Christchurch was always our target. However Rangitata Island was, at the time, the closest we were able to get to Otautahi and we took the opportunity. This little hamlet just off the State Highway one before the turn off to Geraldine was definitely not a tourist centre. Worse, it was on a stretch of the State Highway where no one ever stops unless they are aviators and know of Russell Brodie’s historical private airfield and World War Two replica aircrafts.
Rangitata in itself came with its own set of logistical challenges from no power, to no water, to no defined grounds maintenance, insufficient storage space, no amenities, among other concerns. Addressing and eliminating these issues to create the environment that we aspired to for Skydiving Kiwis required constant investments of time and energy by the team. We had no doubt that eventually, we would reach a point in our growth where we would need to re-evaluate but at these early stages, it was important to make the most with what we had to execute our short term agendas and did it well with the means we had!
Industry disconnect with regards to mine and Skydiving Kiwis’s innovative approach –
Skydiving Kiwis is a drop zone built by skydivers for skydivers. We stepped into an arena of skydiving centres built by business people for commercial tandem skydiving operations. We were not a clean cut, conveyor belt dropzone, ours was not an in and out bucket list tandem skydiving experience. Our experience was Kiwis as, grassroots skydiving. We made a statement that dropzones could thrive while at the same time welcoming, supporting and embracing sports skydiving and our culture by growing a small but motivated sports jumping crew. Because they felt welcomed and were able to jump after not having had a base to jump at, they in turn helped us with our commercial operations. I was very clear from the beginning that this was the first phase of my agenda and that this strategy would raise questions and ruffle feathers.
Soon after opening, we received our first backlash from existing operators questioning the legitimacy and safety of our approach to skydiving and focus on sports skydiving over commercial operations. In response I doubled up on ensuring that all policies were formulated in a way that incorporating best policies curated specifically for the Skydiving Kiwis ecosystem. Tandem and fun jumping numbers have increased consistently every year since.
As a young CEO, a full time skydiver and visibly not the CEO image that other business people necessarily expected; doing business in Mid Canterbury, I personally faced a certain level of prejudice towards me. Skydiving Kiwis is an extension of who I am. I never traded my identity as a skydiver first and foremost for a more polished business one, although I have adapted to the changing business environments I now have to frequent. Initially, arriving at business and/or council meetings in jeans and skydiving tshirts, sporting dreadlocks and a casual attitude unsettled a few people; and still does. However, I also always arrived prepared and ready to speak for the sport, the lifestyle and the industry I love, in my words and from my perspective. Over the years, I have gained a solid reputation in all three stakes that Skydiving Kiwis has its fingers in and I through my company and I am proud to have done that by staying true to who I am and to the mission and vision of Skydiving Kiwis.
It is my opinion that Skydiving Kiwis and myself have proven that it is possible to get through with ‘what you know’ and work out ‘who you need to know’ through the journey. I’d like to add that while this is true, this “strategy” does take patience as it is the longest road travelled.