I’m 25 years old, work an 8-5 IT desk job, and I am a pilot. I have desperately tried to think of a good business idea for like 7 years, and came up with nothing. As a plane-less pilot, I love browsing the web for airplanes I’ll never be able to afford to buy, but currently the only sites out there for used airplanes for sale are absolutely horrid to use cough www.barnstormers.com cough. And the ones that are good to use, cost HUNDREDS of dollars for listings and are aimed at the super rich 1%, not your every day pilot like me. But they get so much traffic. So I thought there might be an opportunity to create an easy to use, mobile friendly marketplace for pilots. Since I know what pilots want to see in a listing, I made sure those things were first and foremost visible.
Almost two years ago I started slinging home made aviation t-shirts to my Instagram followers, to save up money. Then about a year ago I discovered Merch by Amazon. If you aren’t aware, Merch by Amazon is a Print on Demand business model. You design the shirt, amazon lists it, and when someone buys it, they make it, you collect somewhere between $3 and $6 commission on sales, and they ship it. Luckily I am fairly good at Photoshop, and I put about 5 months of work into this merch idea, which sort of paid off. In 1 year I had earned about $10k profit from Merch by Amazon, designing and listing t-shirts, and selling them to organic customers looking for aviation shirts on amazon. I didn’t spend any of this money because I wanted to use it to fund an actual business, but I didn’t know what yet. All done by hand myself in Photoshop
So 5 months ago, I thought of this website idea, I found a developer on Upwork, and paid him to make my website. I did ALL the design work in Photoshop, making the site exactly how I wanted it, and gave the designs over to him to make. The dev was also an aviation lover and wanted to help with the project, so he gave me a little break on his hourly rate. All up it cost around $5500 to get the website live and about a month of tweaking so it worked well on computers and mobile devices. There is a free listing, a $15 listing, and a $20 listing. So now I had a website, wingswap.com, but needed to get the word out. I’m still working on that, but here’s what I’ve done so far!
To start off I let my personal Instagram pilot friends know about it, and launched a new Instagram page. This was the t-shirt Instagram page I marketed from earlier, pivoted to be the wingswap instagram, since it’s the same demographic, I retained most of the followers during the pivot. During my t-shirt slinging days, I joined several aviation forums to tell them about my shirts, which they all got behind. I let them know about my new business, and they all immediately supported the idea, which was huge in getting people to use the site right away.
After one month this happened:
The equivalent of posting your first dollar on the wall haha…
I also paid up and coming pilot YouTube celebrity and friend Trent Palmer to shout out my website at the end of his video. This cost me several hundred dollars, not quite $1k:
But if you look at the traffic it gave me in the first day, it worked out to about $0.002 per person visited. and even less now. So definitely worth it. I’ve done this three times now.
I also paid FLYING magazine to do an online article on me, which cost $2100, you can see that article here.
This was by far the worse investment I’ve done, as it only got me about 2.8k visitors. Oh well. Live and learn.
All of this is continually being funded by merch by amazon profits, which are around $300-$600/mo.
Now after all this spending, I’ve made in profit, a total of $515. Not much you might say, but $360 of that was just this month. Also look at that traffic grow! (Image Below). I’ll start advertising on my site once I hit 50k or 100k users a month, or whenever I cant afford it on my own anymore haha.
I’ve been contacted by one who wants a 10% partnership for $10,000, which places my business value at $100,000. haha seems crazy, but market value right?
The main thing I’m doing to get people to list on my site is to reach out to people with planes for sale on other websites, and let them know about my site, who I am, what I’m doing, and why they should use it. Takes about an hour a day to keep the new listings coming in. I’m waiting to hit critical mass of users so I don’t have to do this anymore.
So that’s it! Hit 20,000 visitors this month, which to me is crazy for just 4 months after launch. I’m very happy with how it is going. I’m continually investing in different marketing ideas, and seeing what sticks.
The best part is, since this is all funded by my Merch by Amazon profits, and I have my 8-5 job to rely on in the mean time. Will answer any questions you have!