Fiona Stevens and Lisa Hayden reckon they are at the forefront of a new era of tech companies that do not fit the traditional mould. The founders and directors of Queenstown company MajorDomo joke they might be two of the only female ”50-somethings” to have won a Deloitte Fast 50 award in their area. The pair recently celebrated the third anniversary of their business which provided visitors to New Zealand with luxury accommodation, experiences and concierge services.
MajorDomo was named fastest-growing technology business in Otago and the lower South Island at the Deloitte Fast 50 regional awards. Now Mrs Stevens and Ms Hayden are heading to Auckland for the annual Deloitte Festival of Fast Growth on November 16.
Joining representatives from other winning companies from throughout the country, they were looking forward to the chance to ”listen and learn”, from business leaders, entrepreneurs and Fast 50 alumni. They would be ”energised” listening to other people’s stories, Mrs Stevens said. The pair were delighted to have their hard work and business growth recognised, saying the award coincided with their business continuing to expand.
That included the launch of a new luxury accommodation, eco and wildlife experience this summer, with an exclusive-use hosted experience at Mahu Whenua Ridgeline Homestead and Eco Sanctuary, owned by record producer Robert ”Mutt” Lange. Mahu Whenua consisted of four high country properties – Motatapu, Mt Soho, Glencoe and Coronet Peak – between Wanaka and Queenstown. Lange’s vision had been to regenerate the land, introducing sustainable farming practices and undertaking an extensive plant regeneration and native bird breeding programme. More than 90% of the land was protected by QEII National Trust covenants. Mrs Stevens said it was a ‘tremendous honour” to be entrusted with the project.
After much deliberation, Lange decided earlier this year to open up the homestead and station to ”like-minded” guests who would be able to share his vision, Ms Hayden said. The women had worked with him on developing the homestead as a fully hosted ”rustic yet modern” lodge and two separate guest cottages. ”It’s hugely exciting news for the luxury tourism industry, especially as the demand for this type of experience is very high for our client base,” Ms Hayden said.
Travel and experiences have been in Mrs Stevens’ blood since she was 19. She came to Queenstown 24 years ago, on the way to Auckland, looking forward to a summer ”doing nothing”. But she never left. In her first week, she was offered a job with the then Queenstown Promotion Board and eventually she had her own tourism marketing company. Ms Hayden and her family have lived in Queenstown for four years, after seven years in Melbourne. ”We came here, as probably a lot of people do, for a sabbatical, and ended up never going home,” she said. She and her partner had both been ”working like crazy” and were looking for a break, somewhere they could do ”outdoors stuff” and de-stress. Before the arrival of three children, Ms Hayden worked in the finance industry as an investment adviser and sharebroker. She later launched a start-up business in Melbourne. The couple loved the Southern Lakes area so much they sold the house they bought in Auckland – and had not spent a night in – and settled in the South. ”We haven’t looked back. It’s been a fantastic move for our family. We feel very settled here,” she said. She loved the idea of start-ups but acknowledged it was important to find a niche that was going to work and to do some research.
There also had to be a passion for the business. ”There’s no point doing it if you don’t like the actual thing that you’re doing,” Ms Hayden said. When it came to a business partner, Mrs Stevens, who has 15-year-old twin daughters, was a good match. She had a very different skill set but the same attitude to life and dedication to service.
The timing was right to launch MajorDomo, with people wanting to get involved in the luxury villa market but they wanted experience, along with trust and knowledge. ”We had to invest significant amounts of money on technology because we’re a technology interface. ”Right from the start, we knew we weren’t playing. It was well researched and we were very lucky both of us were very clear in what we wanted.
”We brought different backgrounds but were very clear on the type of offering and service we wanted to give both owners and guests,” Ms Hayden said. It had been important to understand and respect owners as much as guests, Mrs Stevens added. The Deloitte regional award recognised their business growth married with their early adoption of the latest online technology.
Their website was constantly tweaked and updated. There was sometimes a perception that luxury tourism meant not being approachable, and also being very expensive, Ms Hayden said. She acknowledged some of their properties were ”top end”, but it was about the service clients got from ”whoa to go”, whether they were spending $400 or $3000 a night. Luxury did not mean ”stiff upper lip” and, right from the beginning, the women wanted to have fun. It did not matter whether their client was an A-list celebrity or a family visiting from Perth. Everyone was there for the same thing – to relax.
”Our guests are here to have fun. They’re not going to the dentist, they’re coming to Queenstown to have fun. We need to be like that too,” Mrs Stevens said.
The original article can be found here: https://www.odt.co.nz/business/technology-puts-qtown-company-fast-track