For the first "Thursday Things" entry in the Journal, I chat to Brooke and Maggie from Riverside Escapes in Northland. I love their outlook on life and their warm, friendly welcomes everytime I meet up with them! With an impeccable taste for style, three incredible dogs and a cosy little spot down by a river, let's find out why they ditched the Zoo!
What inspired you to start your business?
We had spent a combined 33 years working at Auckland Zoo, Brooke was an Elephant Keeper for 15 years then became to Curator of mammals for the last 7. I (Maggie) was in the Visitor experience section.
Around 2016, we were both becoming quite disillusioned with zoo life and began to consider another way of living in another place. That place was unknown to us, however, the way we wanted to live was very clear. We wanted freedom, space, a creative platform with opportunities to plant new seeds that we would nurture and grow into a cleaner, healthier more sustainable lifestyle for us and the planet.
Tell us about your business!
We share a taste of freedom with people.
We have created a business where people come and stay at our little, off grid cabins, on our Olive grove and get to experience all that we dreamed for ourselves. An off-grid escape, space to dream, to be with each other without distraction of busy lives, limited cell phone coverage, slowing down, being ‘with’ nature and feeling free for just a short time. The positive affect a few days can have on people is quite remarkable. We also produce some pretty special Olive Oil.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started?
To look through a guest’s eyes, rather than what we thought would work at the time. Without a doubt, experience is key to success, and it has served us really well when building our second cabin. We are more informed, better conditioned and smarter.
What we know and what is super important to a guests' experience is a comfy bed;, a great space that is connected, but also separate and a feeling of “I’m being looked after here’.
Who is your dream client?
Honestly, it’s anyone who wants to check out of their busy lives for a few days, who want to re-connect with themselves, with each other and with nature.
Predominately, our main client is 25–35-year-old professionals, however, it’s not exclusive and many a seasoned couple have checked in and simply affirmed to themselves that they have got ‘this lifestyle’ right. They are familiar with what we are offering, and simple want to top up their already established feeling. Glamping (a category we fall into) is a relatively new ‘term’ and focusses on offering a more luxurious camping experience, like comfy beds, outdoor baths, lovely linen and an indoor space with log burners when it's cold or wet.
If you could change anything in your business - is there something you would go back and change?
We would probably have backed ourselves more and built 2 or even 3 cabins straight away. But hindsight is a great thing, and we just didn’t have the experience, the confidence or the money at the beginning to go high.
How do you juggle the daily grind?
When you have chosen, designed and then created your lifestyle, it’s difficult to allow daily grind be a part of it. Saying that, we do get days when we just need a break and we escape to the beach, hop on our paddleboards, and head off down our river (which is another huge bonus of where we live) for a few hours. We also have 3 amazing dogs who do a fine job at staving off any boredom.
Where do you love to go to unwind?
We go to the gym and there are local cafes, great walks, awesome markets and days away that enable us to check ‘out’ when we have to.