Brian McCauley joins the podcast to discuss his non-profit: Flying for Veterans. We first touch on his military background, along with how that inspired this veteran service organization. Then, we talk about the process and pitfalls of starting/running a non-profit. And finally, we get into the organization's future plans.
Sponsored by: Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership
This podcast is a product of the NWPA Innovation Beehive Network. Most guests are clients that have used our free, grant-funded services.
Music: Kevin Macleod’s "pamgaea" available via Creative Commons Attribution-International 4.0. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, No changes were made.
Music by audionautix.com. Audionautix's "Roboskater" by Jason Shaw available via Creative Commons Attribution-International 4.0. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, No changes were made.
Brian McCauley: I think my biggest takeaway so far, and again we've only been doing this for about a year and a half, don't deny yourself opportunities, so, network. Introduce yourself to people, talk about what you are doing, get engrained in, you know, the community that surrounds your initiatives. Just talk to everybody, tell them what you're doing, even if they're not super interested maybe they know somebody who is and they'll "Oh hey, I talked to this guy who flies veterans around", and "Oh, yeah? I know a veteran, that'd be pretty cool", you know? Since doing this, I have met more people who are willing to help out in so many different ways. It's kind of mind boggling.
Narrator: That’s Brian McCauley, founder of the Erie-based non-profit, Flying for Veterans. He’s the latest guest on Buzz, Generated, a show that introduces listeners to businesses and community leaders in Northwest Pennsylvania. Through our conversation, you’ll learn about how Brian’s military background inspired him to provide free flight services to veterans. He’ll then tell you about the process of starting and operating a nonprofit, including the fundraising and marketing aspects. And finally, he’ll touch on what’s been going on for the organization in 2023 thus far. Join host Chris Lantinen, director of the PennWest Edinboro Beehive, as he sits down with our guest. Together, let’s discover what the buzz is all about.
Christopher Lantinen: So, Flying for Veterans is your nonprofit.
Brian McCauley: Yes
Christopher Lantinen: Take us through the basics as I’m sure some of our listeners are finding out about this organization for the first time.
Brian McCauley: Sure. So, Flying for Veterans is a nonprofit that’s headquartered in Erie, Pennsylvania and our mission is very simply to improve the lives of veterans through flight. Basically, we offer free flight services to veterans.
Christopher Lantinen: Okay, so talk a little bit about what your current offerings are and what your aspirational offerings are because I know you have a lot of future plans. You have a few different categories that you’re sort of building towards while you set this base of, you know, what you’re currently doing.
Brian McCauley: Yeah. So, you're absolutely right we do have goals and we want to you know achieve those and grow into them. Currently we are able to provide essentially a sight seeing flight, a discovery type flight over the Erie area. There are some FAA regulations that go into all of that kind of stuff. So essentially, we find a veteran who wants to go on a flight in a very small airplane, either two or four seats, and we take them up over the peninsula, up and down the lakeshore, if there’s a specific spot nearby that they want to see we’ll take them there. We had one veteran who wanted to fly over the, you know, the wooded land he hunts in. He wanted to check it out from the sky. In the future, hopefully this year, it all depends on if we can get an airplane that's capable of it, we would like to start providing destination flights. So, again depending on the aircraft we would like to be able to take a veterans literally anywhere in the United States they want to for any reason. So, the example I always use is maybe there is some veterans who served together who always wanted to go, you know, shoot guns on a range in Texas that they know of. We'll fly them to Texas, let them shoot their guns.
Christopher Lantinen: Very cool.
Brian McCauley: Fly them back home. Or maybe there's a group of veterans that served together that want to go um…
Christopher Lantinen: I'm waiting for Vegas.
Brian McCauley: Well, I was going to say fishing in Lake Tahoe. That's near Vegas, kind of
Christopher Lantinen: Yeah, gotcha, gotcha.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, we'll fly them to Vegas, let them see a show or whatever. Whatever sort of things guys want to do in Vegas, you know. But that's the idea so to the best of my knowledge, we are the only organization that aspires to provide essentially para transportation services to veterans for any reason. There are other organizations out there that provide similar services, but the purpose for those flights are very restricted.
