Since airplanes first took flight, Tri Delta women have been trailblazers in aviation. From Louise McPhetridge Thaden, Arkansas, who formed the Ninety-Nines, an international organization for women pilots, to former president and CEO of the Air Transport Association of America Carol Hallett, Oregon, Tri Deltas can be found soaring to new heights in all areas of the industry.
As the founder and president of her own airline, InterJet West, Kendra Robinson, Cal State/Long Beach, is also a second-generation woman in aviation, following in the footsteps of her mother who started her own airline business in the early ‘90s.
After graduating from California State University Long Beach, Kendra decided to support her family’s business and took a position in accounting. Although she admits accounting and numbers were never her passion, she knew the role would help her build a strong business foundation—one that she would use in creating her own airline.
“The best advice I got was in order to be an entrepreneur and own your own business, you need to know how every aspect of the business works,” says Kendra.
And so, Kendra learned the ropes in the accounting department, balancing budgets, processing payroll and accounts payable—and even some human resources work. Following her work in accounting, she moved on to a maintenance role where she learned the ins and outs of how airplanes work. She followed that up with a role in sales and in the operations department.
“That’s where I fell in love with aviation and the business,” says Kendra. “And that’s where it clicked for me.”
After a decade of working for her family’s business, she decided to make the leap and start her own airline company: InterJet West.
Soaring to New Heights
InterJet West provides on-demand cargo services for the manufacturing industry. Sometimes a customer might receive a shipment that’s short or damaged, but needs the supplies to avoid having to shut down its factory line, which can cost millions, Kendra explains.
That’s when they call InterJet. “Our niche market is being available at a moment’s notice,” Kendra says.
InterJet can have an aircraft in the air within two hours from the time a customer calls and be enroute to pick up a shipment from a supplier and deliver it to the factory.
This type of aviation, however, also comes with strict operational rules: Because of the type of certification it has, InterJet West cannot directly solicit business or even advertise. That meant when Kendra started the company she relied solely on networking and building relationships within the industry—a skill she credits to her Tri Delta experience.
Kendra joined Tri Delta at Phi Kappa Chapter at CSU Long Beach. Coming from a small town of 15,000 people to a college campus that was double the size of her hometown was eye-opening for Kendra. Joining Tri Delta allowed her to learn from other women from different walks of life.
“Living in a sorority house, you learn skills you don’t even realize you’re learning,” says Kendra. “Tri Delta taught me patience, to be able to put myself in someone else’s shoes, and how to work with different personalities.”
Tri Delta helped shape Kendra into who she is today by pushing her to get to know other people and step outside of her comfort zone. “I’m not a shy person, but I’m not overly outgoing. Tri Delta put me in situations where I had to create conversation and learn how to work a room.”
Her advice to other young women starting their careers: “Find your passion and pursue it.”
During her own entrepreneurial journey, Kendra was told by many people that she would fail. But seven years in, InterJet West is still flying high.
“I love what I do,” says Kendra. “I wake up every day and I’m excited, even for the challenging days. Find your passion and go for it—no matter what anyone says!”