The NZ Herald and editor-at-large Shayne Currie are on a two-week road trip to gauge the mood of the nation and meet everyday and notable Kiwis making a difference in their communities and the wider world. Today he hears how one of New Zealand sport’s greatest legends is flying again in a small Taranaki town. Meanwhile, we have Nine Questions With Liam Malone and from a north Taranaki farm to Kenya to a New Plymouth brew pub, an entrepreneur says doing good can be a way of life. Dan Radcliffe talks to Stratford Press editor Ilona Hanne.
Dan Radcliffe went to Kenya to volunteer as a teacher and came home with the seed of a multimillion-dollar business.
That business, International Volunteer HQ, was started in 2007 with a loan of $30,000 secured against his parent’s Uruti farm, where he was living at the time.
So how, I ask, did Dan get from Uruti, to Kenya and then back again to Taranaki?
“I grew up on the farm in Uruti, going to Uruti Primary school where I was one of maybe 18 pupils. Then after intermediate school and New Plymouth Boys’ High I headed to Otago for a degree in commerce and business.”
Studying for a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) and a Master of Business (MBus) at Otago had been a “default option” on leaving school, he says.
“It’s probably a degree you do when you don’t know what you want to do. Seriously though, I enjoyed the subjects. I did well in business studies and economics at New Plymouth Boys, so thought a Bachelor of Commerce would be interesting.”
Heading over 1000km south to Otago for his studies was another way to push himself.
“I like to challenge myself, so going further away from home, to Otago, where not a lot of my peers were going, that was a way to get that challenge. It was also a bit of an adventure, and that’s something I seek out too.”
That lust for adventure and challenge caused him to change course quite dramatically after university.
He had taken a job through a corporate graduate programme but quickly realised it wasn’t for him, he says.
“I call it my quarter-life crisis. I’d spent nearly five years studying, and now I was in the workplace and wasn’t sure it was what I wanted. I quit after a few days. I wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone, so went to Africa to volunteer.”
“Because it seemed really daunting. Africa wasn’t a place I knew. Really the only knowledge I had from it was from the news, and that normally didn’t give the best image of the place. Kenya appealed the most, so I started looking for organisations that arranged volunteer experiences there.”
Radcliffe was surprised by the cost involved.
“All the companies I looked at were really expensive, and I was really surprised by that. Yes, of course there would be costs involved, but I didn’t think it should be as expensive as it was.”
He was paying more to go overseas and “do good” than others were paying to go on holiday, he says.
“Once I got to Kenya and talked to people there, I realised the companies were definitely overcharging.”
Radcliffe came back to New Zealand as inspired by the thought there was a better way to do good overseas as he was by the volunteering and travel itself.
“Volunteering is definitely a great thing to do, and so is travel. But while there I had mentally put my business degree to use and could see there was an opportunity to do these trips a lot more cheaply. I realised the volunteer travel industry had a massive gap in the market, and I could fill that gap.”
Back on the farm in Uruti, he started getting his business idea off the ground.
Shayne Currie is travelling the country on the Herald’s Great New Zealand Road Trip. Read the full series here.
“It really was a case of doing it on a shoestring. I knew what my priorities were and focused on those. A really professional website was a key investment, I knew it would give people confidence and also sell the programme for us. Then the other part was about the ground ops, training local staff and getting the programmes off the ground.”
It may have started on a shoestring budget, but 16 years later the business is booming, and its growth has been far faster than Dan had predicted.
“When I set it up, the big companies at the time were doing about 2000 people a year and I was a one-man band then, so I thought if I could do 200 people in my first year that would be a great result.”
He’s still got the books from those early projections.
“I’ve got these 10-year forecasts where I was working towards 2000 people over those 10 years. In the first year we sent 400 people overseas, and I quickly saw the idea had legs.
“Once those people were coming back from their trips and we were getting all this great feedback, those legs really grew. We went from 400 people in that first year to 10 years later, where we had 20,000 people going overseas with us in a year.”
Radcliffe was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014 in recognition of his success and was inducted into the World Entrepreneur Hall of Fame in 2015.
In December 2017, Sydney-based firm Mercury Capital Investments bought up shares in the company becoming the majority shareholder. While the cost of those shares wasn’t made public, Mercury is known to only invest in businesses with enterprise values above $50 million.
While Radcliffe remains a shareholder and a director of IVHQ, he was ready for a new challenge.
“I absolutely love being involved with IVHQ. For 12 years it really was my life. But life changes, I had a wife, Renee, we had a child, it was time for something different.”
That something different turned out to be brewing, with Dan and Renee teaming up with Jesse Sigurdsson and Ajinkya (AJ) Jagdale to open up what was to be New Plymouth’s first brew pub - Shining Peak - in 2018. While beer might seem a giant step away from volunteering overseas, there is a common thread.
“People like to do good. Shining Peak gives 5 per cent of all beer takings, that’s takings, not profit, back to the community by supporting a different group each month. So people can come, enjoy great craft beer, good food, and still be doing good.”
Another commonality is the fact both are “good fun”, he adds.
“The brewing journey has been a hell of a lot of fun, and that’s part of it. Things don’t have to be boring to do good.”
He’s got plans to do good in more places too, he says.
“We’ve got a site in Queenstown where we are looking to open up another brewery, we are waiting for now, to see what happens with interest rates and the economy, but the plan is there.”
In addition to his business interests, Radcliffe is a member of the Taranaki Rugby Board, currently serving as chairman, and is a trustee of The Taranaki Foundation - a charitable foundation based in the region.
With his business skills, he could undoubtedly live anywhere in New Zealand, or the world, so why do he and his American-born wife - whom he met in Hong Kong - choose to call Taranaki home.
“We love Taranaki. We love the province, and we love the people. Everything you could want to do is right on your doorstep.”
The region has great golf courses, he says, as well as great scenic walks.
“As a family we love the White Cliffs walkway. You’ve got to get the tide right, but it’s worth the effort. Beautiful views, you get bush, sea. It’s the perfect way to experience the rugged Taranaki coastline.”