Ben Chapman-Smith and Briar Douglas are the owners of copywriting business
, which they set up after leaving Auckland to live in Raglan.
When and why did you leave Auckland for Raglan?
Ben: We had both been working as journalists in Auckland, and later ended up moving to Rarotonga where we worked for the national newspaper. That experience really affected us; we grew to love living and working in a small community where it's so easy to get to know people and bump into your friends. So when we came back to Auckland, even though we had really cool jobs, we found it difficult. It was not only dealing with the traffic, noise and rushing around, but also not being able to see our close friends often simply because you had to think about it so far in advance. We were craving community.
The other factor was I love surfing, but I wasn't getting out into the water that much, because getting to Piha or Muriwai was such a hassle.
Is that why you chose Raglan in particular?
Ben: We decided to move around April last year after coming to spend a weekend with some friends who live and work here. We had no intention of moving, but by the end of that weekend we'd made the decision we were shifting there. Our friends were making a real go of their own businesses and were surfing all the time, so they had us hooked. We started putting plans in place and moved on 1 July.
The other reason we settled on Raglan is I grew up on a farm on the other side of the harbour. I've been dreaming of making the move back to the west coast ever since we left the farm, and being able to hear cows and the surf breaking from my living room.
What was the opportunity you saw to start a business when you moved?
Briar: We used to be journalists, then I went into marketing, and Ben went into communications and now we do a mix of all three in this business, because we find a lot of companies need that. We've picked up some local clients, but most of our clients are in Auckland. That's partly a result of our existing relationships, and also that's just where some of the bigger businesses that we work with are based.
We haven't found working remotely a hindrance. Technology is good enough now for us to be responsive to our clients, and we still make an effort to go to Auckland to meet our clients regularly. That's another good thing about Raglan - it's not too far away.
I think potential clients also find it quite intriguing that we're in Raglan; it helps people to remember us, so in a way it's a point of difference.
Ben: We're also surrounded by a lot of exciting, creative people making a go of it here. An average Saturday night is spent sitting around a bonfire, bouncing ideas off a bunch of other people trying to make a business work, so there's lots of inspiration.
How about some of the challenges you've encountered with the move?
Ben: On a personal level one concern for me is that my clients might think I'm out there surfing the whole time, which is so far from the truth. We're working longer hours now than we did in Auckland because as well as doing the work, we're also running a business and doing things like accounting and invoicing as well. The difference is now we don't have to sit in traffic for an hour a day sucking exhaust; I can go for a surf in the morning and be back at my desk by 8.30am when people in Auckland are sitting down to work.
What advice do you have for others considering a similar move?
Briar: If you can, start working on your business before you move. We decided to move before we had any clients, but we didn't move straight away, so we spent those in-between months talking to people about what we were doing and finding a couple of clients to start off with. That was really helpful.
Ben: It's easy to romanticise the idea of moving to live in a beautiful town, and having chickens and a garden. But it's a good idea to think about what it's going to be like living in that place in the dead of winter when it's really cold and all the tourists have left town. If you still think it's going to be a cool place to live then you're probably on the right track.