KS Aviation, The Evolution of a business…..

KS Aviation started life in 2009 as a web site, the web site you’re viewing this article on right now in fact. I always had an ambition to run my own website that harked back to the glory years of our hobby, the days when Jets came in different shapes and colours, and a line up at Fairford was a line up worth walking along, back along, and along again in case it had changed since the last time you saw it!!

That ambition started to become a reality over the next few months as I added page after page of information, and new sections to the site in the evenings I had. Flght simming got a look in, as did future airshow dates and information, as well as the long established (and still going) Aviation news page.

As time went on, so the number of visitors and popularity of the site grew. At one point the site was averaging over a thousand individual vistors a month, helped by having the time to carry out daily updates to the content.

Around this time I started the Facebook and Twitter feeds for social media under the KS aviation banner, an absolute jewel in a crown of exposure and publicity, for sharing photographs on Facebook groups ensured they were shared under the KS Aviation guise, getting that all important brand name pushed around to the enthusiast community.

The idea of a sales business came about around 2012, after taking a look at my personal model stash and realising that if I lived to 300 I’d still never make every kit. E-bay started to take a hit, and shifting kits at resonable prices was becoming a habit. A link up with Cornish based Aviation artist Graham Croydon also started to make this feel like a real venture. KS Aviation took to its first show in 2014 at Abingdon, but the look and feel of the stall didn’t do a great deal to entice the punter into the unique yellow Gazeebo. In fact the set up consisted of two wall paper tables holding cardboard boxes on their ends to allow the models inside to be viewed at the end of each box. Minimum work, no imagination, no set up, and I’m sure, uninspiring to anyone but the enthusiast who just wanted to drop in, look at the kits and leave with what they had found.

The output on business cards and the like had been quite extensive, and as a business, profit was a word that didn’t feature. In 2014 personal issues became higher priority, and the website, and any show exposure was to suffer.

2015 dawned bright and fair, and a new willingness to get the stall element of the business was in place. Life was good again, and it was time to get the KS Aviation name active once more. First off was the decision to use my favorite aircraft, the F-4 Phantom, as the ‘company’ logo. A picture of Duxford’s FGR2 of 74 Sqn was translated onto an outdoor banner and car magnets, and a future of sorts started to become more than just a thought again.

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Our first show of 2015 saw us head to Abingdon again with a banner, other improvements on presentation, KS Aviation’s second year at this popular show. All was good, except the weather. We were close to ‘jacking it in’ at half 7 that morning trying to get the Gazeebo up in strong wind and driving rain, but once all four sides were on and the flask was out, that spirit returned, ‘cosy’ against the elements while we set up the tables inside, while others battled around us with less luck. Abingdon saw us use the wet weather set up with the front of the Gazeebo left on should the weather turn again, and all our stock inside the unit to avoid the need to bring it in as required. The wet weather set up was the ideal choice, and like a racing driver who’d opted to start on the right tyres, we were sitting pretty as the rain returned. we actually shut up shop and zipped down the front with around 10 people inside that afternoon, all thankful we had been there to allow shelter from the storm. The show itself was promising to be a complete finaicial success until the rain had returned that day, pretty much bringing peoples willingness to participate in the customer / trader relationship to an end that May day.

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In January of 2015 we had been for a hike around the Southern villages of Southwick and Boarhunt, and on our return to Southwick headed into the Golden Lion Public House for an afternoon meal. While there we were told of a special event that was heading into its second year, where, due to the unique historical significance of the village, the whole place was shut off for a weekend in June to remember the events of the invasion. The village returned to the 40’s with re-enactors, military vehicles, and a 40’s period market selling relavent stock. An E-mail to the market organiser saw us ‘in’ for the weekend with the stall. However, stall holders were expected to ‘get into the 40’s spirit’ and dress accordingly. So was born the concept of dressing for shows, and to our minds the only possible solution to the ability to take part was to dress in RAF uniforms to tie in with our brand. In April the uniforms duly arrived from that well known Auction site, and in May at the Overlord show in Denmead, a large camo net was purchased to enable the dayglow yellow life raft of a Gazeebo to blend in with the occasion a little better. Name the Bear was also added to our stall, with a long list of names for people to attempt to win the giant bear in KS aviation T-shirt at the front of the stall.

