Meet Christos Shepherd, a guy who was born in Jamaica, given a Greek name, raised in London, fronted a TV show in China and got his MBA at Stanford. Not only is Christos all over the map, he also founded a successful airline in his early twenties, raising millions of dollars in the process. Today, Christos is mostly occupied with Campfire, an app that pays users to ask great questions that experts and thought leaders can use for free exposure. Tune into our today’s podcast and follow Christos’s amazing journey from the start.
Starting a Successful Airline Before 25
When I was 25, sure, I used to do quite a few sales and hustles here and there, but starting an airline? Boy, that sounds ballsy, to say the least.
Not for Christos, though. The man decided to begin his own airline in Greece after he’d worked as a correspondent and TV anchor for The South China Morning post, and when asked about how did he come up with the idea he spares no details: “[I started an airline] with great difficulty. I was young and naive when I set out to start that company. Like, you say [that it must have taken] brass balls, when, actually, I just didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”
One could say that Christos didn’t know he had brass balls until he actually started the company.
And so, combining youthful opportunism and passion for aviation, Christos simply went out and did it.
What influenced his decision the most was meeting the former director general of the local civil aviation authority: “Through him, [I got] introduced to all the people that I needed to get introduced to. It was only because of that chance encounter that I was ultimately able to get the airline off the ground. It was all just… an accident. A good kind of accident, of course.”
However, don’t fall for Chris’s modesty. The guy raised several million dollars in capital (that’s his first business, by the way) from a bunch of different aviation investors just to get the airline started.
For someone under 25, that’s quite impressive, to say the least.
“To start an airline, you need surprisingly little capital”
Not to undermine any of Christos’s achievements, according to the entrepreneur, starting an airline doesn’t require having half of world’s wealth in capital, contrary to what many would believe.
“For example, don’t buy a plane.” Christos explains the process of starting ‘lean’. “Planes cost, despite the size of it (laughs), millions of millions of dollars. Instead, go on and find yourself a nice lease on a slightly older aircraft that you can acquire and operate. There are ways that you can achieve significant savings on your initial capital requirement.”
Wait, so… starting an airline isn’t that difficult after all? Not entirely. In the end, Christos says, it all comes down to relationships with potential investors.
“I think that the secret to good fundraising – and this is what happened in my case – is having a great personal rapport with the person who’s investing in you.” Christos continues. “Which really makes sense – if you’re operating a corner shop or selling tickets to your concert, it helps to have a good rapport with your customers. With a bit of wining and dining, I was able to actually become friends with the person who actually led the consortium of investors who believed in this company.”
Of course, Christos says, there was stuff like documentation and proving the effectiveness of the business model to the investors, but at its core, it was the the entrepreneur’s proactiveness in creating lasting, sincere relationships that turned his airline dream into reality.
To hear the rest of Christos’s amazing journey and plenty of invaluable business insights, tune into our podcast at the top of the page!