Will Smith is the Founder of Will Smith Aviation.
Captain Will Smith is a successful self-made man and loving father who worked his way through flight school and became a well-respected pilot. He is the author of 2 books: Falling from the Sky and Ditches to Riches.
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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, we're all reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.
All right with us right now. We've got Will Smith, not that Will Smith. We've got Will Smith, who's the founder of Will Smith aviation. All right, so where were you when Will Smith was becoming the thing Fresh Prince of Bel Air. And that had been an issue
that it was at the time when I was growing up, everybody called me Billy Smith. So at As I grew older I adopted the name Will Smith because my full name is William beech Smith. And it wasn't a whole lot during that, but it has going through high school. I graduated in 92. It just kind of stuck to me. And everyone referred to me as the White Will Smith. So that was my, that was kind of pinned on me and follow me even to this day, they, you know, I've talked to people like oh, yeah, we know you're talking about, White Will Smith. So it's kind of funny. We joke around with it. A lot of the ATC controllers see my name when I'm falling, and they ask so it's, I roll with it. So yeah,
right, right. Okay, so how did you kind of going back a ways how did you get into aviation?
I it's quite funny how I got into my first company. I started with a tanning salon. That was my first failure and entrepreneurialship my first company business, I didn't know what I was doing. I was young. So I learned it was a learning experience. I got into Restaurant Management after that, and I got sick and tired of working you know, 90 hours a week. for very little pay, so I'm driving home, I quit my job. I have a I have a newborn, you know, six months old, I go home, and I tell my wife at the time that I quit my job but she goes, What are you going to do? So I saw this billboard says fine, find your freedom through flying. So I went out to this little airport up in North Carolina and took something called a discovery flight and fell in love with it and it was more of a passion than anything. And and here I am today, you know, I went I took that and graduated from a aviation Academy in Sanford Orlando. And then from there, I just flew for the airlines. And then of course, we had the 9/11, then we had the housing boom, there's other things that got in our way. But I over I just fought through it and I didn't let anything or situation hold me back from becoming successful.
And so just so folks understand it, can you kind of explain how Will Smith aviation works I mean, is it is it just you flying you got one Plain or tell me a little bit about the actual business? Well,
I we do acquisition and sales, I help people purchase aircraft or sell their aircraft, so they want to upgrade to a big one. I also do pilot placement when people are looking for pilots right now pilots are very few and far between. And it's hard to find corporate pilots are all going to the airlines are all going to start a company. So what I did, I found a niche in the industry and I filled it. So people have me manage their aircraft, they'll have me get pilots for the aircraft. And then of course, the acquisition and sale side of it. So there's different areas of revenue coming in. I'm a firm believer, do not put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to owning your own business. Because if one aspect of that business doesn't do well, you lost 100% of your business. So you have to really be able to keep a lot of different irons in the fire to keep a different source of revenue coming in. Because if one fails, it's okay. You've got the other two or three they're gonna sustain you.
Yeah, so um, so how do did you how did you grow that? Did you start just charting your own plane? Or did you kind of how did you grow that to be able to provide all those different services,
your best growth is word of mouth. People knew who I was who I was in the community, because I'd been in this community pretty much majority of my life. And I got back into aviation. And I started by just the pilot services on that side of it. So on the pilot services side, I started flying for different people, they started recommending me, and then I realized I had something a name, I had to start branding that name. And one of the big things and in owning your business, you can have the best service in the world. But if no one knows you're out there, what are you know, you've got to brand your name, you've got to get your and that's one of the biggest challenges that new entrepreneurs are having is getting their name out there and doing the marketing side of it and having people Talk about you and say, Hey, this guy is really awesome. He flew me. I flew coach Dungy before I flown work done. I've flown a lot high profile people around and they go tell their friends and then their friends tell their friends and and before I knew it, I had this name I had to bring in. So we made it will smith aviation and in the name node, it carried with me and it still does and now people you know if they're looking for something locally here in the Tampa Bay Orlando area they it's it's branded because when they ask about that my name pops into their mind. Just like if you were asked someone about a serial, what name pops into your mind is a Kellogg's. You know, that's branding. You talk about a truck what name pops into your mind? Is it Ford or Chevrolet? That's branding? So I brand it My name when they talk about a private corporate pilot, Will Smith comes up.
Yeah. And it's and it's a memorable name. So Well, you've written a couple of books, and I'm wondering if you could kind of share a little bit about your first book and it's quite a story falling from the sky, a journey of a man falsely accused and ultimately vindicated. Alright, so give me the the Cliff's notes version of, of your story there.
