Fifth-generation farmer Tim Loughnan has turned his passion for jetboating into a business which provides diversification opportunities for his family’s 330-hectare sheep and beef farm near Cheviot.
“Dad’s always been really open to diversification; we’re a dryland farm so we’re susceptible to going dry and we’ve always been passionate about showing people around,” says Tim. “My parents did bus tours with the neighbours and rented out a farm cottage to visitors.
“I’ve always been into jetboating and the farm borders the Hurunui River, so I thought I’d give it a go.”
Tim set up Energy Jet 18 months ago and has also started a glamping business with his family. His new venture allows him to pursue his passion, while still being able to help his dad Mike on the farm.
“Our farm’s not big enough to employ both of us full-time so it was ideal for me to set up a business which complements the farm.”
Having a reliable Internet connection is vital for Tim’s jet-boating operation. “We rely on good connectivity because we’re not based at a tourism location. Most people find our website via Google searches and you need to respond to emails and messages quickly.”
He engaged a marketing consultant to set up his website and to provide a marketing plan for the business. “Probably the best piece of advice I can give to someone starting a business, especially in a rural area, is to find a marketing expert to create a plan for your business.
“I am doing it step by step and its still early days, but having a plan helps you stay focused.”
Tim has more than 700 followers on his Facebook page and more than 800 people are following his Instagram page. He regularly posts photos, videos and updates to engage with his audience.
“Everything is online now, I’m on my phone all the time looking at other ideas. I like seeing what everyone else is doing and what’s out there.”
Being only an hour away from Christchurch makes Hurunui an ideal spot to show tourists a slice of rural New Zealand, and Tim sees his venture as benefiting the wider community. “It’s a good place to stop off on the way to Kaikoura and the more we can offer the better.
“We’re trying to do that with the glamping and jet boating, and we’re also doing farm tours.”
Most of Energy Jet’s customers are domestic tourists, along with some international travellers. Tim loves sharing the beauty of the Hurunui region with visitors, while highlighting local produce and taking a sustainable approach to his business.
“The river has always been part of our lives, so we enjoy sharing it with others. We have a “leave nothing behind” approach to protect the environment. There’s nothing better than taking a ride up the river and then stopping for a BBQ with fresh, locally sourced produce
The next step for Tim is linking up with other local businesses to provide packages for tourists. “We’re keen to create connections and provide a unique experience for visitors which showcases our region to the wider world.”