Starting a new business in the midst of the Covid-19 global pandemic was always going to be a tough gig – but that hasn't stopped hundreds of Northlanders from forging ahead anyway.
Figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show 572 businesses were launched in the region between March 1 and July 22 this year.
Of these businesses, which have been registered with the New Zealand Companies Office, the highest number are in the construction sector, followed by retail and manufacturing, agriculture, forestry and fishing, computer and technical services, and financial services.
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Northlanders Sara Smeath and Christopher Saunders have just set up a tourism software company based in the Bay of Islands.
The couple returned to New Zealand after eight years in China, where Smeath worked as a fashion forecaster and Saunders as a website developer.
With the pandemic taking hold in China, they travelled home with their three young children and brought forward plans to start their digital tourism company called Te Kaupapa.
The aim of their business is to better connect travellers with locals in the regions of New Zealand, while also giving struggling businesses a way to offer sustainable, year-round tourism experiences.
Te Kaupapa works as an online platform, holding a host of businesses in one place, each offering their own unique experiences, activities, cuisines and accommodation.
The couple, who live in Russell, hope to have 50 businesses on board by the time it launches at the end of August.
"This allows visitors to truly immerse themselves in our local culture and unique offerings," Smeath said.
"People want something off the beaten track.
"There's more to the Bay of Islands than fishing charters and whale watching. There's a lot to discover here but it's hard to find.
"You can build your itinerary, and rather than go to all these different websites, they're all in one place and you can find nice experiences that are unique to an area."
Whangārei business consultant Susan Cooney, from Oxygen8 Business Consultants, urged caution when establishing a business in a post lockdown environment.
"It's really important to ask yourself 'is this something that I can make a success?'
"Do your market research around it to see what else is out there and really do your homework.
"Also ask yourself, 'Am I passionate about it and am I prepared to make sacrifices?' because initially there might not be a lot of money there. When you start a business, it is risky."
Cooney also advised people to find out if they are eligible for Government funding and check out Northland Inc, which often has programmes for new and existing businesses.
In a post-Covid world it was "absolutely essential" to focus on digital brand identity and using search engine optimisation to draw on your target market.
"Then really map out your process with a set of objectives with time frames, and get to work."
Susan Cooney's top tips for starting a new business
- • Do your homework and market research
- • Find out if you're eligible for funding
- • Have a solid business plan
- • Do a SWOT analysis to find out strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
- • Focus on digital branding
- • Seek professional advice if needed