“We provide luxury eco accommodation to the traveling public. We are committed to providing our guests a unique and restful stay with us. Each of our villas are different and one off, making it easy for our guests to choose the best fit for their needs.”

Earthstead Villas

Established: 2010

Location: Cambridge

Website: https://www.earthstead.co.nz

Business mission: “Luxury with Conscience is our motto and guiding statement. We try to hold these two goals in balance with each decision we make regarding our business. Our commitment to our guests is to provide a safe haven of luxury and rest while they are with us. Our commitment to our environment is to leave as smaller footprint as possible, striving to make gradual and consistent changes to help us achieve this goal.

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Our villas are hand made from earth, straw and clay. Hundreds of hours of loving work from ourselves and our fantastic team of volunteers and interns from around the world have helped with the construction of our accommodations. The love, and passion that have gone into these buildings will set them apart from all others, and our guests certainly feel the difference as soon as they arrive. Each villa is unique, with its own personality and special feel.
This is the first time we have entered a business award process, however we have consistently won accolades from the online travel agents we deal with, being in the top few percent of accommodation providers, as voted by our guests.
We wanted to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and share that lifestyle with others. We love our piece of paradise in the Waikato, and decided that deriving our income from this piece of land, growing our own food, raising and butchering our own cattle beasts and pigs, making sausages, milking our cows, making cheese, making our own sourdough bread, etc, and sharing that bounty with our guests would be a most rewarding enterprise. We have always loved meeting new people, so the hospitality business seemed the obvious choice. We chose to build our accommodations in earth because we are passionate about trying to leave as little footprint as possible on this earth. The houses are made from natural products wherever possible and will return to the earth from which they came at the end of their useful days, although we expect the buildings to still be standing when we are long gone. A great legacy.
There were many challenges in the beginning, and some ongoing too. Building houses from earth is relatively unknown in the Waikato, and the Council building inspectors were perplexed in the beginning, but soon realised that our buildings were built to an extremely high standard. At first they stipulated we would need to use treated timber in the construction, but after our architect lobbied them and cited a previous ruling allowing the use of untreated cypress timbers we were allowed to use Macrocarpa and Lawsoniana in the construction. We employed an amazing award winning builder to help with the construction. We have developed a warm friendship with him, and he has continued to work with us on each successive building as our accommodation grew.
Building in earth was completely new to us. The earth bricks we used in making our first building needed to have an engineering certificate validating their strength. This was one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Thankfully our earth bricks passed the tests with flying colours.
The biggest challenge we faced in the beginning was to take on a building project that was extensive and expensive based on our own self belief in our dream. We did not have a lot of encouragement from others, and I am sure they thought we had lost our minds, and some even laughed openly at us. We talked and dreamed so big and could see beyond the mess of the every day grind to make our dream come true. Alistair had the vision to push on, and instilled belief in Suzie and our little team of workers, and we have not looked back.
Our business has exceeded the goals we set for occupancy and income. (maybe we didn’t aim high enough!) We aimed for 30% occupancy, but have consistently achieved better than that, and our income from the business is adequate, if not outstanding. However, we had owned a profitable business before, (we owned a concrete manufacturing business which we sold in 2006), but long hours, lots of stress and being away from home meant we didn’t really enjoy a rewarding lifestyle while we owned that business. So, we would count our lifestyle as one of our greatest business achievements.
We are very proud of our amazing reviews. We love to provide a special experience for our guests, and they love staying with us. It’s a win win, every day we love what we do. We have met so many wonderful people from all over the world.
Our staff are all independent contractors.
For the past 8 years Dave, our son in law has contracted to us for 3 days a week. He is a vital part of our family business, and certainly has our back when we are away and he and our daughter and family move in and run Earthstead for us. We love this family feeling in our business.
Two of our neighbours also are contracted to help with cleaning and gardening on a weekly business, and are also very much a part of our team that make Earthstead special. Chris and Lynnette & Dave and Jess are integral to the smooth running of our business and we value them greatly.
We see ourselves as a team on a journey towards sustainability and work together to learn new ways to be more eco-conscious and healthy. We run fermentation workshops, have started a co-op to buy bulk organic goods, and have regular get-togethers to share our new food and gardening ideas.
As I said earlier, we are very proud of our reviews. We are currently rated at 9.2 out of a possible 10 on Booking.com, and 4.8 out of 5 on Expedia. We are currently rated no 2 for B&B’s out of 30 properties in the Cambridge area, with 135 5 star reviews. We also have 19 4.5 star Google reviews.
As I have said already, we love our business, and that is an amazing gift. We get to meet new people every day, and 99% of those interactions are positive and encouraging for us, and you can’t put a price on that kind of feedback and feeling. We work with a top team who are journeying with us towards a noble goal, what more reward could we want?
We regularly support local Playcentre, Churches, schools and other charities with offering our accommodation as a prize for silent auctions, or raffles etc. We love our community. We are also part of the WWOOF intern programme, and love to teach and encourage these amazing young people from all around the world. We teach them how to make cheese, bread, and to garden and run a sustainable eco accommodation business. They are so alive and full of amazing new ideas, we love to be in their company. Being part of the WWOOF programme makes us sure these amazing young people will be a part of the solutions our world needs to go forward.
We are very proud of the fact that we provide work for two of our neighbours, and our daughter and son in law. We take our role as “employers” very seriously and know both these families rely on the success of our business.

We also take our role as teachers to the WWOOFers seriously, and provide lots of reading material and experiences for them.

We have had close association with the Earth Building Association of NZ and owe a real debt of gratitude to them for the pioneering work they have done in getting the building code for earth building in NZ approved. We hosted the annual conference for the Earth Building Ass 6 years ago as a way of showing our gratitude. We also need to mention the over 700 WWOOFers who have worked with us over the years since we started building. We are still in touch with many of them. In fact two families have decided to move to NZ as a result of their wwoofing adventure. We are in close touch with these two families and are helping in every way we can to make their transition smooth. We have visited many other ex wwoofers on our trips overseas, and many more have revisited us or sent family and friends to stay with us. We love being part of this amazing global community.

There are many others who have helped in so many ways, and make our role as business owner easier. Owning a business can be very lonely, and we have worked hard to build a small community of associates, contractors, and service industries we deal with who share our goals and have mutual trust and support for each other. This is what keeps small communities like Cambridge flourishing and happy places to be.

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