Jerry Swain, San Diego

Did someone say gourmet chocolate? Fortunately, Jerry Swain is no doubt on a plane, and you probably could sneak a piece of the sweet stuff from him if you happen to be sitting next to him. In 2004, Jerry left a successful career in high tech to follow his entrepreneurial desire to turn his passion for gourmet peanut butter chocolates into a business. A modern-day "Willy Wonka" of sorts, Jerry is the creator and founder of Jer's Chocolates, an award-winning, all-natural, gourmet peanut butter-and-chocolate confection company. Jerry's delicious chocolates were conceived during his college days at University of California-Riverside. After college, Jerry threw annual chocolate parties to raise money for local food banks until his friends and family finally talked him into leaving the tech industry and jumping into the world of chocolate.

With the help of American Airlines, Jerry has been able to distribute his chocolates to retailers across the country, and the company ships nationwide through his website. Most importantly, Jerry is committed to giving back to the community in which he lives. He is on the board of directors for the San Diego Food Bank (among several other nonprofit groups). He also brings his entrepreneurial spirit into classrooms in the San Diego area and is a motivational speaker to children of all ages. Jerry lives in Solana Beach, Calif., with his wife, Mariella, and their two children, Jason (4) and Sophia (2). His second home is a seat on American Airlines, where he has wrapped up almost seven million miles to date. Jerry loves being a dad, fitness and sports, and laughing with friends, but he what he enjoys most is spending time with his family - on the ground.

Challenge #1

Write an essay describing why you should win this year's Road Warrior Contest. And heres the rub, you need to include 10 idioms throughout your story if you know what's good for you.

*An idiom is the language or expressions used by a specific group of people. Example of idioms: We're pleased as punch that you decided to enter the 11th Annual American Way Road Warrior Contest! So, step up to the plate and give it your best shot . (Limit of 600 words or 3,000 characters).


As I come "down to the wire" completing this essay for the American Way contest, I'm "on the fence" on how I should approach this short essay. As a "rule of thumb" my parents brought me and my sister up, "come hell or high water", not to boast or brag. Thus, I find myself "going out on a limb" to share why I should be considered to win the contest.

"Make no bones about it", I'd LOVE to win this contest as I'd be "head over heels" happy and excited to represent American Way and American Airlines in this contest. I can only imagine all the winners giving "high fives" and having a "field day" during their time at the Grand Del Mar, and I would love to bring some of my company's "finger lickin' good" chocolates for all the winners and staff to share.

Rather than try to boast, I'll "cut to the chase" and share some facts about my travel habits and experiences in hopes it is "worthy of consideration." Although some people feel like they need to "bend over backwards" to go through security, I find it a "piece of cake." Fortunately, I've been granted special TSA security clearance at many airports so I can skip taking off my shoes, removing my laptop or emptying my pockets. This is great when I'm "against the clock" trying to reach my gate to go stand by to get home faster to see my wife & kids.

With my crazy and unpredictable travel schedule, "it's anyone's call" where my next trip may be. Sometimes these last minute trips cost "an arm and a leg", however, "every cloud has a silver lining" and the trips always seem productive and worthy of the time. My loyalty to American Airlines is "second to none" as I do not consider flying another airline "if I can help it".

Having accumulated almost 7 million miles to date on AA, and being Executive Platinum status, the AA staff really "go the extra mile" to ensure the process of my check in, boarding and entire trip are pleasant.

To further prove that I may be a worthy Road Warrior, at quick glance, I know the AA fleet and seat configurations, whether a S80, 757, 737, 767 (200 or 300) or 777 (perhaps this is "over the top"). When seated, I "know the ropes" as I'm able to recite all the on board safety features video.

My travel language is sometimes "mumbo jumbo" to my staff as I prefer ORD, SHV or EZE to Chicago, Shreveport or Buenos Aires. In fact, if there were a category on the TV show, Jeopardy, I could imagine a scenario where YVR pops up and I respond, "What is Vancouver, Canada?"

Navigating through airports has become commonplace to me. When traveling with my family, my wife may say, "I'd like to 'chow down' on a burger" and I may respond, "since we are at DFW D gates, there is Fuddruckers, Chili's, Bennigan's, Champps, or, if you feel like Chili's Too, we can go over to the B or C gates." She then tells me to "put a sock in it" and that I'm "not playing with a full deck!"

"To make a long story short", with all my great experiences with American Airlines over the years, winning this contest would be "icing on the cake", as my wife and kids have been wonderful and supportive of my travels. We'll "cross our fingers" as we are "on pins and needles" to see if we "make the cut"! Thanks for your consideration!

Challenge #2

Give us your 5 Warrior W's (Limit of 70 words or 350 characters for each answer):

Who are you?
Jerry Swain, a proud husband and father. We have a 4 yr old boy and a 2 yr old girl! My love is spending time with family, friends and volunteer/nonprofit work.

What do you do?
I'm the Founder and CEO of Jer's Chocolates, a growing all natural premium chocolate company. However "what" I do, is, do my best to be a great Dad, Spouse and friend.

Why do you fly so much?
Mostly for work; visiting customers, distributors, supply partners and some fun travel of course!

Where do you go?
Mostly domestic and some international travel. Every corner of the US and when international, primarily in Mexico, Europe, Latin America, etc.

When did this lifestyle begin?
I have always traveled a lot for work since my days at IBM, after college, over 20 years ago, and LOVE travel for pleasure, learning and new living new experiences.

Challenge #3

Describe a typical 2-week time period in your life of flying American Airlines' routes, cities visited, miles flown, etc. (Limit of 300 words or 1,500 characters).

On Monday morning, at 4:45am, I kiss my wife and kids as they sleep, pick up my laptop and some chocolates at the office, then drive to the San Diego airport. Feeling like the friendly AA personnel and TSA employees know my face too well, I make my way through security.

Whether making a transfer or getting to my destination nonstop, I head to the car rental or shuttle and off to my appointments for the day and evening. A typical trip for me is 2 - 3 nights in a hotel, then back home for a day, then off again, doing the same routine. With kids and wife at the house, I do my best to minimize the number of nights of the trip to be with my family.

Taking a very recent two week period; Day 1 - started off to Hawaii to meet with 3 customers, meet a business partner, tour a chocolate plant (I never set foot on the sand!). Day 4 - back to San Diego for a night. Day 5 - back on a plane (same morning/airport routine) to New York for a trade show, more customers, travel to 6 states in 3 days, staying in 3 different hotels. Day 9 - back to San Diego, spending time with my family, working on a campaign to help bring more food to the local food bank. Day 11 - 14 - off to the Midwest (same morning travel routine!) visiting regional sales managers, vendors and potential customers.

SAN - LAX - HNL - LAX - SAN - SAN - LAX - JFK - JFK - LAX - SAN - SAN - ORD - ORD - SAN

During these 2 weeks, 4 rental cars, 6 different hotel rooms, 15,508 flight miles (all domestic!) Whew!

Challenge #4

What revs your 777 engine?

Favorite snack food(s): Ooh, no doubt it's ice cream and then baked goods (cookies/brownies)

Favorite candy(s): Jer's Chocolates; of course! Hooked on our new dark chocolate almond cluster groupies!

Favorite grab 'n go drink(s): Bottled Water - sorry; boring :)

Favorite smart phone app(s): American Airlines, Hilton, USA Today, ESPN SportsCenter