Julia Takeda has been coming to Nantucket since she was a little girl. She even got married there. But, to islanders, she’s still, technically, a “wash-ashore” — native-speak for a person who wasn’t born on Nantucket.
This summer, Takeda will be spending more time than usual at her home away from home. She’s the founder and CEO of Fly Louie, a private air service named for her great uncle Lou, which utilizes empty legs of private flights to offer affordable, hassle-free travel.
Fly Louie launched here in Boston on July 19, but it has been running service from Westchester, N.Y. to Nantucket since 2017. Last summer, it hosted 36 flights. Boston’s service will run on weekends through Labor Day.
“We’re so excited for the launch of our service between Boston and Nantucket. I’ve been working with my team on this over the past year – seeking out the most convenient airport and the most reliable flight options to the island,” Takeda says. “Our goal is to serve the community in and around Boston with convenience, comfort and speed.”
As well as being an entrepreneur, Takeda is a wife, and she’s Mom to two boys. She understands that working, growing families have very limited leisure time. Flights originate at Hanscom Field in Bedford, just west of Boston, because Logan airspace is really crowded, she says. She also can totally appreciate that there is no hangover from the typical travel experience.
What does this mean for you? You can book a single seat — or eight — on a private plane, check in 15 minutes ahead of take-off and be on the ground and off the plane in Nantucket in under 40 minutes. Long security lines? There are none.
Before venturing into the travel industry, Takeda was Senior Vice President at Ultimate Medical Academy, a nonprofit education-technology company that empowers students to train for jobs in health care. Many of these students were women, particularly single moms.
“In both the school business and this business, the thing that has been most satisfying — and it’s different, because we were doing really important work with the school,” she says, “but in both cases we are working to bring a little bit more dignity to folks. With the school, we were helping to get people jobs, and put them on a career path. That was really important work.”
She laughs, “Here, it’s a little different. For folks who are really busy and stressed, it’s harder to connect, whether it’s with your spouse, or your kids, or your extended family. We are allowing it to just be a little easier, and we are trying to make that as accessible as possible. So, if you only have a weekend, and it’s been a long week at work, and you’re home in Boston, to Nantucket we can make it and it’s not going to be painful along the way. That’s exciting.”
Just before the launch, we strolled around Nantucket with Takeda, had lunch at the Nantucket Hotel, an ice cream at The Juice Bar and a drink with live music at Cisco Brewers. We even took a ride on an antique fire engine. While we burned and earned calories, we also chatted about Fly Louie, Takeda’s interests, and where she’s headed.
You’ve said work-life balance is important to you. Do you carry that over into practice in your own company?
Julia Takeda:We have a staff of three that’s full time. We have also worked with a number of fractional employees, often women. Our chief marketing officer is awesome. She has a great background. She’s worked for huge, well regarded advertising agencies in New York. She has two kids. We started working with her, and she does 10 hours a week with us. For us, we have the benefit of working with someone who has a ton of experience, but we are a teeny startup and in 10 hours a week, she is able to have a huge impact. And, it works for her, too.
Having flexibility is really great for an organization, when you want to be home for dinner, but there’s a lot of work to do. So, we spend a lot of time figuring out how do we create that flexibility in the organization for both women and men, which I think helps de-stigmatize it and allows you to find as much balance as you can.
What are you passionate about in your free time?
Free time is in deep quotes. I love being outside and being active, because I am behind a desk a lot of the time. And, then doing things with my kids. They’ve gotten to really fun ages. So, it’s finding ways to have quality time with them, getting a little time to myself — usually exercise — and then remembering that I have a husband, and spending time with him, too. It’s about family.
You joked about flying a plane, but are you actually taking flying lessons?
I haven’t taken flying lessons! It’s a lot of work to be a pilot. It’s a lot of hours to accumulate. I have a lot of respect for it. It would be so fun. I definitely want to. I need to find the time to do that.
Do you have plans to expand Fly Louie beyond Nantucket?
We definitely do. We are always focused on the route at hand, and we are very focused on Boston and making sure it is the right fit for the community. The nice thing about not owning our planes is that we have that flexibility. We are asking people for their feedback all the time. So, if we are hearing something, “Hey, could you tweak that flight time,” or “I would really prefer two pilots instead of one,” we have the flexibility to make those moves. We are very focused on making Boston a success, which really means making sure it’s a fit for the community.
We are always thinking about what’s ahead as well, and growing. We see a number of opportunities where you have origins where there is no nonstop service to Nantucket, but folks live there and they have that second home in Nantucket, so you know that there is that need to get back.
There are also a number of opportunities from Boston. We look at colleges and universities that are in the Northeast that are only drivable, but that are far. There are parents who want to get to the school frequently to see their daughter play sports or whatever it may be. We are also excited about golf and ski opportunities. Having a smaller plane, we can accommodate skis and golf clubs, we can accommodate two foursomes, as it relates to golf. That’s a really nice fit.
I love your apple necklace. Does it have anything to do with your job in education?
My mom and my sister are both teachers, so there’s a little bit of that. But, my Nana, my grandmother who is part of the Lou story, gave it to me when I was very little, and I’ve always worn it. It’s felt like it’s given me good luck.