Ukulele Manufacturer, Flight, Takes Off at 2020 NAMM Show
Based in Slovenia, Flight has grown over the last ten years to become an internationally distributed brand. Describing themselves as having a “young and energetic vibe, a distinct style, and an international focus on the image of the brand,” Flight has taken an opportunity in a gap in the European market for high quality ukuleles and ran with it evolving into a sleek and cutting edge brand.
With the lack of a strong ukulele market in Slovenia and the far corners of the European Union (EU), Flight set out to bring the ukulele to the European masses in 2010. With a model of simply focusing on what they love to do, the team at Flight has made a splash in international markets. Exhibiting initially at Musikmesse beginning in 2011, Flight has spread its sales throughout the EU including Austria, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy, several Baltic countries and eventually leaving Europe to find themselves in Singapore, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and now, America.
We sat down with Juliana Kaltakhchan, who is part of the Flight crew, to discuss their success and being awarded Best in Show at The 2020 NAMM Show.
Why did you decide to manufacture ukuleles?
Ten years ago, the local ukulele offerings were very limited and seeing the potential of the instrument, we wanted to expand its presence in Europe. The ukulele is a perfect all-round instrument. It’s easy enough to be picked up by a young child, yet complex enough to be performed on big stages professionally. Now, ten years later, the ukulele is introduced in Slovenian middle schools with our support. The growth and love for this instrument throughout Europe and the world has been amazing to watch.
Flight has embraced the use of social media as a key marketing tool for success. What principles are the motivation behind your social media strategy?
We are a young company with a young team that grew up using social media. I realized the power of this marketing channel, so I started looking for ukulele players on social media and connecting with them back in 2013. It worked out well for us, but like many things social media marketing has evolved. Today, you must be very careful and focus on establishing real relationships with people promoting your brand. Otherwise, consumers can sense the lack of authenticity and the implications of this can be detrimental to your brand. Consumers are keenly aware of the constant stream of ‘plugging’ on social media and are becoming immune to it. And of course, you need to be honest with your audience. The main goal is to create your own community, establish your own brand identity, and to have your own voice. For example, we are a European company, so we try to avoid ‘Hawaii-inspired’ imagery so loved in the ukulele circles because we feel that this is just not who we are.
What advice would you have for someone hoping to start their own instrument manufacturing company?
Find a niche that is in-demand but where there’s still opportunity and blue ocean. The market is already saturated with thousand of versions of the same best-selling model, so think outside the box and create your own designs. It is very important that you love your own product and are confident of its quality. Now is a great time to create new products. There are many factories in the world that can build products according to your specifications, but if you’re just creating copies of already existing instruments – you are going to have a difficult time in the long run.
What was Flight’s 2020 NAMM Show experience like? What goals did you have going into The Show?
While we have visited the show many times before, this was our first time with our own booth. It was a completely different experience because we had to supervise the building and dismantling of our booth. This was also the first show where we invited our artists, Matt Taylor from the Chicago area, the Ecklund sisters from Oklahoma, and Dani Usero from Barcelona. It was their first NAMM Show and it was great seeing their excitement. One of our goals was to showcase our new models, especially the Soundwave ukulele with built-in effects. We really pushed to release it just in time for The 2020 NAMM Show, and it was great to have people stopping by to check it out.
What was it like winning Best in Show at The 2020 NAMM Show?
Surreal. Since the winning uke was displayed at the Hal Leonard booth, we were not present when the judges came. However, when we learned of the news, I was jumping up and down and the next day we had to wake up very early, check out from our apartment and run to the awards ceremony to see it live. We posted it on our social media and many people have congratulated us on this success. We feel like it really put our little brand on the map with all the big and well-known ukulele brands.
Are there any “lessons” learned from this year’s NAMM Show that will help the team at Flight create an even bigger splash at The 2021 NAMM Show?
We were definitely understaffed and will need to come as a bigger team next year. We also learned that it is best to book hotels until Monday because checking out on the last day of the show was quite stressful. And of course - location matters, so it is best to have a hotel within walking distance. The main ‘lesson’ that we keep failing to learn every year: try to go to sleep earlier and not stay up partying all night long! What can we say? The NAMM Show is just too much fun.