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Southwick arrived, and the weekend show went like an absolute dream. The ability to take two cars to this local event improved the stock we could take along, and rotate between Saturday and Sunday. Our eforts to move with the request to participate in looking the part was a great success over the weekend, appriciated by organisers and the public in equal measure. It was our first weekend event for the business, and one that proved to be a turning point, a milestone for our chosen weekend ‘hobby’.

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Our final outing of 2015 at Martlesham Heath was all down to our Facebook friend Tarkey Barker, who put us onto Martyn Cook, the organiser. the car was packed to the gills the evening before for the 0500 departure the next morning. It was a ‘non-profit’ venture into East Anglia as the cost of the travel and hotel would never be topped in five hours of a funday, but what a day it was. The weather was glorious, the Dakota flypast immense, and the turnover better than we ever could have expected. We made the decision to attend in 2016 there and then, such was the feel and friendliness of the day. We actually went to the tower the day before and upon explaining why we were there and who we were, ended up being treated like VIP’s by the group, amazing!! This event was also a re-enactor event, so the RAF uniforms were out again, and lots of fun was had standing about in full RAF uniform in the 20+ degree heat that day let me tell you……

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Martlesham was the last stall show of the year, and later that month in Brighton we purchased alternate outfits for when we were at shows other than 40’s revival. A USAF stock flightsuit and a 60’s Vietnam Army flight suit found a new home that day.

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Further money parted company with us in order to ‘badge up’ the flight suits in preparation for the 2016 season as well.

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So we charged head long into 2016 re-energised after the winter break, and with two absolute solid dates already in the show diary at Southwick and Martlesham Heath. First show of the season happened in our local village of Stubbinton, Hants. An April date for a St Georges day festival, and our first proper ‘local’ debut with the stall, and business. James helped us out with this show and enjoyed the experience a great deal, helping with the set up and de-installation of the unit for the day. The show wasn’t what we were expecting, a general public who were unrelated to either Aviation or Military, not really ‘getting’ the point of the business.

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Next up was Abingdon for the third year running, but a late application by us had an effect on our position on the showground. This showed in both business takings, and general visitor numbers to the Gazeebo, but at least it stayed dry. We kept chins up as our next outing would be Southwick at the D-day weekend for the second year running.

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Around this time we were contacted via Facebook by Sarah Jones inviting us to take an interest in the Worthing Armed forces day towards the end of June. After consultation with the organiser, we were in for the day, making June a busy weekend with two shows for two of the weekends, and kids for the other two!!

So to Southwick 2016, another amazing weekend in uniform, great for business, great for the exposure of the brand name, great company in the shape of the organisers, just a wonderful 40’s weekend again. Rain threatened on Sunday morning so the Wet weather set up stayed, albeit tied back at the sides as the early rain departed before the day begain in the end. A Spitfire and Hurricane flypast on Saturday thrown into the bargin, and the weekend was an absolute pleasure, and good for business too. We are already in for 2017, wouldn’t miss it for the world as a shopfront for KS Aviation, and a great weekend for us. On top of all that, the first bear was won over the weekend, a year after we first started the competition, very fitting.

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Another contact was made and consultation made through Tarkey Barker for participation in the Martlesham Heath 100 Years weekend in July 2017, and we are booked in to take part in this event as it stands.

So to Worthing, another first for us and another show where we didn’t know what to expect, both in terms of space and set up ease, and of course, overall business. We need not have worried, the day was a great one on all counts, with a touch of fortune as the rest of the South coast ‘sunk’ under heavy thunderstorms that all seemed to move around the boarders of Worthing, a couple of very light showers being the only rain we had. Worthing was our first show debuting the alternate outfits in the shape of the flight suits, making the whole day an awful lot more comfortable than thse shows in the RAF get up!!

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July and August were Summer holiday and kid time, chosing wisely to not do shows with both Katie and James as boredom would prevail after 10 minutes, and most of the profit would be lost to the fun fair.

