Ben Marcus, Co-Founder JetAVIVA, Age: 26
As a salesman and flight test engineer at Eclipse Aviation, Ben Marcus learned a lot of what can make a company successful.
But he also saw firsthand what missteps a company can make, such as how Eclipse, now under bankruptcy protection, could make airplanes but fell short in its customer service.
So when Marcus and long-time friend Cyrus Sigari started their very light jet management and services company JetAVIVA the pair made it a priority to treat their customers with a high level of respect and integrity.
“We are in business because of our customers’ happiness,” Marcus said.
A love for aviation was planted early for Marcus, who grew up next to the Santa Monica Airport. He and Sigari were in their teens when they drew up their first business plan – a charter flight service to Catalina Island.
It would take another decade until the pair founded JetAVIVA. In between Marcus graduated from Purdue University and worked in the flight department for United Technologies and then as a Cessna salesman before recruited to work at Eclipse in Albuquerque. An engineer by training, it was at Eclipse where Marcus received his business education. He saw first hand how to market, balance cash flow and bring in future investment.
The experience also planted the seed for JetAVIVA. Marcus saw how and met many people who were taking ownership of a very light jet for the first time and frankly needed some assistance.
JetAVIVA, located at Van Nuys Airport, started out as an aircraft management company but then expanded into other services, such as flight training and the jet acceptance service that Marcus supervises that will put an aircraft through its paces before the owner takes delivery. There are other aircraft brokers out there but JetAVIVA is unique because of its focus on owner pilots flying very light jets.
Jan Gerritse, who has purchased two jets with the assistance of JetAVIVA, called Marcus very trustful and a great instructor when he and Marcus flew one of the planes from Florida to New Mexico.
“He was honest with me about the risks,” Gerritse wrote by e-mail from his home in The Netherlands.
His youthful age has never been an issue and Marcus is not aware of losing business because of it.
In fact, he finds his age to be a benefit because people like doing business with someone young and clients will take on the role of mentor.
“Anybody who buys a jet is typically an experience businessperson and all of our customers enjoy sharing (that experience) with us,” Marcus said.
— Mark R. Madler
Cyrus Sigari, Co-Founder JetAVIVA, Age: 26
Cyrus Sigari took an interest in flying that started in childhood and made it into his career.
Not that Sigari and business partner and long-time friend Ben Marcus had visions of great success when they started their company JetAVIVA. They did so because they liked to fly.
“The oldest picture there is of the two of us we are holding planes,” Sigari said.
JetAVIVA, based at Van Nuys Airport, provides services related to very light jets – from acquisition to management to training how to fly the aircraft. Sigari leads the sales and acquisition practice with a team that has racked up $200 million in sales.
Very light jets can be operated by a single pilot and seat four to eight passengers. The advantage of their size and cost is to make them available to businesspeople who might not otherwise afford a private plane.
The world of private aviation is an exciting one, Sigari said, and by providing technical expertise and flight training he and Marcus get to do the “fun stuff” and travel the world.
“It is hard not to be motivated and not be successful,” Sigari said. “The more we put into it the more we get out of it.” With an engineering degree from Purdue University, Sigari went to work at Eclipse Aviation, one of the first manufacturers of very light jets started by former Microsoft employee Vern Raburn. Sigari was both on the engineering and sales sides of the company before leaving to take on the new challenge of JetAVIVA. (Eclipse filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008.)
Although lacking in any business experience or background, his time at Eclipse exposed Sigari to an entrepreneurial environment that would have been lacking at a larger company. So it was from executives from Eclipse and in the larger aircraft community that Sigari got advice.
“We took those golden nuggets and applied them to what we were doing,” Sigari said.
JetAVIVA client John Hayes described Sigari as a high energy guy who came up with a clever idea of offering services to the owners of very light jets.
When he took delivery of his plane it was helpful to have Sigari available and to provide the initial training, Hayes said.
That Sigari has not yet reached 30 years old isn’t an issue because of his knowledge of the planes and his flight experience, Hayes said.
“That contributes to a warm comfortable feeling in doing business with him in operating one of these jets,” Hayes said
— Mark R. Madler