Top Flight Electric of Polk County
Following a career-ending back injury, Billy Bishop hung up his pilot wings and started thinking about what the rest of his life was going to look like. Bishop decided to go back to his roots and Top Flight Electric was born. The company is based in Winter Haven.
“In a past life I was a corporate jet pilot and I wanted to bring that private jet experience into people’s homes,” he said. “Top Flight Electric is a first class service company – we just happen to be great electricians.”
At the start of his entrepreneurial journey, Bishop had a partner who encouraged him to create a business plan. Knowing nothing about how to run a business, Bishop set out to learn how to write a business plan. Eventually, he was referred to the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida. “They helped me with a concept that I had in my head and how to put that on paper,” he said.
Bishop also regularly attended the business classes offered by Florida SBDC at USF. “I just took every class they had to offer, and then I just kept taking the classes not knowing what I’d learned next,” he recalled.
“Back in the beginning they helped me get the funding with the Small Business Administration through a bank that was sponsored by the SBA,” Bishop added. “They helped me with all the paperwork and interesting enough we got we got turned down the first time.”
After getting denied funds by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Bishop and one of his Florida SBDC at USF consultants, Bill McKown, refused to give up. “I came in and I sat down with Bill and we crafted a response back to the same bank,” Bishop said. Bishop remembers McKown being very creative and encouraging when problem-solving for his business. “He would say, ‘So there is a stumbling block, how do we get around it?’,” Bishop said. In the end, Bishop was approved for a $150,000 SBA loan through Celtic Bank.
More recently, Bishop was connected with a Student Team at Warner University, a service offered by the Florida SBDC at USF. The students studied Top Flight Electric and Bishop pitched them his newest idea for the company, asking them to come up with strategies on how to make it a possibility. “It was really fun to see what the kids had to say at the end of the semester and they did an oral presentation for me and then they also emailed me everything that they had come up with,” Bishop said. “The Small Business Development Center put that all together.”
Looking back, Bishop is grateful for finding the Florida SBDC at USF early on in his journey. “We’d look totally different,” he said when reflecting on where he would be if he hadn’t connected with the Florida SBDC at USF and the various consultants he’s working with.
Top Flight Electric has grown from $40,000 in 2017 to being on track this year for $1.5 million. He’s also grown in number of employees and opened a brick and mortar location.
“I don’t even know if we would be here,” he said. “Through everything we’ve navigated together from the fact it was just an idea in my head, and [the Florida SBDC at USF] always amazed me.”