Langley-raised Inger Lisa Skroder recalls a competitor in the airline business trying to embarrass her by bringing up her 1985 win as Miss Langley.
Far from scoring points, he discovered the acute care nurse practitioner who set up Trinity Air Ambulance International was unflappable.
Thatâ€™s because her background trained her well for running an international air ambulance company based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Now sheâ€™s looking to expand to Canada, with an eye on Langley or another airport with the amenities Trinity needs.
While Inger Lisa was in Langley this summer to visit family, she met with various aviation folks about a possible expansion, to ensure the firm has a base in the region.
Born in the local hospital, she grew up on her parentâ€™s mink ranch on the Langley/Surrey border.
â€œWeâ€™re farm people, that ethic about hard work and savingâ€ she explained.
Inger Lisa went to Crofton House in Vancouver for a few years but graduated from R.E. Mountain Secondary.
Then it was Trinity Western University for a year, Simon Fraser University, and Vancouver General. Her mom, Georgine, suggested working in the U.S. so she spent four years in Florida before homesickness brought her north. Inger Lisa went to the University of Washington in Seattle and having worked on international air ambulance flights, found she liked it.
The firm was started in 1999. Sheâ€™s in business with her two brothers, Tors and Lars, with help from her mom and financing it on her credit cards to the tune of about $50,000.
It was a tough start, particularly when hunting out planes to charter from other firms. She knocked on the doors of about 30 firms.
â€œIâ€™m glad that we had the door shut, because we just had to go and get our own planes and our own pilot,â€ she said.
Competitors have derisively called it a â€œmom and popâ€ operation.
â€œNo, no, weâ€™re a bro and sis,â€ said Inger Lisa. â€œIâ€™m proud to have a family company.â€
The daughter of a Norwegian immigrant to Canada points to other family businesses that havenâ€™t done too badly: WalMart remains family-owned, and the Walt Disney Co. was started by two brothers.
The company name, Trinity, comes from the three siblings involved.
Inger Lisa is a nurse who started the aviation company.
Lars handles marketing and management.
An older sister runs fixed-base operations at the airport that is home to the air ambulance.
Tor is the president of the company and a former Vancouver firefighter. While working full time at Trinity, he got his nursing degree and qualified as a licensed air frame and power plant as well as a licensed pilot.
International air ambulance service is a 24/7 business requiring Trinity to act fast when the calls come in.
Trinity now has almost a dozen staff in its call centre who coordinate calls from the U.S., Caribbean and South America. There are also seven pilots and 35 medical crew flight personnel who work for Trinity.
It has contracts with a variety of health care centres and government agencies, using its aircraft: three Learjets and a piper Navajo Chieftan. In addition to transporting patients, Trinity does organ transfers and is seeing about 10 per cent annual growth with revenues in the seven figures.
She is most proud of the companyâ€™s record: thousands of flights, no lawsuits, no crashes and no incidents even though Trinity takes on some of the touchiest medical cases.
Inger Lisa continues to search out options to expand to this area to cover all of North and South America.
Not bad for a former beauty queen raised on a mink ranch.