Christopher Lantinen: You talked about the FAA regulations, and we can get nerdy on this show with like what you've had to deal with you know establishing this non-profit so…So far, what sort of FAA regulations have you had to deal with? And as you expand like say you're going just from a flight around Presque Isle to flying people to Lake Tahoe I assume that introduces some new legal challenges and hurdles that you have to navigate around.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, so when it comes to being a pilot and operating essentially a charter aircraft the FAA has some restrictions. So far we've been able to operate in a manner that does not require us to adhere to those restrictions. So, currently we have a small network of pilots who volunteer their time. So, the pilots are not being paid. I'm one of them, I don't get paid to fly. We have other pilots who volunteer their time, they don't get paid to fly. The only person getting paid is the person that we rent the aircraft from. So that's one thing. Private pilots are not unless you're a commercial pilot, you're not allowed to be paid to fly. It's a quid pro quo type thing. So that's one thing, our pilots are entirely volunteer. Another issue is we can't fly 25 nautical miles further than 25 nautical miles from the airport so 50 miles, you know, diameter, circle, 50 miles away from the airport. Otherwise, we fall into Part 91 which would be cherry use of aircrafts, as long as we stay within the 25 nautical miles radius of the airport, we're okay. Also, we're not allowed to use an aircraft to actually raise funds with. So, we can't put on an event where we fly the aircraft with the intent of raising funds. We can do things like free airplane raffles.
Christopher Lantinen: Like flight raffles. Which you've done in the past.
Brian McCauley: Right. Yeah. But we can't actually hold an event that the airplane is used for to raise funds with. So, there is some restrictions like that. But, under Part 91 of the FAA guidelines, once we start providing those destination flights, once we start going outside that 25 nautical mile radius, we will have to start adhering more, well adhering to those guidelines. So the pilots will have to have a certain number of hours of flight time under their belt in order to volunteer for that sort of thing. There's a lot that goes into it.
Christopher Lantinen: I know the, I know another aspiration is to provide medical flights, but I think when people hear that, I think they envision you flying a veteran to get medical care, which I think is part of your plan but there's other aspects to it that I think are really interesting and that tie directly into your own past. So if you wouldn't mind telling us a little bit about sort of the inspiration of that, where it came from in your history, and what you want to do on the medical side of this whole equation.
Brian McCauley: So, to address the very first part of the question, yes, we would like to provide medically necessary flights to veterans. Maybe there's a guy at the soldier sailor's home who has a condition and the only doctor that can treat it is in Omaha and we'll fly him to Omaha, let him get his care and then fly him back home. Just to be very clear, we will not be providing medical care on the flight just the transportation. But, to drill down a little more, you're talking about my own personal experience. I am a veteran myself and I was injured in Iraq in 2005 and I spent a number of months at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. and what I discovered is it's kind of a lonely place there, a little depressing, you're just surrounded by, you know, it's a hospital and if you have to essentially live there for a while, you know, it gets a little depressing. I was fortunate enough to have family nearby that could come and visit me and my wife and children who are from the Erie area came to visit me semi-regularly but I do know from experience that there are a lot of veterans, not veterans, active duty service members who are wounded that don't have that luxury. So, you know, maybe their family members can't afford to travel to go see them or there's just some road block that prevents them from being able to go visit their sick and wounded soldier at Walter Reed. I would like to be able to provide transportation to family members to go, you know, see a service member who have been injured and are in the hospital.
Christopher Lantinen: Yeah. That's awesome. That's… I think you pulling in your own history and something you experienced and providing a service based off that sort of the essence of the non-profit, right? It's these passionate people at the head of it who want to avoid a situation maybe that they were in or that they've seen from a family member, so I think that's amazing.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, as long as the flight is in some way improving the life of a veteran or an active-duty service member, it fits our mission, and we want to do it.
Christopher Lantinen: Yeah. In part of that, and correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like a big push of this program and this non-profit is to promote and provide opportunities for local vets to have just a normal conversation with somebody. These flights, you know, they take you away from everyday distractions, they put you in a vehicle with a new friend, I guess that's how I see it. So, is that a big part of it for you?
