CRAFT Flight Training & Simulation Presented with Entrepreneur of The Year Award

Pictured above (left to right) is Jay Robinson, Synovus; Amanda Aldea, co-owner of CRAFT; Jay Aldea, co-owner of CRAFT; Tom Lauria, SBDC Business Consultant; Paul Featheringill, UofSC Region Director, SC SBDC.

CRAFT Flight Training & Simulation has been awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by the South Carolina Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The Entrepreneur of The Year award honors unstoppable business leaders whose ambition, ingenuity, and courage in the face of adversity help catapult us from the now to next and beyond. CRAFT was selected for its successes owning a small business in the Charleston region

CRAFT has come a long way over the past 2 and a half years. When presented with the opportunity to buy CRAFT Flight Training in June 2019, Owners Jay and Amanda Aldea jumped at it because they had a vision of creating a unique flight training experience using modern aircraft and technology to raise the bar for pilot training in Charleston. In 2019, CRAFT started with just 2 airplanes and 2 flight instructors.

Just as Jay and Amanda, along with their business partner, Barry Emerson, stabilized the business and started to grow, COVID-19 struck, and with that, brought new challenges to overcome. During the COVID-19 shutdown, mentors from the SBDC and SCORE helped CRAFT navigate government relief programs. With this knowledge, and with contacts made through the Chamber of Commerce, CRAFT was able to secure PPP and EIDL funds to sustain the business. They were able to keep their staff and reopen a few months later, emerging stronger than before. Now CRAFT boasts 18 employees, 16 aircraft, 2 Redbird simulators, and locations at the Charleston International and Summerville Airports. In 2021 CRAFT became the second school in South Carolina to obtain Provisional Part 141 approval from the FDA.

“Our mission at CRAFT has always been to provide the best flight training experience for our students, and to help the Charleston community to explore and enjoy aviation,” said Amanda Aldea. “Through our dedication to our mission and the mentorship we have received from the SBA, SCORE, the SBDC, and the relationships we’ve made through the Chamber, CRAFT Flight Training is a recognized center of excellence for flight training attracting future pilots from across the nation to South Carolina.”

The SC SBDC Entrepreneur of The Year awards are given to business owners whose efforts and contributions stand out as having enabled their business to grow and thrive during the past academic year. Synovus sponsored the SBDC’s participation in the EXPO and the award presentation. Jay and Amanda Aldea were presented the award during the North Charleston Business EXPO Thursday, October 21st.