Small busi­ness

The se­cret to a good party

The New Zealand Herald - - BUSINESS - Edited by Aimee Shaw aimee.shaw@nzher­ald.co. nz Share your story aimee.shaw@nzher­ald.co.nz

Can you de­scribe your busi­ness?

GoBananas is an on­line party plan­ning busi­ness based in Whakatane, Bay of Plenty, which or­gan­ises cor­po­rate events, Christ­mas par­ties, team-build­ing dos, birthdays and stag and hen par­ties. We op­er­ate through­out New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

What sparked the idea?

I’m founder of the busi­ness in New Zealand and Aus­tralia. I was based in the UK and I’ve got a friend who started GoBananas over there so when I and my hus­band were re­turn­ing back to New Zealand I thought it was a great busi­ness to start Dow­nun­der, and so I pitched it to him and he thought it was a good idea.

How big is your team

There are four of us in the of­fice.

What par­ties are most pop­u­lar?

Right now it’s Christ­mas par­ties and cor­po­rate func­tions, but once it gets to Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber it will move to stag and hen par­ties, and of course we or­gan­ise birth­day par­ties through­out the year.

You have mul­ti­ple web­sites for GoBananas, why is this?

We have our big New Zealand web­site which brings in most of our traf­fic and then smaller web­sites which are more niche like — one called Hens Week­ends, and an­other called Stag Week­ends, which helps when peo­ple are search­ing on­line. The great thing about hav­ing mul­ti­ple web­sites is it doesn’t mat­ter which one peo­ple click on as it all comes to the same place, but we do find that our big­ger web­sites are the ones bring­ing in the most traf­fic.

What makes your event busi­ness dif­fer­ent from others?

We have a re­ally in­ter­est­ing on­line book­ing sys­tem which en­ables those in­vited to view plans and vote; you could have three dif­fer­ent themes and can send that out to your staff or com­mit­tee and they can all vote on what to do or what theme. I think what makes us stand out is the range of dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties we of­fer and that we tai­lor-make each event. For ex­am­ple, we could or­gan­ise a venue, trans­port and ac­tiv­i­ties and if it was for a night-time venue then we could put on a casino night, a mur­der mys­tery, and fun team-build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. Price-wise, I think we’re very rea­son­able and of­fer af­ford­able op­tions, and that’s be­cause we don’t just fo­cus on Christ­mas par­ties — we don’t need to make all of our money in a month. Our prices are de­pen­dent on what’s booked, but a lot of the time prices are roughly around $80 per per­son, but there are also set prices. We’re like a travel agent in a sense. We get a com­mis­sion from most of our sup­pli­ers or have ne­go­ti­ated bet­ter rates so our clients don’t pay book­ing or ad­min­is­tra­tion fees. The prices shown on the web­site and their live itin­er­ary is what they pay. We make money from peo­ple book­ing our things.

What re­gions are your par­ties most pop­u­lar with and what do you of­fer?

Auck­land with­out a doubt, Welling­ton, and then Taupo, Tau­ranga and Ro­torua for a lot of stag and hen dos, but Auck­land is the big­gest. We do boat cruises, venues, mur­der mys­ter­ies, amaz­ing races, MasterChef- in­spired cook­ing chal­lenges, cock­tail-mak­ing classes, com­edy nights, cabaret shows and wine tours, to name a few.

Tell me about your back­ground and how it’s helped this busi­ness?

I started off do­ing sales and worked my way up into a man­age­ment role. I also had my own busi­ness in the UK, a sales and mar­ket­ing firm, and we had a team of 20 sales­peo­ple that we mo­ti­vated and trained. It was a lot of work but I learned that when you start things off it doesn’t hap­pen straight­away — you’ve got to per­sist.

What’s the best and most chal­leng­ing part of run­ning a party-plan­ning busi­ness?

The best thing is that it’s fun, we have fun with our cus­tomers. Even though we don’t get to go to all of the places, it’s fun be­ing part of the process. A chal­leng­ing thing is that we al­ways have peo­ple who ring us up and want to use us as Yel­low Pages, which is not what we are. Our big­gest chal­lenges, though, are al­ways go­ing to be com­peti­tors, and those who are do­ing a bad job, who put a bad light on book­ing agents.

What are your long-term plans?

We’re launch­ing an­other side of the busi­ness, which is group travel, for peo­ple com­ing to New Zealand, see­ing the coun­try, trav­el­ling around, and that’s mov­ing a lit­tle bit away from all the party ac­tiv­i­ties to more of the tourist ac­tiv­i­ties.

Tell me about Aus­tralian oper­a­tions — when did you launch there?

We started in Aus­tralia prob­a­bly two years af­ter we started in New Zealand in 2009. It’s the same sort of prin­ci­ple, what works here also works there. We’ve found that Aus­tralians have more money to spend and do tend to go away on some week­ends, to Cairns or the Gold Coast. There’s def­i­nitely more com­pe­ti­tion there but what works in our favour is that some of the [ri­val] sup­pli­ers are re­ally slow in re­ply­ing and that works with us be­cause peo­ple can get hold of us. I don’t know if they get so many in­quiries over there that peo­ple are slow at re­spond­ing.

What ad­vice do you give to others think­ing of start­ing a busi­ness?

Give it a go. You can do a lot of talk­ing but some­times just do­ing it is the way to go. When I came here there were two or three other busi­nesses do­ing what I was do­ing and that can scare you, you can think, ‘Oh God, how am I go­ing to?’, but you’ve just got to do it and then you’ll just even­tu­ally fig­ure it out.

Christina Sorensen says the great thing about hav­ing mul­ti­ple web­sites is it doesn’t mat­ter which one peo­ple click on.

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