Brian McCauley: It wasn't initially.
Christopher Lantinen: Okay.
Brian McCauley: Initially the idea was fly veterans. That was the idea. However, when we did our very first flight, it became very clear very quickly that, I hesitate to use the word "therapeutic", but there is a therapeutic bend to it. When you get a veteran and another veteran and I always say a small tin can, you know, in a situation where you're flying around at least in my case, it kind of brings back just that feeling of sort of being in precarious situations, right? Like just the excitement, a little bit of adrenalin, and then you're there with another veteran and you get to start talking about your service and stories and, you know, "What was this really cool thing you did?", "Oh, I kind of did something similar to that", or, you know, you just get to sort of share stories and talk about similar experiences with somebody who actually understands, and that's, that's the big deal.
Christopher Lantinen: So, when you're, so obviously the pilot is such a big part of this succeeding and part of this conversation aspect, right?
Brian McCauley: Yes.
Christopher Lantinen: That has developed throughout your first year of service. So, I know beyond you being one of the pilots, you have to bring in others. Are there specific attributes you're looking for out of these pilots that makes them a good partner in the sky? That makes them kind of open to, yeah having these experiences that you're talking about.
Brian McCauley: Sure. So, I will be entirely honest, not every volunteer pilot is a veteran.
Christopher Lantinen: Right. Some just want to help.
Brian McCauley: Yeah. I would prefer it if they were but, you know, the pool of pilots in Erie is small so we kind of you know, make relationships in the aviation community and some people want to help out, like you said. If when I'm looking for a pilot who is not a veteran, we meet a couple of times, we talk, I explain expectations and as long as that conversation goes well, as long as I feel a connection, like we can just talk and be comfortable, then I'm satisfied that when they're flying another veteran, they can talk and be comfortable. Because I'm kind of sitting in the same seat. The only difference is we're not in an airplane.
Christopher Lantinen: So, they have to be able to chat and it can't be combative, obviously. It can't be that sort of energy.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, and obviously I ask intelligent questions and be genuinely interested.
Christopher Lantinen: Do you want to give any shout outs to any particular pilots that you've been really impressed with or, you know, a veteran has gotten off the flight and said "I liked hanging out with that person", like who's really, who's been a star in that sense for you?
Brian McCauley: Yeah, sure. We actually have one coming up on Friday.
Christopher Lantinen: Another flight?
Brian McCauley: Yep. The pilot who's going to conduct it her name is Lena Milk. She's got about a hundred hours under her belt something like that and she is great at having conversations with people that she doesn't know. She makes people feel very comfortable when seems to be a really good experience for the people that fly with her.
Christopher Lantinen: I've met her, I think I told you this story, trick-or-treating. Alright she passed by my house with her kid or kids, I can't remember, and I said, "Oh, Flying for Veterans," and she was just very happy that I recognized her from that. And it was because obviously, we had been working together and I had seen her on your posts and everything.
Brian McCauley: Oh, the pictures.
Christopher Lantinen: Yeah. So, I just I immediately recognized her as part of your operation. So that was really cool to meet her and again, she was very happy to be associated with Flying for Veterans. That was really fun.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, she's really cool. There's another one. We haven't actually done a flight with him yet, but I'm hoping to very soon. His name is Jeff Holowienko. He's actually the ground school instructor at the flight school in Erie.
Christopher Lantinen: Yeah, talk about that flight school, because obviously that's been a great partner for you and if you want to give them a shout out as well.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, absolutely. The flight school fundamentals, flight training at the Erie International Airport. I was actually their first student to graduate with their pilot's license. Dave Benson is the owner, he's a really great guy. He's super supportive of what we're doing, honestly has sort of bent over backwards to help us. So, like when we do these free airplane ride raffles, it's the flight school that conducts it. Flying for Veterans can't do it because we're not necessarily flying veterans. So, it doesn't fall within.
Christopher Lantinen: So, they're conducting it on your behalf and donating the proceeds to you.
