and smart, especially when you are faced with moving aircraft around the globe.

Every challenge creates an opportunity and the art of a challenge is to overcome it. You need tenacity, vision and a sense of purpose to face the challenges with boldness and a desire to succeed.

You’ll fail on multiple occasions but as long as you keep getting up, you’ll win in the end. You should never be too hard on yourself.

Forward Ladies: How did you fund your business?

GS: I used my own seed capital from the sale of a small property in the Alps. It was my only property so I really did put my life into this business

Forward Ladies: What is your top tip for growing your business?

GS: Remain flexible, be open to change, re-evaluate your road map every 6 months and do not look at the competition for too long. Listen to what your customers want, watch how they spend and make sure you exceed their expectations every time.

Forward Ladies: Why would you recommend that people build their network and find the support they need to start and grow their business?

GS: Networking is an intrinsic part of business. Build as many friends / colleagues / ambassadors around you as possible, look after them and make sure you respect their support and connections.

One person within my network literally saved my business so never underestimate the power of networking.

Forward Ladies: How do you maintain a work/life balance?

GS: I’m not sure that I do, but it’s important to take time out and look after yourself. You need to make sure that you’re well rested and mentally and physically fit to face the many challenges and obstacles along the way. Running a business is a marathon and not a sprint.

Forward Ladies: How has mentorship made a difference in your business?

GS: Hugely! I went solo for 2 years and it was very lonely and hard going. If you don’t have a business partner, make sure you invest in a mentor, they’ll save your sanity and your business.

Forward Ladies: Thank you for your time Gabriella, you’ve been great!

Would you like your business and hard work to be recognised, just like Gabriella’s has been? Then apply for one of our prestigious National Women in Business awards, so we can celebrate your success and inspire other women to do the same. There’s nothing we love more than promoting incredible women in business!