Back in 2001. I had a lot going on. Oh, 911 happened for us. I was furloughed. And I had a crash pad. I was working for the airlines and I had a friend, a bunch of friends living there. And I was wrongfully accused of rape at the time. Oh
that and yeah, and we have accused like that people just they, you know, they cringe. And I had a I had an uphill battle.
That is a tough one. That is our dad. And I mean, any any sex crimes. I mean, that's a really tough one to preserve. You're innocent until proven guilty. Correct.
But unfortunately, it was guilty till proven innocent. Yeah. Yeah. And it's some it's like that a lot of a lot of the times, but with my We had just had a bad judge. The same was strung out for three years now was accused in 2001. It didn't go to trial to 2004. And unfortunately, because of the judge I had, she didn't give me a fair trial. And I wound up being found guilty and sentenced to six to eight years. Well, I appeal the case went through the appellate courts. I went through the Superior Court in North Carolina, the Chief Justices, and they found out that she had not just with me, but with other people that came before her not given a fair trial. And I was eventually allowed to be able to prove my innocence after 26 months. Well, when I got out she was removed from the bench. We'd started a website called eradicate Evelyn Hill calm. I had six witnesses at the you know, with me at my home that night saying that this didn't happen. But she's still through all the witnesses testimony out and had the jury rule on none of my witnesses. Well wouldn't allow me to Witnesses. But the good part about it is I turned something, a bad situation into something positive. And when I got out, I found that a lot of people didn't want to hire me. So I have when my book dishes, the riches I talked about if you can't find a job, make a job. So I got back into what I knew best was entrepreneur. I'm starting a business. So I started a business doing termites repair company. And that led to me doing termite sales. And I found out Wow, there's a lot of money in this pest industry. So I started the termite company. And I started it with $5,000. And I grew it into almost a quarter million dollars over a four year period. And of course, I did this once again, my old saying branding, you know, I want people to remember who I was. And when they thought about pest control, they thought about me. So it's a it's so one of those things that worked well for me. I sold the company and then I got back into aviation. And then I built you know the world Will Smith aviation brand and it's you know, and here I am today.
Yeah, yeah. Boy, you know movie reminds me Just Mercy. I don't know if you've seen that one. But, you know, people don't understand that, you know, the justice system. We hope it to be fair and impartial. But the reality is, there's a lot of subjective. You know, I having worked in this in the legal profession, unfortunately, there's a lot of discrimination. And, you know, I'm sorry that you had to go through that. But, you know, how did that experience make you a better person and so you were incarcerated for a couple of years as a result of being falsely accused and falsely convicted. I mean, I can't imagine I have nightmares about that. about experiencing something like that.
Yeah, it's it's not easy, but sometimes You have to adapt and overcome to that environment that you're in. And I six, in the book falling from the sky. I talked about how I made it through 26 months. And then I you know, after that it was, in hindsight, the easy part was the 26 months, the hard part was getting out and regaining everything that I lost. Yeah, that was the hard part, you know, re establishing my good name getting back out into the community, no one wanted to give me a chance everybody slamming doors, my face, you know, it's like I had the scarlet letter on my chest. And I had to overcome that in the only way that I could do that. It was through perseverance and proving to people Hey, you know, our judicial system is far from perfect. There that the majority of the people that you know, go through it, don't understand that if you don't have $100,000 attorney, whether you're guilty or innocent, doesn't matter, because that person has a agenda and that's becoming either a Georgia judge You're a circuit court judge to a superior court judge. They need so many convictions. And that's what they're looking at. They're building their resume on what you've been accused of.
Yeah. You know, sadly, sadly, in the United States, you know, Justice is a commodity, you get about as much justice as you can afford. So I, well, again, well, I'm sorry, he had to go through the experience, and I'm so grateful that you were exonerated. But, you know, the sad reality is, you know, those two years, I mean, that's, you don't get those two years back. But, you know, it's two years and hopefully we learn from those, and we grow from those horrible experiences, and we all experience, you know, pain, we all experience negative things that happen in our life. And so what? So, after that experience, obviously, and you're facing rejection, so again, take me through how you rebound from that?