Brian McCauley: Exactly. So, we sell the raffle tickets, they do the flight. So, I mean that's honestly, that's huge because flying planes is not cheap, you know? And just this year they made a pretty significant donation to Flying for Veterans as far as conducting veteran flights. At a meeting we were talking about goals and Dave said, "Yeah, don't worry about it. It's done."
Christopher Lantinen: So that's throughout 2023. Awesome.
Brian McCauley: Yep, 2023.
Christopher Lantinen: Let's shift gears a little bit and let's just talk about your personal experience of just starting a nonprofit because I know that can be a complicated process and I'm sure there's listeners out there who either have dreams of starting a nonprofit just based on its own or as part of, you know, another business that they own. So, like the actual, again we can get dorky with this, the actual paperwork and legal matters, how big of an endeavor was it, what surprised you about the process, just don't be afraid to go into those details.
Brian McCauley: Sure. So, we incorporated in 2001, August of 2001 and it actually wasn't
Christopher Lantinen: 2001 or 2021?
Brian McCauley: Sorry, 2021. Yeah, 2021.
Christopher Lantinen: So, you're a lot older than I thought you were.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, no no no, we're just a little over a year old. So, you know, I did some research, I realized we would have to write some bylaws, we would have to elect board members, we'd have to have a, you know, a charter and register with the IRS and register with the state and, you know, do all of that kind of stuff. Honestly, the internet made it kind of easy.
Christopher Lantinen: Hmm. Some good guides out there.
Brian McCauley: Yeah. Actually the formation, the legal formation of Flying for Veterans wasn't that hard. We went through an online lawyer, provided templates, and we filled everything out the way we needed to fill them out. It was actually pretty easy. The difficult part is actually learning how to operate a nonprofit. So, the formation pretty easy, operation not so easy.
Christopher Lantinen: So, what like, what sticks out as a 'god that was hard' now that you're kind of past it and rolling here?
Brian McCauley: Well, you know, it's ongoing, just fundraising. So, I'm very fortunate that our vice president is my wife. Her name is Erica and she's very, very business minded. She's, her whole career has been managing businesses and people.
Christopher Lantinen: I was going to ask later what she adds to the equation because I know she's helped you out a lot.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, she is by far the brains of the operation. I guess I'm kind of the face of it, people when people think about Flying for Veterans they think of me. But Erica is by far the business side of everything, and the hardest part is fundraising and marketing.
Christopher Lantinen: Which both never end.
Brian McCauley: No, they don't and…
Christopher Lantinen: It's not like paperwork you fill out and submit and you're done with it for a year or two years or whatever.
Brian McCauley: Right, yeah. So, like I said flying planes isn't cheap. So, we have to raise that money as a nonprofit, we ask for donations or apply for grants. We don't really have a thing that we sell, you know, we provide a service and have to try to come up with the money to be able to provide that service. So, that is difficult.
Christopher Lantinen: What have you learned about fundraising through this process? Like, what's been the big lessons or just again maybe the things you didn't expect to be a problem, anything like that.
Brian McCauley: I think my biggest takeaway so far, and again we've only been doing this for about a year and a half, don't deny yourself opportunities, so, network. Introduce yourself to people, talk about what you are doing, get engrained in, you know, the community that surrounds your initiatives. Just talk to everybody, tell them what you're doing, even if they're not super interested maybe they know somebody who is and they'll "Oh hey, I talked to this guy who flies veterans around", and "Oh, yeah? I know a veteran, that'd be pretty cool", you know? Since doing this, I have met more people who are willing to help out in so many different ways. It's kind of mind boggling. Obviously everybody appreciates a veteran and there are tons of PSOs, veterans, service organizations that exist, just in Erie. So, I've had to put myself out there and I'd go to their board meetings and I tell them what we're doing and essentially ask them for money. Say "Hey, we have this initiative where we're looking for funding. You are a veteran service organization that provides funding for veteran initiatives. Will you help fund ours?", you know, that sort of thing. And then of course, Erie Gives, we participated in Erie Gives last year. I literally walked around the streets of Erie with a broken foot, passing out flyers to different businesses, shaking hands, like just plowing the pavement.
Christopher Lantinen: Getting yourself out there. And if people don't know what Erie Gives Day is, it's run by the Erie Community Foundation and is everything you raise they double it? Is that what it is?