September arrived, and our weekend in East Anglia came around again. The weekend gave us the opportunity to meet up with our friends Tim and Nathan too who live in Ipswich, and once again Martyn Cook’s direct line to the chap up top meant the weather was perfect, bright and sunny, 20+, and not a breath of wind to affect setting up and taking down. Added to that a BoB Spitfire flypast to add to the 40’s atmosphere, and yet again everything conspired to make a perfect day, justifying our decision to put ourselves out of pocket from a profit point of view by spending the weekend in arguably the best county in the UK.

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So do we rest after our final show, stock returned to the loft until the next outdoor show? Well not this year, we did last year, but not this year. We are moving into promotion mode this winter for the first time, looking for opportunities locally and within Aviation sites over the next five to six months to increase our profile among enthusiasts and the general public alike. We already have three events ‘in the books’ for 2017, and are looking for more to book ourselves into. In two years we’ve really started to feel like we are getting somewhere, two occasions now having been approached at events where we weren’t taking part, but just promoting via our T-shirts.

From small acorns, mighty Oaks develop, and we feel we are at the start of a long journey with KS Aviation, and can only get stronger as we move forward into the future from here on.

Our thanks to all those who have supported us to date, please spread the word, as we love to meet people and increase our contacts as we move on.

2017 update

So into 2017 we tumbled, and what turned out to be (unbeknown to us) KS Aviations most successful year to date. 6 event appearances with the Yellow Gazebo (Mk’s 1 & 2) made our tally the most shows yet, and the income from these shows topped anything else leading up to this year. Winter had seen us bolster our uniform stock thanks pretty much to Darren in Cornwall, and 2017 proved to us that the decision had been a good one. Another contact made this year has seen us try to increase the interest of the publication Aero Australia through Wendy.

The Threshold.Aero event at Middle Wallop to recognise the 50th year of the Gazelle helicopter was our first show of the season. This one also saw the first show in the history of KS Aviation take both James and Katie to help out too at the same time. Being a local show it also allowed our two vehicle approach meaning stock was plentiful.

An 0500 start got us to the very chilly frost covered show ground for just after 0600. The opportunity to capture the spectacular sun rise that morning over the recognisable Wallop tower set the tone for a fantastic day.

The kids were very enthusiastic during the set up and initial hour of the show, but once the temperature rose (25c easily) and the prospect of standing outside the stall for the day in the heat hit home, the novelty wore off for sure. They had a good look around the museum and went out onto the live side once open to look around the Gazelles and other aircraft which helped. Luckily their electronic luggage in the form of phones and tablets also helped the day go by for them until close and pack up.

The day wasn’t without its drama however, one of the metal struts on the Mk 1 Yellow gazebo snapping during set up that morning. not a problem we thought, a problem that was later to come back to haunt us.

Our FB friend Phil Goodall took a picture of us that day during a quiet period we absolutely loved, and he was kind enough to give us an HD copy of it which we intend to frame and pop on the wall. They say the best pics are when you donlt know it’s happening, we agree………..

We moved into May, and onto Abingdon, KS Aviation’s 4th year at the show. The forecast was good, but with a strong wind. Keeping in mind the events at Middle Wallop with the strut snap, this was ‘interesting’. Luckily our prime spot on the main flight display line this year saw the wind coming into the front of the Gazebo, and this aided the strength of the now failing Gazebo. Despite an incident during the display in the afternoon which initally provided us both with moments of concern after our Shoreham experience, the day went well, foot fall in and out of the stall was good, interest high, and aviation related company during the day good as it always is at this event.

The May bank holiday saw the Overlord military Vehicle show take place in Denmead, Hants. We weren’t diversifying, but we were in the market for uniform to add to our growing collection of stock. We spent over three hours that day trawling the stalls and picked up some fantastic editions to the stock at very good prices. It was a lesson learned, and we are looking to attend more of these events in 2018 for the same reason.

June dawned fair and bright, and we found ourselves on the eve of our Jewel in the crown, the reason for the dressing up, The Southwick D-Day revival weekend. A local show allowed two cars to take maximum stock for this two day event, and this year we’d purchased tickets for us and our friend Mikey (my Project Management Mentor all those years ago when I began my career). We were also staying with Mikey Saturday night at his pad in Denead so we were really making a weekend of it this time.

