Name: Jade Esler
Pillar: Business, Leadership & Community
Sponsor: First Seeds Fund
What is your dream?
Since I was 3 years old, I have only ever wanted to be a Commercial Airline Pilot. As a child, I travelled a lot due to my dad’s military career and the plane trip was always the best part of any holiday! But the aviation industry is an expensive one, and my parents were unable to afford the $300/hour cost for the many hours of flight training I needed, which is why I started my own business, The Sugar Bite, when I was just 13 years old. Every cent I’ve earned from the business has been used to fund my flying lessons to get me this far, and closer to my ultimate dream. I have already achieved the first of my dreams by becoming Australia’s youngest pilot when I flew solo on my 15th birthday, and my next is to become Australia’s youngest ever Commercial Pilot and obtain my Commercial Pilot’s Licence on my 18th birthday. From there, I plan to become a flying instructor to put myself through university, before becoming a Commercial Airline Pilot.
Tell us a bit about you.
I am a 15-year-old high school student at Merici College in Canberra. In September, 2014, I founded The Sugar Bite, my cupcake business, and achieved all necessary qualifications to own, run, and operate it. In December that same year, I had my first flying lessons and loved every moment. From that moment on I have continued to run my business and further progress my flying training. As well as running a business and undertaking flight training, I love my schoolwork, especially mathematics, science, and Italian. I am a member of the Merici College Da Vinci Decathlon team that placed in individual subjects and came 3rd overall at the Illawarra State Regional competition, and a member of the school debating team.
How have you demonstrated commitment?
I have shown my commitment to achieving my dream by completely self-funding my flying training. This is a monumental task considering how expensive the aviation industry is. When I started my flight training I was not legally old enough to get a job, but I was able to get everything I needed to run a business … so I did. I attend regular markets, sell wholesale to coffee shops and cater for events from weddings to corporate functions and everything in between - all the while maintaining a straight-A average at school. On average, I will work for 6-7 hours in order to make enough money for 1 hour of flying. I now have over 35 hours of flying time, which required me to bake and sell over 10,000 cupcakes. I have also spent at least half of every school holiday since 2015 undertaking the required theory courses and sitting aviation exams.
What challenges do you face?
One ongoing challenge is that my training is based in Cowra, NSW, a 2.5 hour drive from Canberra. This means I have to set aside a whole weekend to fly, and in addition to my flying costs, I also have to pay for accommodation and food. With my commitments at The Sugar Biteand my schoolwork, it is very difficult to find a free weekend to go to Cowra and fly. This results in my training being very interrupted and much slower than usual. I also have to make enough money to pay for several hours before I can go down, which severely limits the amount of flying I can do. My main challenge, however, is that it is becoming more difficult to self-fund my flying. This is due to a combination of the training becoming increasingly more complex and expensive, and the greater demands placed on me at school as I enter my senior years.
How will you use the money?
I would use the grant money to support my flying training. It would relieve some of the business pressure, providing me with greater time and opportunity for both my flying training and school commitments. It would allow me to fly more frequently making my flying training more efficient and effective as I wouldn’t need to spend so much time re-learning skills taught in previous lessons. I could also use it to buy any extra items that may be needed for the navigation component of my training such as maps, charts, and any other equipment. If needed, I could also use it to help with travel and accommodation costs involved with doing my training in Cowra. On average it takes around 30 hours of flight training to achieve a Private Pilots’ Licence after flying solo for the first time. This equates to approximately $9,000. If I was to win the scholarship, it would be the equivalent of baking and selling around 1,500 cupcakes, which would usually take me 4 to 5 months of hard, committed work.
How do you plan to give back?
I am extremely passionate about encouraging young people, especially girls, to follow their dreams. I wish to inspire females into aviation as it is a very male dominated field and can be difficult to get into given its cost. I seek out opportunities for motivational speaking engagements, recently speaking to young girls who are interested in aviation at a local Girl Guides aviation day at Canberra airport and to Girl Guides undertaking their first flying lesson at Camden airport. I realise how lucky I am to be in a position to chase my goals and look to give back by helping those who are unable to do the same. I visit Black Mountain School for the disabled once a week to assist with the students there, and I mentor students from the same school three times a week when they attend Merici College for work experience.