Brian McCauley: No, so it's a prorated type of deal so. I don't remember exactly what the percentage was last year, but it's certainly not doubled. But there is a prorated amount that they match based on the total number of donations outside of the matching funds.
Christopher Lantinen: Gotcha. Again, thinking about starting a nonprofit, running a nonprofit, what sort of skills have you found yourself having to develop from like an entrepreneurial standpoint? Like, you know, I'm thinking accounting, marketing, like all of those things that people again maybe don't necessarily associate with a nonprofit, you know, because it's just seen as a service and you kind of forget that there's all of the nuts and bolts behind the scene. And I know Erica helps you out with some of that stuff, but maybe you could talk about marketing and having to set up, you know, your branding and all of that.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, so it turns out a nonprofit is a business, just like every other for-profit business. And, you know, I'll be honest, I was kind of naïve, I didn't, I just wanted to fly veterans around in an airplane, you know what I mean? So, all of the aspects of running a normal for profit business apply to running a nonprofit business and you're right, marketing is a huge part of that and business strategy is a huge part of that. Legal stuff is a huge part of that and The Beehive network that we are so fortunate to be a part of has played a huge role in helping us sort of navigate that sort of stuff. We were very lucky in August of 2021 to be introduced to The Beehive at Gannon. So, they sort of set up business strategies and market analysis and the whole, you know, SWOT, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, you know, competitors, and quotes, right? You know that sort of business analysis stuff for us and that was really helpful because it was right at the very beginning, right when we were starting and it kind of gave us an idea of what we needed to do to springboard ourselves into operation, right? And then from there, we got hooked up with you guys here at Edinboro, well what is it, PennWest now?
Christopher Lantinen: Yeah, let's talk about that. Yeah, yep PennWest.
Brian McCauley: And you guys, you, and Alana and everybody else that helped out our sort of social media and like digital design and branding, all that kind of stuff was really super helpful and honestly, I learned a lot about how to I guess adequately post on social media.
Christopher Lantinen: Hey, it's easier said than done.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, no it really is and just seeing some of the posts that you guys came up with compared to some of the posts I was doing before. They were pretty bad.
Christopher Lantinen: Oh, you were doing fine on your own. We were just adding a helping hand but, yeah let's talk about that. Let's talk about the visual side really quick because yeah Alana, right, helped you. You had a logo, but I think we needed to rebuild it and maybe add some variations and what else? What else was involved in the visual work we did together?
Brian McCauley: Sure. So, just all of the sort of branding for the nonprofit, so like you said the logos, the banner on our Facebook page, some images for our website, stuff like that are way more professional than they were before.
Christopher Lantinen: Probably more flexible too, right? Like you added some, can be used in more situations
Brian McCauley: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, the stuff that we had before if you wanted to put it on a t-shirt it got all pixelated, you know? Yeah, so, a lot more flexible with the images and just watching how you guys planned for social media posts and even just the content in the posts themselves like how engaging, or how it attempted to engage audiences Looking outside of our, so I want everything to be about I guess, subconsciously Flying for Veterans but you said, "Look at all the things other people are doing and promote what they're doing", and that didn't even occur to me.
Christopher Lantinen: Like the curation aspect of social media which I think we sort of encourage clients to, yeah like look at other veteran organizations and share the good stuff they're doing because maybe someday, they'll share what you're doing, right? It's like a give and take and it also fills your feeds, which is nice. Yeah, so that's what we were talking about there.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, it's a great benefit and amazing service that you guys provide.
Christopher Lantinen: Thank you.
Brian McCauley: Oh, and when our website had that security issue, I guess that's what it would be called.
Christopher Lantinen: Yeah, there's some sort of attempt on your website by hackers unknown.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, so, for everybody listening, I texted Chris and said: "There’s something wrong with my website. It's completely down. It doesn't work. Was somebody in there doing something?" And he said, "Well no, I don't think so, let me take a look."
Christopher Lantinen: Not us.
Brian McCauley: And this what, this was like a Sunday night, like 8 o'clock on a Sunday night. You fixed it, like you made phone calls and talked to people and got it fixed.