The Friday night saw both cars packed, uniform trialed with a new pair of flying boots to replace the gaiters of previous years with the RAF look (and a silk scarf to lose the need for a tie), and for the first year, 40’s hair trialed with very pleasing results.

And so came the first day of the event, and the sun shone bright and fair and even Mikey was a part of the show bringing his vintage MG into the village to show off. It was warm, and it drained us that day, but we still had the evening to go yet with the 40’s dance, how would we cope????!!!!!

Upon putting the stock back into the cars and shutting up the gazebo we retired to the Golden Lion pub, the pub that was used by Churchill, Eizenhower, and Monty during the planning for D-Day as their own place to retire. After this came the evening 40’s dance. I changed my flying boots for shoes, and silk scarf for tie, and we danced the night away. Mikey was there on his own, and I couldn’t see our great friend sit alone so unbeknown to him I chatted to a few women using the power of the uniform to set him up for a couple of dances during the evening too. A great night had by the three of us with way to much alcohol drunk, to the point we were close to taking out three or four people during the last dance of the evening as balance and gravity almost got the better of us both!!!!

It was unknown to both of us why, but Sunday dawned with both of us finding we had headaches…………………
Setting up the stall Sunday was tough work, a visit to Southwick post office for Banana milkshake (The worlds one and only hang over cure) and sugar covered gummy sweets making the work more bearable. As the morning went on so the heads got better and another storming day was had at the event.

However, our snapped strut of April finally meant the Gazebo called it a day. The wind speed over the course of hte Southwick weekend had been, at times, strong, and the Mk 1 Gazebo that had been in action since 2014 was to be consigned to the place where old gazebos go. Added to that one of the wallpaper pasting tables pretty much collapsed on Sunday afternoon, we were facing the bill of a new gazebo and a couple of new heavy duty tables that would match the only heavy duty one we already had. By some amazing stroke of good fortune, the weekend had seen us more than make the money to purchase both, so all were duly purchased and arrived allowing us to look forward to our next June event, the Worthing Armed forces day, and a single car event due to the distance that would see the axles of the Astra tested again. Around this time I took the advice of none other than Ex lightning, Phantom, and Tornado pilot Ian Black on the G-trousers and jacket outfit I’d be wearing to Worthing, a great honour considering the number of his published books I have in my collection.

The Mk 2 Gazebo saw its first action, higher, allowing the uniforms to be better displayed, and with all three tables at the same height inside, the overall look of the stall suddenly became more professional. What didn’t work at Worthing this year after two weeks of 28 degree wall to wall sunshine was the weather, with frequent showers having a noticable effect on the days takings and foot fall.

July was a mad month for us, comprising the Goodwood festival of speed with the kids the first weekend, followed by five days in Suffolk including the Martlesham Heath 100 weekend event, followed by RIAT at Fairford the following weekend, then off to Cornwall for a week with the kids!!!

But going back to Martlesham Heath 100, this was a two day weekend event that we’d been invited too after our regular attendance at the Martlesham Heath control tower day the previous two years in September. This event proved to be superb for us, we were unique to the event, our stock and theme something everyone wanted to see and indeed buy! It was a great weekend in RAF uniform with a concert on the Saturday evening too, and well worth the effort to decamp to Suffolk for a few days allowing me to show Amanda the county I spent five years of my life in while at boarding school.

On the Sunday our friends Tim and Nathan popped in to see us as well as some quality time as always with George and Sam, then the weekend completed with the chance to pinch Tarkeys backside, judging by the look on his face quite unexpected too!!!

And so to our last show, Lee-on-Solent Airfield, and a celebration of 100 years since its opening. It couldn’t have got more local for us really, the 3 mile trip with two cars taking all of 10 minutes. It was an unexpectedly good day for the business, with enthusiasts purchasing from us in an unusual departure from the usual pattern at such events.

Since that last show we have been ploughing stock onto E-bay to try to keep the revenue going through the winter and into the spring so new stock can be purchased for the 2018 season.

As always, it’s been a pleasure to meet new people on the stall and make new FB contacts. Here’s to 2018, may this business and the pleaseure and fun that goes with it continue!!!!