Dan Radcliffe believes the successful global online business he started from his parents’ remote Taranaki farm has only scratched the surface of what’s possible.
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) links travellers with volunteer opportunities across the planet in a range of fields from teaching, childcare, medical and refugee support, to construction, environment and wildlife conservation, sports, art and music.
A former volunteer traveller himself, Dan believed he could build a company offering a better experience at a more affordable rate – an attractive proposition for cash-strapped young travellers.
Founded in 2007 and consisting of Dan, a computer, dial-up internet and a $30,000 loan, prior to COVID-19, IVHQ was the world’s leading volunteer travel company. The New Plymouth central-city office employs 32 staff and another eight are in the tech team in Auckland.
Since its humble beginnings, IVHQ has placed more than 110,000 volunteers in programmes across 52 countries.
“We’re placing around 20,000 people a year, but we see the opportunity being a lot larger than where we are at. We think we’re really only scratching the surface,” says Dan.
Hit hard by the New Zealand borders closing during the COVID-19 pandemic, IVHQ worked quickly to create new initiatives to ensure continued success of the company during a time when international travel was not permitted. Online internships and online language classes were two initiatives rolled out to ensure the company stayed on its feet.
Dan’s success and that of his growing company has drawn attention both nationally and internationally.
In 2014, the Taranaki man was named New Zealand Entrepreneur of the Year and, in 2016, IVHQ was named Taranaki’s best business at the region’s annual Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.
The following year, Sydney-based investment company Mercury Capital bought 77% of IVHQ, enabling Dan to step away from the day-to-day running of the company but remain as a director.
“I was clear that I would love to continue to have the company based here and they recognised there are advantages to basing the company in regional New Zealand,” he says.
“You can build a good workforce here relatively affordably. A lot of our competitors are based out of the likes of London, Los Angeles, and Sydney, and they’re at a disadvantage to us because the wages and rent are much higher.
Dan says the world-class fibre broadband infrastructure and connectivity in Taranaki has enabled the company to grow without being constrained by location.
“Running an online business, the technology infrastructure here is as good as any of the big centres – London, New York, anywhere. The beauty is that you can be based anywhere these days, compete globally and grow at the same time. We’ve relied heavily on our online channels to market ourselves, such as Google Ads and our social media channels. By nailing those key marketing channels we’ve been able to grow effectively from a small provincial city.”
A champion for Taranaki, its lifestyle and enterprise opportunities, Dan sees untapped potential across Taranaki, and is investing further in the region.
In 2019, he entered the thriving New Plymouth hospitality sector, establishing craft brewery and brew pub Shining Peak – a “passion project” with a focus on brewing Taranaki beer that tells Taranaki stories.
He also has farming interests and is looking at diversification.
“We’re doing feasibility studies around bringing kiwifruit into Taranaki and also growing avocados,” he says.
“We want this province to go well into the future. I think we need to start looking ahead and work out how we can use the fertile land we have here.”