Matthew Jones has faced his share of adversity.
The U.S. Army veteran, 28, endured months of rehabilitation after the truck he and three fellow soldiers were riding in exploded at the hands of an improvised explosive device while patrolling Iraq in 2007. Jones suffered a traumatic brain injury and was awarded the Purple Heart.
He was born in Lincoln, but at an early age he moved with his mother to Salt Lake City, Utah, eventually graduating from Layton Christian Academy in Layton, Utah.
He encountered additional hurdles in his quest to become a pilot. That’s what led to the creation of his company, JayHop Helicopters; his presence in Southeast Community College’s Startup Community; and him winning $1,000 in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Business Administration Center for Entrepreneurship’s sixth annual 3-2-1 Quick Pitch Competition earlier this month.
“I came up with this idea because of the headache I went through to become a pilot,” Jones said. “I want to be affordable to most walks of life. I want to make becoming a pilot more achievable for those who are aviation enthusiasts.”
When Jones served in the First Infantry Division, he managed and counseled soldiers. He rappelled from helicopters but never flew one. Last summer he became a tenant in the Startup Community in SCC’s Entrepreneurship Center.
“I’m a strong believer in you can do anything you put your mind to,” said Jones, a student in SCC’s Business Administration program.
After Jones was honorably discharged from the Army in January 2009, he discovered his love for helicopters while working for the U.S. Forest Service as a wild land firefighter. He then attended a helicopter flight training program in Provo, Utah, provided by Universal Helicopters at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Jones completed his commercial rotorcraft instrument rating in November 2013.
“While going through the process of becoming a pilot, I realized that aviation training was backwards,” Jones said. “You spend $100,000 to go through the rating process, and that’s without a degree. Once you obtain your license with all the necessary ratings, you’re not hirable because most commercial companies require 1,000 hours of helicopter time, so you become an instructor to build time.
“Now you have instructors who have no commercial experience teaching students how to be commercial pilots. When you finally reach that magic number of 1000 hours that companies require they are still reluctant to hire you because again you have no commercial experience. My company and business idea would like to provide a solution to this problem by providing commercial experience to JayHop graduates, making them more marketable in a fast growing aviation world.”
Jones said his plan is to build a reputable name and establish a loyal clientele base by providing two charter products.
“Executive charter will provide an affordable alternative to the often strenuous and cumbersome task of business travel around Nebraska,” Jones said. “I charge $825 an hour for this service that can sit three executives with 50 pounds of baggage each. An example flight would be flying from Lincoln to Omaha. This flight typically takes 15 minutes and would cost $206 one way for three executives.
“Nebraska Swoop is a way to enhance the game-day experience for fans, students and alumni of the University of Nebraska who may live outside the Lincoln area. It will provide a round trip flight at $190 per person with groups of up to three with shuttle service included that will take them to the arena or tailgating event of their choice. Not only is it a way to enhance game-day experience, but it also helps avoid the madness of game-day traffic.”
Jones said phase two of his plan is the education process that will provide commercial experience to graduates of JayHop Helicopters.
“In hopes of partnering with SCC, JayHop Helicopters will provide a two-year degree, helicopter license at $60,000 and commercial experience,” Jones said. “Once students finish the helicopter license process, JayHop will hire our newly rated flight instructors to build hours. Once they reach 500 hours we will slowly incorporate them into the charter side of our business first, building second-in-command hours via observation flights learning the routes and procedures of the company, then slowly transitioning them into pilot-in-command where they will build commercial experience needed, making JayHop Helicopters more marketable in the rotorcraft world.”
Jones praised the Entrepreneurship Center’s staff.
“I owe (SCC business instructors) Scot Baillie and Linda Hartman a huge thanks in guiding me on the right path,” Jones said. “If it wasn’t for them I don’t think I would have been a part of the Startup Community. They have given me invaluable advice and guidance throughout this process.”
Jones said he plans to use the $1,000 from the Quick Pitch Competition toward marketing his company. He is scheduled to graduate from SCC next summer.
Jones said the SCC staff “has been amazing” in helping him get his company started.“They are an invaluable resource and treat you like family,” he said. “Like many entrepreneurs, I just had a dream and an idea. (Assistant Director) Brooke (Robbins), (Director) Steve (Bors), (Administrative Assistant) Cat (Leverett) and Linda helped me mold my dream and vision into reality and support me and encourage me each step of the way. They want me to succeed sometimes more than I think I want myself to succeed.”