BREAK­ING BUSI­NESS BAR­RI­ERS

AOTEA/GREAT BAR­RIER IS­LAND HAS A UNIQUE STORY AND CHAR­AC­TER WHICH LO­CAL EN­TER­PRISES BEN­E­FIT FROM – AND NOW TRAIN­ING IN SO­CIAL ME­DIA AND DIG­I­TAL MAR­KET­ING IS SET TO GEN­ER­ATE MORE BUSI­NESS.

NZ Business - - CONTENTS - BY KEVIN KE­VANY

Great Bar­rier Is­land has a unique story and char­ac­ter which lo­cal en­ter­prises ben­e­fit from – and now a spe­cial train­ing pro­gramme is set to gen­er­ate more busi­ness.

Start­ing a small busi­ness and pro­gress­ing it to a sus­tain­able level any­where in New Zealand is a tough ask. But when you set out to es­tab­lish your ven­ture on Aotea/Great Bar­rier Is­land, about 100 kilo­me­tres (30 min­utes by air) north-east of Auck­land, the odds against your suc­cess are even higher.

The num­ber of per­ma­nent res­i­dents is around the 1,000 mark (boosted by up to 4,000 bach own­ers and tourists in the sum­mer).

Ap­prox­i­mately half the land mass is un­der DOC man­age­ment. The me­dian in­come level is the low­est in Auck­land and (many be­lieve) in the coun­try.

The is­land has no retic­u­lated power or wa­ter. There­fore no street light­ing, ATMs, traf­fic lights, su­per­mar­ket, or even a high school. Power is self-gen­er­ated – in­creas­ingly so­lar, which means you don’t leave those ac­tiv­i­ties de­pen­dent on elec­tric­ity un­til later in the day. And your next morn­ing could start with a cold shower.

As an en­tre­pre­neur you must look at what some might re­gard as neg­a­tives, as an op­por­tu­nity. The In­ter­net meets cur­rent needs and while there are in­evitable ter­rain-re­lated blackspots, mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tions are re­li­able. There is a ‘dig­i­tal bridge’ to the main­land and the world.

Great Bar­rier Is­land has moved on from the days when it was once stig­ma­tised as a re­treat from the world. Re­silience, a strong com­mu­nity spirit (vol­un­teer­ing is the de­fault set­ting) and cau­tion re­main the norm, how­ever. As does cre­ativ­ity and ex­ploit­ing the lack of am­bi­ent light at night; the heal­ing power of still­ness; good soil for or­ganic food; a mar­ket for dairyfree ice cream and the chal­lenge of air and land trans­port for tourists and lo­cals, amongst other pur­suits.

The above sce­nario pro­vides a cross-sec­tion of those who have been drawn into a so­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing pro­gramme ini­ti­ated by a dy­namic, al­legedly-re­tired, Gendie Somerville-Ryan – a for­mer mar­ket­ing, cul­tural change and strate­gic po­si­tion­ing re­gional and global ex­ec­u­tive with PwC – along with fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from NZ Trade and En­ter­prise and sup­port from ATEED’s John Carr.

“A lack of dis­cre­tionary funds caused us to look specif­i­cally at so­cial me­dia for mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion. For many, that was a chal­lenge and a leap into new tech­nol­ogy,” says Somerville-Ryan. “But it has proven to be in­spired. We were for­tu­nate to se­cure the ser­vices of Wanita Zoghby-Fourie from The On­line Busi­ness Academy, an NZTE-ap­proved Train­ing Provider and men­tor in the dis­ci­pline.”

DARK SKY

Somerville-Ryan is a trustee of Des­ti­na­tion Aotea/Great Bar­rier Is­land which “seeks to en­hance the vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence and pro­mote the Is­land as a de­sir­able des­ti­na­tion”. Along with her hus­band Richard and a con­sul­tant as­tronomer, Nay­alini Davies, she helped se­cure an of­fi­cial Dark Sky Sanc­tu­ary clas­si­fi­ca­tion for the Is­land in May last year – one of only four in the world and the only is­land to have that sta­tus. (Two are in US na­tional parks and an­other in Chile).

“On any given night our vis­i­tors can see roughly ten times more stars than some­one in Auck­land. We’re told by in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors that we have the dark­est and most pris­tine con­di­tions for view­ing.”

Deb­o­rah Kil­gal­lon and Hilde Hoven are owner-direc­tors of Good Heav­ens, a com­pany with not only a great name, but a clever slo­gan: “Look up and get lost”. You can book for a group tour, or they will come to your ap­proved res­i­dence with their eight-inch tele­scope and de­liver a per­sonal view­ing for you (“Heav­ens Above”), and add a chef-catered meal to the whole ex­pe­ri­ence (“Din­ing with the Stars”).

“View­ings from the beach, where you can see the Milky Way rise out of the ocean are much in de­mand. And you can un­der­stand why when 90 per­cent of US city res­i­dents and 80 per­cent in Eu­ro­pean cities can’t see the Milky Way, or barely see stars. We just love be­ing in an en­ter­prise which is so in touch with na­ture,” says Kil­gal­lon.

“Coach­ing from Wanita has seen us im­ple­ment a new web­site with a proper book­ing sys­tem to carry the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence from on­line to off­line. We have looked at our brand­ing and are work­ing on our so­cial me­dia chan­nels as we know this is fun­da­men­tal to grow­ing a savvy busi­ness,” says Hoven.

FOR­EST BATHING

Vicky Kyan’s busi­ness Well­be­ing Wan­ders is based on an­cient Ja­panese “For­est Bathing” and is an­other blend­ing with the is­land’s nat­u­ral beauty – up in the hills or down on the shore. The Na­ture and For­est Ther­apy guide and trainer’s three-hour walks are usu­ally less than a kilo­me­tre as par­tic­i­pants “prac­tice rec­i­proc­ity” and “ap­pre­ci­ate and cel­e­brate life in all its forms to reach peace and ease with our­selves”.

“I love the con­trolled co­op­er­a­tion Wanita has in­jected into a on­ceiso­lated SME com­mu­nity, which tended only to col­lab­o­rate in cri­sis, re­ports Kyan. “Now we in­ter­link and net­work to grow sus­tain­ably, all the time.”

“Vicky was a techno­phobe when she started the train­ing,” says Zogh­byFourie. “The learn­ing and en­cour­age­ment has seen Vicky’s skill level shift to un­der­stand­ing and im­ple­ment­ing a real on­line strat­egy to at­tract stressed busi­ness own­ers who want to get back in touch with na­ture.”

Somerville-Ryan points to that di­chotomy as be­ing typ­i­cal of the ex­pe­ri­ence and adapt­abil­ity Zoghby-Fourie has brought to her train­ing and men­tor­ing of the is­land-com­mu­nity’s en­trepreneurs. “Wanita has been a great fit with peo­ple who are used to work­ing on their own and not ask­ing for help. We are all very aware of the spe­cial chal­lenges and po­ten­tial

lim­i­ta­tions of our sit­u­a­tion. She has blended all th­ese in­di­vid­u­als to op­er­ate as a com­mu­nity of en­trepreneurs, rather than a col­lec­tion of in­di­vid­u­als.

IM­PROVED AIR-LINKS

Nick Pear­son, CEO of Bar­rier Air has led a big shift in the vi­tal link to the is­land.

“The days of ‘ro­mance’ are over,” he says. “We have moved to so­phis­ti­ca­tion; the likes of glass cock­pits – the envy of sev­eral air­line pi­lots who’ve flown with us – aand an em­pha­sis on safety.

“I cut the fleet from ssix air­craft to two Cessna tur­bo­prop Grand Car­a­vans and have a third on order.orde Th­ese al­low us to fly at 7,000 ft. The rout­ing we take, too, means in the uun­likely event of en­gine fail­ure we can glide to land at all times.

“I know our au­di­ence is on so­cial me­dia – us­ing plat­forms like In­sta­gram to build our brand and tell oour story. We are work­ing col­lec­tively with the ‘So­cial Me­dia for Great Bar­rier’ and are amazed that a sim­ple so­cial me­dia post can reach 15,000 peo­ple and have more than 4,500 in­ter­ac­tions within a day.

“I be­lieve we should tar­gett those en­vi­ron­men­tally-con­scious trav­ellers who will re­spect what we have here, as they en­gage with na­ture, do yoga and mind­ful­ness in a for­est,for or kayak out to ap­pre­ci­ate the dol­phins,” says Pear­son.

Somerville-Ryan and her team at Des­ti­na­tion Aotea/Great Bar­rier Is­land al­ready have a ‘Re­spon­sRe­spon­si­ble Vis­i­tors Pledge’ on the draw­ing boards too.

HAPPY PEO­PLE WEL­COME WELCOM

Sue Whaanga (it means ‘calm har­bour’, which many say she is) worked her way into tak­ing over AoteaAot Car Rental from a gen­er­ous for­mer em­ployer who reck­oned she’d earnedearn a rea­son­able price for her com­mit­ment. That has guided her own busi­ness ethics. But don’t ar­rive at the is­land’s air­port and hope to get a ve­hi­cle if yyou haven’t pre-booked.

“Vis­i­tors book­ing our ve­hi­cles want to ‘blend into the is­land’ and truly get away. We don’t have brabranded ve­hi­cles. It’s a strate­gic de­ci­sion we’ve made. The ve­hi­cles are not the lat­est mod­els, but they are well-main­tained.”

She also pro­vides the school buses and shut­tles. Fur­ther con­ti­nu­ity is built in with her daugh­ter now in the busi­ness. When look­ing back to the days when she an­swered the phone and jug­gled reser­va­tions, the new world of on­line book­ing, so­cial me­dia an­dan proac­tive mar­ket­ing is “far less stress­ful”.

“We’re look­ing into ha­hav­ing elec­tric bikes for hire and de­pend­ing on how that goes, we will be into elec­tric ve­hi­cle hire in the fore­see­able fu­ture. That’s all part of our co­or­di­nate­co­or­di­nated mar­ket­ing mes­sage, af­ter all. We utilise our worm farms, car-wash wa­ter in­into spe­cial pits, and any oil is scooped into buck­ets,” says Whaanga, who main­main­tains she’s in busi­ness to meet happy peo­ple.

(L-R): GENDIE SOM­MERVILLE-RYAN, JANENE HUNSDALE, WANITA ZOGHBY-FOURIE, DEB­O­RAH KIL­GAL­LON AND HER SON, NICK PEAR­SON, VICKY KYAN, HILDE HOVEN, SUE WHAANGA AND CAITY ENDT.

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