Anyone with children or has any connection to Canberra schools would be aware of a publication called “Holiday Happenings”. It’s a little guide to all the great holiday programs for your children, to help them to stay meaningfully engaged, and for you to keep your sanity intact. But few would realise what a great business story lies behind it.
I had been getting the notifications for years, advising me whenever the next issue was available to book advertising space, but I hadn’t used it recently as I was not running my usual holiday writing courses for a while. So, I ignored the emails, but of course, saw the publication around the traps whenever I visited schools. Then, one day, everything changed.
The emails were suddenly more dynamic and there were announcements about an App being launched. Being a tech junkie, I investigated – and what a great App it was! The business kept sending regular emails with consistent improvements and more enhancements were planned for the near future and so, my curiosity got the best of me. I had to meet the dynamic duo behind it all.
Kristine and Nathan Price met me at NextGen gym, which happens to be my gym and where Nathan works as a high-performance tennis coach with Tennis World, a business unit of Tennis Australia. It turned out that this young couple had been customers of Robyn (the original owner/initiator of the mag), and when she decided to retire, they jumped at the opportunity.
That’s what entrepreneurs do – right?
It was originally Nathan’s idea and as Kristine was at home with young children, they saw it as a great part-time business opportunity that had enormous potential for expansion down the track.
They decided they would systematise it and modernise it by taking it online. They set about building an App to make the booking system easier, and access to the information simpler for the clients. It took quite a lot of work (and moola no doubt), to develop such an App in precisely the way they wanted it to work, and after a few months of intensive development – there it was – and is – a beautiful, user-friendly App that pushed all my buttons, and that of the other advertisers, thankfully.
Indeed, with the introduction of the new App, the business picked up too. And it kept increasing in volume. The feedback was wonderful from the schools and parents involved, and most recently they announced another innovation – a new Android version of the App.
As we talked about the business, it was clear that they have big plans for the future.
“Perhaps we might expand to other states, one day. But for now, we need to consolidate the systems here and get it running like clockwork.” Nathan tells me.
Of course, Nathan and Kristine have been involved in business before, running the Price Tennis Academy. Nathan himself has travelled the world due to his tennis career, so he’s good (I am told) in the world tennis scene. The pair met at tennis too, at the age of 14 years, and they’ve been a strong partnership in business and in life ever since.
Don’t you love those stories?
The couple believes in working closely with their advertisers and their end-users; a win/win/win formula in my books.
Nowadays, they can, and do, use technology to incentivise their clients and offer great deals to them, and their parent clientele gets good deals in turn. You will find plenty of tennis coaching in the Holiday Happenings, (as you would expect), but much, much more as well.
The couple is open to feedback and listens to ideas from their customers and they are not afraid to be flexible or even change course whenever it’s required. They are both life-long learners (why am I not surprised?), and they have learnt a lot from being in this business.
“Firstly, you should never assume, and it pays to do customer-centric surveys, as often you will be surprised. Sometimes, the customer wants something different to what you might have thought they needed.” Nathan tells me.
“The hardest thing for me to learn was not to take any criticism to heart,” Kristine adds, “when you deal with the public there are always going to be a small number of difficult clients and you need to learn how to deal with them. Thank goodness, the majority are wonderful. Just wonderful.”
So far, in fact, they are pleased with the way the business is developing and are getting into the rhythm of the seasonal nature of the publications, with a heavy build-up toward the end of term and some light relief for a few weeks after the booklet goes out.
“It’s the perfect business for us as I am the person who runs the business and Nathan is the ideas guy and a great support in the background.” Says Kristine. “And not to mention, we love it!”
I will be interested to see where this business goes, as they never stand still and/or cease to amaze. I predict that they will continue to buck the trends in business and we will hear more about them as time progresses.