Christopher Lantinen: Well, I chatted with support, which, smarter people than me fixed it. But, yeah, that's—
Brian McCauley: But I didn't know how to do that.
Christopher Lantinen: Yeah, I think we figured out that somebody was trying to gain access to your website. So, that didn't need access. But, yeah so I think our collaboration was really fruitful on our end as well just because well obviously we got to work with your great organization but it also gave us a good opportunity to yeah, do some more social media management for a client. I think we did a lot of brand story telling at the end like just kind trying to hone in on what your messaging should be so, I think it was a learning experience for both sides. So, we were happy you chose us, as well.
Brian McCauley: Well, as am I. It was good partnership.
Christopher Lantinen: It was collaborative. You know, another thing I wanted to ask about to get off The Beehive here is, you know, when we initially talked, we were running through your social media accounts and one thing that jumped out to me was you had this huge YouTube following and this is from a past life of yours that you had now converted to Flying for Veterans but it was this woodworking brand that you had developed and I think you had what like 23,000 followers, something like that.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, something like that. It was up to 25 but I think it has dwindled since but yeah.
Christopher Lantinen: But there was this whole audience that you had developed based on YouTube content and content in your workshop and all of that, so I guess my question is like you've already had one successful brand building experience in your life. What did you learn from that experience and that woodworking career that you've been able to transfer over, because you know, it's building an audience all over again.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, it is. Honestly, I think with the woodworking thing it was sort of 'right place, right time' type of thing. I started that in 2013 I believe and sort of the whole D-I-Y maker movement was kicking off and people were, and still are, interested in learning how to build things themselves and I happened to have a skill set where I can, you know, build some pretty nice furniture and things like that so I started videos—
Christopher Lantinen: Where did that develop from? Like that initial skill set. Did you go to college for that or in your youth?
Brian McCauley: My dad was a woodworker growing up so I kind of learned some things from him and I have taken a couple of classes at the North Bennet Street School in Boston. It's a fine woodworking school and so it kind of just started from there. It was sort of a beginning category I guess at the time.
Christopher Lantinen: Yeah, content category
Brian McCauley: Now, things are a lot harder. It seems like now to be successful on YouTube you almost have to have a production studio, you know? So, back then I was just filming with an iPhone, you know? It doesn't seem like that really cuts it anymore.
Christopher Lantinen: Well, you could do your TikToks on the iPhone but then you need a nicer camera for the YouTube, and you need to run both accounts.
Brian McCauley: Right, yeah. I still, I don't understand TikTok. I still don't get it.
Christopher Lantinen: We can talk after.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, I know that we talked about it, and I know we were going to get into it but we never got into it. I don't, I don't, I'm just old now I think, I just don't get it.
Christopher Lantinen: I'm too old for it as well but we got to learn.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, we got to learn. So, yeah, I'm trying to convert that woodworking audience into a Flying for Veterans audience
Christopher Lantinen: What did you learn about—sorry, not to interrupt you, but what did you learn about being on camera? Because I assume that you had to be entertaining and informative and I think that's a specific skillset that could transfer over to this new operation. And, you know, we got you on appearance on Erie News Now and you crushed it you were great on camera, and so I wonder if part of that comfort came from, you know, that previous career
Brian McCauley: Um, no. It did not.
Christopher Lantinen: Barking up the wrong tree.
Brian McCauley: Not entirely. Little known fact, I originally went to college to, as a vocal performance major.
Christopher Lantinen: You've got the voice for it.
Brian McCauley: I used to want to be an opera singer in a past life, so I am not afraid of being on stage. I am not afraid of being in front of people or in front of cameras. I feel like I have a pretty decent presence like, you know, when I'm looking into a camera I look at the right spot, you know? Like I—
Christopher Lantinen: That is a natural thing that I have.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, I guess.
Christopher Lantinen: Which is useful now when you have to make media appearances appear comfortable on air and that's not easy for everybody so I think that's a good natural talent to have. So, we're going to move into the benefit concert for Flying for Veterans. That's the next step here.