Well, when I would first go course, people do background checks, just to make sure that you have a valid driver's license. Yeah, that you're not you know, Some, some crazy person running around out there. And it's it was to the point to where I was like, Okay, I'm hitting this brick wall, I have to overcome this objective, I have to, you know, get past this. So that's when I said, Well, let me start my own business. So by starting my own business, I got personal with the people in my community that I would work for, and work with. And they started giving me recommendations. And, and and I would be very I would lean into the problem. You know, if someone asked me or the topic came up, I wouldn't stray away from it. I'd lean into it. So yeah, this is what happened. It was unfortunate that I happened, but it happened. And I'm helping people that have gone going through the same thing. One of the reasons I wrote my book was to, it was kind of a closure for me. So now when people ask, like, I've got the book, read it, they read the book, they're just like, no, we'd never thought that that was possible. Things like that would happen. It's got a lot of good attention. I've got a producer over in California that's looking on the screen right with it, because we read the story. You know, everything I was getting was positive feedback. This is an awesome story, you should do something with this, you should, you know, talk to people try to help them out. That's where the second book came out, which is the which is overcoming adversity, climbing your way to success. Because I know there's a lot of people that go through some hard times whether if you're getting out of jail or prison, if you're overcoming addiction, if you've lost everything in your life, you know, you're still important. You know, there's, there's still something special about you, you can still go out there and make things happen. And I go and I speak to people and say, hey, you're not alone. You know, bad things happen to good people. A lot of the times, sometimes we're just a product of our own environment. But by having someone you know, me going out there, I might not touch the 100 people that I'm speaking to, but if I touch two or three, you know, in they they are inspired from that, that success. I've helped a couple of people get beyond where they are. And our biggest obstacle in life is ourselves. You know, if we sit there and talk about hey, I can't do this. I failed in this. I suck at this. If you keep on doing That, you know, you're not going to be able to get to that that next step in life, you have to say, hey, like, this is life things happen, let's move forward. And let's build on that.
Now. You know, I went through a date with destiny, Tony Robbins, and he talks about, you know, our backgrounds and you know, you might look at your parents and say, you know, what, in his case, you know, he had, he had a really rough upbringing, and, you know, and you know, you could be bitter and you could be you could have resentment over that. But he said, You know, I look at who I am today, and I like who I am. And, you know, so I, you know, as a result of my past, you know, if you're going to blame somebody for your past or blame the judge or blame, circumstance, whatever it is, it's okay, but blame elegantly, because who you are today is probably pretty great. And, you know, we're a function of, you know, our background and our experiences, you know, I had some tough times. experiences in the military. I had some, you know, tough experience is growing up, but man, it made me into, you know, it gave me my work ethic, you know what I you know what I do today and I, I really am grateful that I have that because I know not everybody has that. And so, you know, we'll you've got character traits, personality traits right now that are probably pretty unique in the world of business.
Yeah. Well, I, I've overcome objectives. Like I said, the prison part was easy. The hard part was dealing with the reality of how people were going to treat me. So it was one of those things that I and I tell people, it's like, if you lose your job at something, it's probably because it wasn't a good fit. Don't let it get you down. There's something better for you out there. There's someone out there that you're going to connect with, and and just, you know, build, just speak that and talk to people. It works. Well. I've you know, I help kids that way. Want to go into the Navy? They have to have their private pilot's license. I'm a teacher, I'm an instructor to teach people how to fly planes. Yeah, I can do this, anybody can do this. It's just it's all about mindset. You know, I tell people that kind of hold on to the past and hold grudges. If you keep one foot and yesterday, and one foot in tomorrow, you want a ping on today. And you don't want to do that, you know, you want to make sure that you live in your moment, stop holding on to the past, because that's not going to get you in where you can't drive forward. If you're constantly looking behind you. You know, you have to set your goals for yourself and you have to move forward and when things happen, there's ways to overcome, you know, those bad things are happen or sometimes life just happens and people need to learn learn to deal with life on life's terms. Once you realize how to do that, and don't let the small stuff hold you back. You will succeed, you will become successful. My biggest success is not you know how much money I have in the bank, but how many people I help along this along the way. You know, that's where my success
Yeah. And and in doing so, generally the natural outcome of that will be, you know, you're going to be alright financially, right? I just help enough people. So Captain Will Smith, your your two books are on Amazon Falling from The Sky and riches are sorry, Ditches to Riches. You're also found on the web at CaptainWillSmith.com. And of course, WillSmithAviation.com. Maybe someday you'll get to fly the actor. Yes.
That would be awesome. Yeah.
Well, I listen, I want to thank you so much for joining us what an amazing story. And I can't imagine I bet the book is just incredible. Both your books, telling telling story, your experiences. So thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for the time, Josh, I appreciate it.
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