Smart50 Awards 2018

2 Soar Aviation

Revenue

$12.7 million

Growth

586.7%

Founder

Neel Khokani (28)

Head office

Victoria

Employees

61

Industry

Aviation

Website

soar.edu.au

One of the most unorthodox entries on this year’s Smart50, Soar Aviation was founded in 2013 with the goal of addressing the global shortage of commercial pilots by offering training and accreditation through a Victorian-based flight school.

Headed up by 28-year-old and sole founder Neel Khokani, Soar has experienced astonishing growth of 586% over the past three years, posting a revenue of over $12 million in the last financial year.

The founder believes the business’ success can be largely attributed to its more modern approach to flight training, eschewing the more “muscle car”-like planes such as Cessnas and Pipers for a fleet of 45 light sports aircrafts, which contribute to lower fuel costs and lower emissions.

Soar Aviation“[The] innovative choice of aircraft means lower operating costs — savings which are passed on to the consumer in the form of lower fees, meaning Soar offers a training program over 30% cheaper than comparable products on the market,” Khokani says.

Khokani attributes running such a successful business at a young age in part to his own success, with the founder gaining his commercial pilots licence at the age of 18. Soar has also benefited from partnerships with training organisations such as Box Hill Tafe, which has helped the number of students jump from just 10 in 2016 to over 500 in 2018.

Soar Aviation has taken on no external funding during its journey, with the founder starting the business with just $5,000. In fact, Khokani believes giving away too much equity early on is an “easy trap” for young entrepreneurs.

However, half of the business was recently sold to private equity fund The Growth Fund, with Khokani saying the move brings him “perceptibly closer” to his long-term goal of running his own airline.

‘When the time is right, [my] sights will be on bringing further diversity to Soar Aviation by setting up another pilot training organisation in Queensland or Western Australia. While that answer may not sound overly exciting, I believe this is what the business requires,” he says.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

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