Maria Eckardt’s story is illustrative of the many ways that Sarasota’s immigrants use their diverse backgrounds to bring success and prosperity to our area.
Maria Eckardt’s first encounter with flight was a dramatic one. She and her family were fleeing Cuba aboard a Freedom Flight from that country to Puerto Rico. Cuban authorities only allowed 1 suitcase per person. All valuable items were confiscated, including Maria’s earrings. She was 5 years old.
Today she is the co-founder and Director of International Sales of Flight Source International, the Southeast’s largest airplane brokerage with agents and offices across the globe. But it wasn’t a direct flight from Puerto Rico to manager at a multinational company.
Maria’s family eventually settled down in North Hollywood, California where she grew up and was working when she met Eric Eckardt. The two were working together at a direct marketing company. Conditions were not optimal so Eric and Maria both showed their entrepreneurial spirit by deciding to leave the company and starting one of their own. They managed their own direct marketing firm for a few years then moved to Sarasota. Eric’s parents were in Sarasota and Maria had a sister here as well. In addition, they were starting a family and Sarasota seemed like a better place to raise one than L.A.
Both Eric and Maria soon found jobs in Sarasota. Eric in airplane research and sales and Maria at the Health Department where her knowledge of Spanish greatly assisted the staff in communicating with and serving Latino patients.
In 1994, with 8 years of experience in aircraft sales, Eric decided to start his own firm. Maria wanted to get back in to sales as well and Eric wanted the new firm, Flight Source, to be international so they founded the company together and Maria became the Director of International Sales.
Flight Source International’s founding occurred auspiciously in the midst of the devaluation of the Mexican peso. Mexican nationals were selling their airplanes as quickly as they could. Maria’s knowledge of Spanish placed Flight Source International in an ideal position to broker sales of those airplanes.
The company grew from there. In April Maria was featured in a Sarasota Magazine article on women in business. She brought that article with her to the prestigious Top Marques Monaco Luxury Auto Show where she and Eric were able to meet Prince Albert II himself. To them it was just another day on the job.
Flight Source International is currently seeking multilingual sales professionals with the drive to sell big-ticket items. They are also open to partnerships with international investors who want to help the company increase its reach overseas. Those interested must want to be involved with a growing company with global ambitions. Flight source international represents over 170 aircraft worldwide, more than any other company in the business, and their goal is to eventually have a Flight Source office or representative in every region of the globe. Flight Source International just signed an agreement with a Czech Republic company, Evektor, to distribute its new light sport aircraft and upcoming turboprop aircraft, both of which will compete with Beechcraft and Cessna aircraft. They are also expanding into the charter business to provide statewide service here in Florida, as well as the Bahamas and the rest of the Caribbean.
For more information on the SeaMax and Evektor aircraft please review the following pdfs:
Interested parties can contact the Eckardt’s through their company website: http://www.flightsource.com or their phone number: (941) 355-9585