President & CEO | Porter Airlines Inc.
Robert Deluce is the personification of a crucial trait of entrepreneurs: determination. The founder of Porter Airlines, a Toronto-based short-haul airline that began service in 2006, faced nearly insurmountable challenges to get his business off the ground: a mayor who nixed construction of a bridge that would connect Toronto's Island Airport to the mainland; protests by local residents and politicians concerned about noise; and a hefty lawsuit from Jazz, the Air Canada offshoot that occupied the island airport before Deluce purchased the building that Jazz had been using and cancelled its lease.
Deluce never wavered. "We knew we had a solid plan, our financing was excellent and we have a great team at one of the finest urban airports in the world," he says. "That gave us confidence right from the beginning. There was no turning back."
Today, you'd hardly know Deluce's company faced such adversity. The airline, which owns 26 planes and flies to 19 Canadian and U.S. destinations, was named the world's second-best small airline in Condé Nast Traveler magazine's Readers' Choice Awards. In January, Porter announced that 2011 had been another year of stellar growth: more than 2.1 million passengers travelled with the airline last year, up from 1.56 million the year prior. What's more, the year brought the company its first 12 months of profitability. More good news for Porter: construction of a long-awaited tunnel to the airport will soon begin, eliminating the short ferry ride from the mainland.
Deluce offers these words of wisdom to aspiring entrepreneurs: offer your target market something no one else does; focus, but stay flexible to capitalize on unexpected opportunities; and, finally, choose an industry that you're passionate about. "Starting any kind of business is a tough challenge," he says. "You really have to be committed to the long haul."
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