Brian McCauley: Well, yeah, I guess so. It's been a while since I've done any of that stuff but, yeah.
Christopher Lantinen: Well you could just make a guest appearance on another band's set, you know, it doesn't have to be a whole thing. Let's just bookmark that as we're brainstorming on air here. Let's see what else we've got here. Obviously, we've talked about the Beehive, but what other Erie organizations have you interacted with? You know, I'm sure like obviously, the nonprofit partnership is part of that, but have there been any other either organizations or people in Erie that have helped you in some way or another?
Brian McCauley: Yeah, sure. So, like you mentioned the nonprofit partnership and Erie Community Foundation have been huge in just learning how to navigate running a nonprofit, right? Which is something I had no idea how to do. We mentioned fundamentals, flight training, their huge support as what we do and we try to support them in every aspect possible. So, they've been awesome. The Ben Franklin Technology Foundation, while they don't deal specifically with nonprofits, the director there Brian Slawin has been very helpful in providing feedback and giving us some idea. He introduced us to the entrepreneur’s law clinic at Barend. So, we had some questions regarding some legalities around nationwide raffles and things like that. So there are tons resources in the Erie community that you almost don't really even think of until you're introduced to it. You know, you don't even really know what's available until you start talking to people, right? Like I said, you just got to talk to people and network and tell them what you're doing and they can say "Oh, I would like to help with that", you know? That sort of thing.
Christopher Lantinen: The Joel Natalie Show, did his podcast actually at your coordination.
Brian McCauley: Thank you very much for that.
Christopher Lantinen: It was a great interview too. I just listened to it yesterday.
Brian McCauley: Did you?
Christopher Lantinen: Yeah, well I just listened to the full thing. I had listened to it before but I relistened to it to prepare for this.
Brian McCauley: Yeah, they I guess, they must be behind in releasing it, as far as the audio version on Apple or whatever.
Christopher Lantinen: Yeah they have a Facebook video version and they actually released it on Spotify so if anybody wants to go listen to another Brian interview, you can.
Brian McCauley: And, to toot my horn here a little bit here, we do produce a podcast. I think at this point there's only one or two episodes so what I try to do is create some content around the flights that we do. I always ask the veteran if they mind if we take a video of the flight and then if they'd be willing to participate in like a podcast interview sometime afterwards. Some people take us up on that, a lot of people say "Nah, I just want to go on a flight", which is perfectly fine because our mission is not to make content about the veterans, it's not. What we're doing is to improve the lives of veterans through flight. So, when we are afforded that opportunity, we do it, when we're not, that's okay. But I'm pretty sure the one on Friday we're going to be able to film and do a podcast episode about so, Flying for Veterans on Spotify.
Christopher Lantinen: It's just "Flying for Veterans", right?
Brian McCauley: It might be "Flying for Veterans Podcast" but it's there.
Christopher Lantinen: People will find it. So, what's been going on this year? You've already talked about how fundamentals flight school has stepped up for you in this huge way but I think you've had some other positive developments or you're on track to some more positive developments, right?
Brian McCauley: Yeah, so before we started recording, I was saying to you it was kind of fundraising season right now, which actually works out well for us because in the wintertime, just given the nature of the aircraft that we fly, it's hard to schedule a pilot, aircraft, and a veteran all at the same time when the weather is good. Like it's short notice, you know? So, it turns out that most of the grants we are eligible to apply for all sort of open and close in the winter and early spring months. So, right now it's mostly about trying to secure funding for 2023 and, like you said, fundamentals flight school really stepped up. I was talking to Dave, the owner, in a meeting a couple weeks ago and we were talking about goals for 2023 and I said I wanted to be able to fund at least one veteran flight a month, so 12 throughout the year, and he said, "Don't worry about it, it's donated. We got you". So—
Christopher Lantinen: And these flights they're around like $300?
Brian McCauley: So, with the price of gas, they're right around there and it depends on the aircraft that we use. Some obviously cost more to operate than others. So yeah, it's a pretty significant donation which really alleviates some pressure on us. That and it allows us the opportunity to sort of focus on some of those more long-term goals.
