She set up Transad International in April 1997, but it was four years before Sam Bhalla took her first pay cheque. Meanwhile, the 34-year-old had jacked in a jet-setting managerial position, taken a part-time job on BA's check-in desk, moved back in with her parents and poured almost everything she had into Transad. Despite investor interest, the right offer didn't come till last October, when her start-up was picked from 12 others by investor James Driscoll on Channel 4's The Real Deal. Bhalla and Driscoll have since floated Transad, now valued at pounds 6 million.
The company manufactures a frame, patented by Bhalla, that is fixed on aeroplane seat-backs to display ads when the foldaway tray is pulled down.
Ryanair, KLM UK, Buzz and Airtours all carry the frames, which are used by advertisers such as Panasonic, IBM and Telia. An estimated 21 million people see the frames each year.
The hardest part of the past four years, says Bhalla, has been to juggle her BA job with Transad - dashing from smart-suited boardroom meetings with investors to change into her BA uniform. 'I spent about a year looking for investment, but most investors wanted control of the company in return for the money,' Bhalla recalls. 'That wasn't something I was prepared to do.'
Now Transad is set to win more airline deals and more advertisers - and Bhalla can start paying herself a regular wage.