Yep, She Runs a Private Jet Company

Chris Holifield, president and CEO of luxury jet company Elite Aviation, shares how she got her start in a male-dominated field, what stars really request and what it’s like raising a “future CEO.”

by Samantha Lear
Chris Holifield, Elite Aviation president and CEO, in front of some of her private jets

More: How did you get started?
Chris Holifield: I was traveling on private jets and I didn’t like the service I was getting. Sometimes I was entertaining clients on the flight and it wouldn’t have simple things like hand towels in the bathroom, or there would be lipstick stains on the coffee cups. Eventually, I became a client of Elite Aviation, and then I found myself with the opportunity to acquire it. I realized could really do something with the company.

More: Who are some of your higher profile clients?
CH: We have David Beckham, Christina Aguilera and Simon Fuller. Those are just some of the clients I’m allowed to mention. And that’s important—we pride ourselves on absolute discretion at Elite.

More: What are some of the funnier or more unique requests you’ve had by clients?
CH: I get people who say, “I’m going to New York and I want the top 10 Prada shoes and two Chanel bags”—and we’ll put them on the plane. Once we even had a client who requested that only blue M&Ms be onboard, so I went to the grocery store and my executive management team spent two hours separating all of the blues themselves.

More: What is a typical day for you as CEO? What are your responsibilities?
CH: It changes everyday, and that’s what makes it so fun. I’m very hands on, so you never know when I’m dropping by. If I see plane on the tarmac, my guys know that I may decide to come in and do a last-minute plane check before it takes off.

More: You have an 11-year-old son. How do you balance being a mother and running your own company?
CH: I have basically taken my family room and transplanted it into my office. I didn’t want to be the CEO mom who works long hours and whose son is cared for by someone else. He has his own office here and outside the office it says “future president and CEO.” Last week he requested business cards. I love that he has his mother’s entrepreneurial spirit.

More: What’s the most rewarding part of the job?
CH: Recently, I got a call from a production company interested in our services for one of their producers taking a vacation. They gave us a certain amount of money and free rein with plans and I thought “oh my god, it’s play time.” It’s fun to create exciting experiences for people.

More: What do you have planned for the future of Elite Aviation?
CH: We recently launched Elite Attache, a division within Elite that takes what we were already doing with door-to-door client requests and handles them on a larger scale.

There are also plans for expansion both in the US and abroad. I see Elite Aviation expanding into other service industries that are natural alliances, such as boutique hotels, limousine companies, or restaurants. What excites me and inspires me everyday is that the possibilities are endless.


CLICK HERE to find out what it takes to be a female franchisee

For MORE career and reinvention stories, CLICK HERE

First Published Fri, 2012-05-04 12:59

Find this story at: