In 2015 Haka Tours took a chance and entered the first ever Westpac Business Growth Grant, ultimately winning a $40,000 cash injection and $10,000 to spend on advertising, as well as trip Fiji to attend a business retreat.
Now, almost 12 months on from that win, the company’s founder Ryan Sanders chats to RadioLive host Duncan Garner about how the Grant has helped him grow his business.
Listen to the audio of the interview here, or read the transcript below.
Duncan Garner: Westpac wants to give away $50,000 to a small to medium sized business with a Business Growth Grant. They did this last year and the winner was Ryan Sanders from Haka Tours, took the $50k and a trip to Fiji, he joins me now. G’day Ryan.
Ryan Sanders: Hello Duncan.
DG: And Damian Sharkey from Westpac, nice to see you mate.
Damian Sharkey: You too Duncan.
DG: Quickly tell us what it is, what’s the $50k?
DS: The $50K is the opportunity for a Kiwi business to dramatically change their trajectory. We select six businesses and take them to Fiji where we go to this really amazing business retreat led by Zac de Silva. Then we pick one winner who gets $40,000 cash to invest in their business, and then $10,000 to promote it.
DG: Basically businesses have to submit an application to you guys online which is how?
DS: Go to www.westpac.co.nz/growthgrant, tell us about your business or what you want to do to grow, and then you’re in to win.
DG: And Ryan, you won it last year?
RS: Yes I did.
DG: So you won $50k, how did that change your business? Tell us what you do, Haka Tours.
RS: Haka Tours runs small group guided adventure, snow and mountain bike trips in the country. We’ve also got a chain of upmarket backpacker lodges called Haka Lodges.
DG: Going well?
RS: Going amazingly well.
DG: How did this change your business, the $50k?
RS: It was an amazing process to go through so I recommend entering. For us it was all about scaling up and growing our business. We utilised that $40,000 cash with some strategic growth advice. For us that meant putting some into our core markets, business development managers, and really looking at how we can scale up as a business.
DG: And what about the $10,000 for advertising?
RS: For us that was put into launching out new product range, which was our guided mountain bike tours in the country.
DG: And have you noticed that you’ve made more money as a result? Have you hired more people?
RS: Definitely. We’ve had an amazing last 12 months. We’ve grown about 80% and we’ve hired just over 30 staff in the last 12 months. So it’s been a pretty busy time.
DG: You’ve hired 30 staff?
RS: Yeah, just over.
DG: You would have had some success without the $50k, but the $50k and the trip to Fiji really helped?
RS: Oh yeah. Zac was a great facilitator. Definitely we still would have grown regardless, but that extra $50k really was the icing on the cake and really enabled us to put the foot down.
DG: How hard was it to enter? A lot of businesses say “what do I do? How do I enter this sort of thing?”
RS: I must admit we’ve entered quite a few awards and had a bit of success which is great. The great thing about the Westpac Growth Grant is it’s quite easy to enter. The first stage is pretty simple, it’s just about your business. There’s some strict word counts which are pretty short.
RS: Yeah it’s great. Admittedly it took us a couple of hours to enter that first stage.
DG: A couple of hours for $50k.
RS: Yeah, not bad.
DG: And Sharkey, you don’t want the money back do you?
DS: No, it’s to help businesses like Ryan’s.
DG: And people don’t need to bank with Westpac to win?
DS: No, anyone can do it.
DG: So Ryan, you entered, it took a couple of hours?
RS: Yeah we entered the first stage and then we got a call a couple of weeks later saying we made the final 30, was it Damian?
DS: Yeah it was the final 30 and we said give us some more information and shoot a video about your business.
DG: Because you were interested in what these guys were doing, weren’t you?
DS: Their application really stood out. I actually remember calling Ryan and he was really excited, but the video that came back was just amazing.
DG: What did you do in the video?
RS: We spent about half a day with a video guy and it was a 90 second video about our business and how we’d utilise that money. So we had a bit of fun with it, shot a few different locations about Auckland, and just had a bit of a blast.
DG: And what was Fiji like?
RS: Fiji was pretty awesome, it’s very sort of anti-conference in the sense that you’ve got a bit of downtime.
DG: So you reckon this changed your game a bit, getting the $50k and the Fiji.
RS: Yeah, and the networking in Fiji is amazing.