Pictured (left to right) is Jay Robinson, Synovus; Amanda Aldea, co-owner of CRAFT; Jay Aldea, co-owner of CRAFT; Tom Lauria, SBDC Business Consultant; Paul Featheringill, UofSC Region Director, SC SBDC.



The Charleston Area SBDC presented the Entrepreneur Of The Year Award to CRAFT Flight Training & Simulation at the North Charleston Business EXPO. Synovus sponsored the SBDC’s participation in the EXPO and the award presentation.



CHARLESTON, SC October 29, 2021 – CRAFT Flight Training & Simulation, a leading veteran-owned flight training center, has been awarded Entrepreneur Of The Year by SBDC. The Entrepreneur Of The Year award honors unstoppable business leaders whose ambition, ingenuity, and courage in the face of adversity help catapult us from the now to next and beyond. CRAFT was selected for its successes owning a small business in the Charleston region.

CRAFT has come a long way over the past 2 and a half years. When presented with the opportunity to buy CRAFT Flight Training in June 2019, Owners Jay and Amanda Aldea jumped at it because they had a vision of creating a unique flight training experience using modern aircraft and technology to raise the bar for pilot training in Charleston. In 2019, CRAFT started with just 2 airplanes and 2 flight instructors.

Just as Jay and Amanda, along with their business partner, Barry Emerson, stabilized the business and started to grow, COVID-19 struck, and with that, brought new challenges to overcome. During the COVID-19 shutdown, mentors from the SBDC and SCORE helped CRAFT navigate government relief programs. With this knowledge, and with contacts made through the Chamber of Commerce, CRAFT was able to secure PPP and EIDL funds to sustain the business. They were able to keep their staff and reopen a few months later, emerging stronger than before. Now CRAFT boasts 18 employees, 16 aircraft, 2 Redbird simulators, and locations at the Charleston International and Summerville Airports. In 2021 CRAFT became the second school in South Carolina to obtain Provisional Part 141 approval from the FAA.

“Our mission at CRAFT has always been to provide the best flight training experience for our students, and to help the Charleston community to explore and enjoy aviation,” said Amanda Aldea. “Through our dedication to our mission and the mentorship we have received from the SBA, SCORE, the SBDC, and the relationships we’ve made through the Chamber, CRAFT Flight Training is a recognized center of excellence for flight training attracting future pilots from across the nation to South Carolina.”

The SC SBDC Entrepreneur Of The Year awards are given to business owners whose efforts and contributions stand out as having enabled their business to grow and thrive during the past academic year. Synovus sponsored the SBDC’s participation in the EXPO and the award presentation. Jay and Amanda Aldea were presented the award during the North Charleston Business EXPO Thursday, October 21st.


CRAFT Flight Training and Simulation is a veteran-owned flight training center with locations at Charleston International Airport (KCHS) and Summerville Airport (KDYB). CRAFT is committed to providing unparalleled customer service and access to modern training aircraft and innovative simulator technology. CRAFT manages a fleet of well-maintained aircraft, including modern Diamond and classic Cessna aircraft. They have more aircraft built in this century than any other flight school in South Carolina and the only Jet-A burning aircraft in flight training in Charleston.

CRAFT is the flight training provider for Charleston Southern University’s (CSU) new Aeronautics Program, the only 4-year collegiate aviation program in South Carolina.

Visit flycraftchs.com to find out more.


Twenty-one South Carolina Small Business Development Centers (SC SBDC) located throughout the state’s 46 counties offer pro bono individual, confidential business consulting. Highly-trained consultants assist both existing and startup companies by providing a variety of services including business plan development, fiscal and operations management, human resources, financing options, marketing strategies, and much more. In addition to conducting a variety of free or low-cost education workshops, SBDC centers refer clients to useful business resources. Specialized services include government contracting, exporting, technology commercialization, veterans’ business assistance, and minority outreach.

Visit scsbdc.com to find a center and make an appointment.

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