I knew that headline would grab you!
This fall, British Airways is giving away 250 round trip tickets from New York to anywhere in the world it flies.
How do YOU get one? First, you must be an entrepreneur or small business owner eager to expand your business overseas. And you have to submit a short essay or video explaining how that free ticket would aid in your expansion.
If your video or essay is chosen by BA, you’ll get a free trip from New York to London, where you’ll meet up with the 250 other winners for a one-day networking event with a variety of venture capitalists, small business experts and media. From London, you’ll fly to any destination in the world where BA flies, and then back to New York. (Details here)
Last year, BA ran a similar program and I was lucky enough to be there at Kennedy Airport in New York when the first batch of entrepreneurial essayists boarded a 747 bound for London and beyond.
I’ve been writing about business travel for almost 20 years and I have to say that I’d never experienced anything quite like this. (See Video)
First off, when I arrived at Kennedy Airport on the morning of our departure, I was expecting a small reception and an unsold seat on one of BA’s regularly scheduled flights.
I forgot that the Brits rarely do anything in a small way. I walked in BA’s Terraces Lounge and found a huge, catered breakfast reception with none other than London’s towheaded mayor, Boris Johnson.
The lounge was full of about 200 bright-eyed entrepreneurs grabbing some nosh, and checking each other out. Most were still clearly in a state of disbelief that they really won this thing and that they’d soon be boarding a London-bound jet, free.
Out the lounge window was a Boeing 747-400 charter flight ready to whisk us across the pond. Airport authorities allowed a few of us to venture out on the tarmac to view the big bird that had been painted with the words “Face-to-Face.”
Seats were assigned by lottery– I was hoping for a nice big first class cocoon, but I ended up with a seat in the World Traveler Plus section…what most other airlines call premium economy.
That seat turned out to be just fine for this unusually social flight. I was smack in the middle of the plane, which was a perfect position for observing the whole festive scene. Everyone was up and about talking, networking, checking out the various cabins (there were no restrictions on where you could go on this flight) and enjoying the free-flowing champagne.
On most international flights, nearly every business traveler has tunnel vision and big barriers up. Conversation and conviviality are rare. This was the complete opposite. Every entrepreneur on this flight had a great story to tell about their business, where they were going and why. Plus, they were all eager to learn everyone else’s story. (Even the flight crew was amazed at the mood of this flight– See video)
I felt right at home and fit in nicely with this crowd, because I run a successful small business too, writing and consulting about the travel industry.
Our daylight flight departed New York at 10 a.m. and arrived at Heathrow’s enormous, new Terminal 5 at about 10 p.m. We sped through immigration, and then walked to the brand new Sofitel, attached to the terminal by a skyway. There our rooms as well as a champagne and canapé reception awaited. By this time, entrepreneurial camaraderie was at its peak, and everyone had found new friends and contacts and business cards were flying like confetti.
The next day, BA had a breakfast and motivational morning program set up for our group, with presentations by colorful British entrepreneurs and BA CEO Willie Walsh among others. (See Video for snippets.)
After that, most had to hustle back to their rooms to pack up and catch their connecting flights to their face-to-face meetings in Shanghai, Rome, Sydney, Nigeria, Ireland, and Germany… really all over the world. (See video for an interview with two of the lucky winners who were taking off for Sydney, Australia to clinch a deal for their very special new paint.)
There must be hundreds of Bay Area entrepreneurs with the writing skills and moxie to pull this off. If you’ve been eager to try and bring your business idea overseas, here’s your chance! Start writing or shooting your “elevator pitch” video right now. You could easily win this thing! Good luck!
For details, go to: www.ba.com/contest Deadline for submissions is October 21, 2010.
Need any more inspiration? Then check out this video about Judi Henderson-Townsend, a woman from Oakland who runs a mannequin business. Her winning essay got her a trip to London to meet up with a colleague that she’d only spoken with on the phone!)