WHO: huntinghq

Founder: Marc Featherstone

HQ: Christchurch

website: huntinghq.com

What products, services, solutions, or technology have you developed?

HuntingHQ is a unique SaaS marketplace that solves a variety of pain points for landowners, hunters, and other recreational users.

HuntingHQ puts landowners in control with access to our powerful hunter management and booking system, insured and vetted hunters, PCBU Health and Safety support, simplified wildlife control, and additional income. All bookings can be managed easily via an App on the landowner’s phone.

At the touch of a button hunters can view an extensive range of unique properties right throughout NZ; each property listing provides the hunter with all the information they require to book a successful hunting trip, including types of wildlife and accommodation availability for extended trips, and a multi-user trip organiser which keeps everyone invited on the hunt up to date with the latest information.

What key customer problems or customer “wants” does your solution solve?

During the past decade or so, hunters have found it increasingly difficult to access bountiful land to participate in their chosen recreational sport. Safety has also become an issue with much public DOC land being inaccessible, and the land that is accessible being overcrowded and overhunted.

Upon hearing that many property owners are no longer permitting hunters access to their land, we began interviewing the rural community, asking the question ‘What would it take for you to allow a stranger with a gun to come onto your property to hunt unwanted wildlife?’. The most common reasons landowners turn hunters away include security, control, health and safety compliance and insurance. When questioned, landowners were quick to admit they would appreciate help ridding their properties of the unwanted wildlife destroying their land and livelihood.

In New Zealand, our beautiful countryside is slowly but surely being decimated by introduced and unwanted wildlife; the destruction of our native flora and fauna, affects survival of our native bird and animal species.

The services provided by HuntingHQ enable landowners and hunters to build lasting relationships beneficial to both parties; resolves the problems mentioned above and supports the conservation of Aotearoa.

Rangitoto Lands Hunt Block

Who and where are your target customers?

Our target customers are landowners who have problems with unwanted wildlife destroying their property and livelihood; and hunters who are looking for unique, bountiful, and safe places to hunt.

As HuntingHQ is an online platform currently accessible to the whole of New Zealand, and we have received many enquiries from overseas, we intend to duplicate this concept worldwide.

How and when did you first come up with the idea for your business?

In 2020, thirty years since I last hunted, I decided to get back into hunting, both for the pleasure of being out in our incredible countryside, and to fill my freezer. I soon discovered that this was going to be easier said than done, as friends in the hunting community informed me it was becoming increasingly difficult to access decent hunting properties. This prompted me to ask further afield, and after repeatedly receiving the same feedback, I decided to find out why landowners, who I knew were struggling with unwanted wildlife, were unwilling to allow hunters onto their properties.

Hearing both landowners and hunters’ viewpoints, I could see that both groups would benefit from working together and I realised that if I could resolve the issues faced by landowners, everyone would win. HuntingHQ was born out of a ‘need’ for unique, bountiful, and safe recreational space, and grew into a way to support landowners to manage their unwanted wildlife and keep NZ beautiful.

What are three things about your business that you are proud of?

What started as a way to access better hunting land, has grown into something I am immensely proud of. From the beginning the concept of HuntingHQ was to build a community of like-minded people who would work together, ‘in the kiwi way’, to help each other out, and this has proven to be true beyond my wildest dreams.

Many of our landowners live in remote places without the ability to socialise regularly; they are thoroughly enjoying getting to know our hunters; trust is being rebuilt and friendships are forming as hunters’ book multiple trips to their favourite hunting spots. HuntingHQ is quite literally helping address an unspoken social issue in the rural community… isolation and loneliness.

Put yourself in the shoes of a dairy farmer struggling with 3,000+ Canadian geese (the equivalent of 100 cows) destroying their pastures and livelihood? And imagine how you would feel when hunters arrive, and they want to pay you for the privilege of helping you get rid of those pests? Many of our landowners have been blown away at how much additional income they are making from their ‘problem’. From the other perspective, it’s amazing to have hunters calling us to say how happy they are to pay a nominal fee for a day’s hunt to bring home with meat to help feed their whānau; and hunters who have expressed their gratitude that they can now safely take their family hunting and teach their children about safety and responsibility in the great outdoors, and how to treat wildlife with the respect it deserves. It feels good to be providing a service which supports landowners improve their land quality and productivity, and income; and to encourage families to safely enjoy the outdoors, and improve their ability to feed their whānau.

I am also incredibly proud of the comprehensive hunter vetting and management processes that we have designed to ensure we have a high calibre of hunters. All our hunters are vetted and must past a stringent firearms safety and farm etiquette exam before being given access to our property listings. We then continue to manage our hunters’ behaviour with a 5-star rating system and property owner feedback. If hunters drop below a 4-star rating, their account is automatically suspended, pending an investigation. We have a great relationship with our hunters who regularly call us to chat or we contact them for feedback, which also encourages them to see themselves as ambassadors’ for HuntingHQ.

HuntingHQ is a win/win for everyone; and every day I see the positive impact of HuntingHQ on those around me.

How do you market your business and what advice do you have for others around marketing?

HuntingHQ uses social media, rural events, radio, and publication marketing.

One of the best forms of marketing we encourage is organic word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing which occurs naturally when people become advocates because they are happy with a product and have a natural desire to share their support and enthusiasm. You can’t beat this and it’s a lot cheaper than other forms of marketing.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in building your business so far?

When HuntingHQ went live everything seemed too good to be true; great farmer and hunter uptake, everyone booking trips and the feedback was super positive. I kept thinking I had missed something, where was the catch? When it came time to raise capital, organisations were incredibly impressed with the HuntingHQ business model, traction, metrics, and opportunity to scale worldwide. BUT… their mandates prevented them from investing due to the choice of sport. It soon became apparent that this was our biggest challenge; we had to change tactics and reach out to private investors who understood farming, land ownership and hunting.

What is the biggest entrepreneur lesson you would like to share with other Kiwis thinking of starting their own business?

People are always full of well-meaning advice, but they do not fully understand your business. Network with lots of people, asking them the same questions over and over, and eventually you will see a common theme and have your true answer.

Innovation Nation is a series celebrating stories of innovation and diversity in entrepreneurship from around New Zealand.

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