Christopher Lantinen: Yeah, you can fundraise for sustainability versus right now in the moment.
Brian McCauley: Right. So, one initiative that I'd really like to try to get funding for this year is I think it'd be really cool to make a new pilot. So, find a veteran who wants to become a private pilot, and—
Christopher Lantinen: Like pay for the training…
Brian McCauley: Yeah, pay for the training. So there would have to be some kind of accountability, there's some things leading up to that like you have to have a medical exam and you have to pass that and you have to take a ground school test and pass that. So, you know, maybe we would require them to do those things on their own but then the actual flight portion of it which is 98% of the cost, you know, we would do that for them and then it would make another pilot and—
Christopher Lantinen: Add them to your roster.
Brian McCauley: Hopefully, someone wouldn't mind, you know, flying for us as well
Christopher Lantinen: There you go, there you go.
Brian McCauley: And that kind of would put a few more arrows in our quiver for pilots who are veterans.
Christopher Lantinen: Awesome, awesome.
Brian McCauley: So, that would be really, really cool. Another initiative that we have is that we would like to expand into other geographic regions around the United States. So, eventually, I picture having 5 hubs, so, you know, northeast, southeast, central, northwest, and southwest United States with veterans who have planes who are willing to volunteer their time to fly veterans around. And I have a veteran friend who just moved to Nashville. Apparently there's a large veteran community in that area and he said, "Hey, I'd really like to do some flights for you." If we could raise some money to pay for those, that could be our southeast hub.
Christopher Lantinen: The expansion could be coming sooner rather than later.
Brian McCauley: It could be.
Christopher Lantinen: Awesome. Awesome. So how could people support you? How can people find out about you? Let's do all the plugs.
Brian McCauley: Okay. Yeah, sure, flyingforveterans.org is the best place to go. We do have Flying for Veterans on Facebook and Instagram. I guess we're going to start doing TikTok at some point. But honestly, the easiest place to go is flyingforveterans.org. You can email us from there or get in contact with us. The email is firstname.lastname@example.org. There are ways to support us on the website. So you can make donations through Venmo or PayPal or GoFundMe. You can write a check and put it in the mail.
Christopher Lantinen: You make it really easy. You have all the options.
Brian McCauley: We will take your money in any way you want to give it.
Christopher Lantinen: So, before we finish up, is there anything we missed? Anything you'd like to add? The floor is yours.
Brian McCauley: You know, I would really just like to say thank you to the entire Erie community. Obviously, The Beehive organizations are included in that. You guys have been extremely helpful. But, when I started this, when my wife and I started this, I did not realize the amount of support that we would need and the knowledge that we would need that we didn't have. And it was really eye opening to see the amount of support that's available for new initiatives like this. Just the resources available, just how everybody has, everybody that we've spoken to has said, "That sounds really cool. How can I help you?" As opposed to, you know, "That's dumb. Go away." It's just really really surprising and we couldn't be more thankful for all of the support we've gotten thus far through the community.
Christopher Lantinen: I think that's the perfect way to close. Thank you, Brian.
Narrator: As mentioned, Brian received assistance from the Gannon Beehive and their Center for Business Ingenuity. At the Gannon Beehive, they aim to advance your ideas with expert consulting and high quality resources. Their services include a crowd funding friendly analysis, assistance with early pitch decks, and their start-up capital best practice analysis. To sign up for their offerings, head over to nwpabeehive.com and scroll all the way to the bottom of the homepage. There, you’ll find our intake form.
Speaking of the Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network, we’re made up of 6 grant and donation funded centers that collaborate to encourage business growth in the Erie area and beyond. The centers work together to form the hive network, while each location operates in its own area of expertise. The Erie County Public Library, Penn State Behrend, PennWest Edinboro, Gannon University, Mercyhurst University, and our newest addition, Allegheny College, are each responsible for specific services.
You’ve been listening to Buzz, Generated. This podcast was released through PennWest Edinboro’s Center for Branding and Strategic Communication. It’s produced by Chris Lantinen and Thomas Taylor. Thanks to our guest for their insight, and to you, our listeners, for taking the time to experience innovation alongside us. We’ll see you next time.