- Saimon Lomaloma CA has established an extreme watersports business in Queenstown
- Lomaloma credits a lot of his success to his accounting experience
- Selling tickets online before the business even existed gave the venture a big head start
By Alexandra Johnson
Spending 50 hours a week on one of the most beautiful lakes in the world is not your average accountant’s schedule. But for Saimon Lomaloma, it’s all part of the job.
The chartered accountant has established an extreme watersports business in Queenstown, Jetboards New Zealand, and while it is only a few months old, Lomaloma is not looking back.
The business delivers adrenalin-fuelled experiences on the lake to thrill-seeking tourists. It has a selection of aquatic motorised contraptions, including flyboards, which enable the rider to fly up to 15 metres above the water; hoverboards, on which you can surf the air; and motorised surfboards which allow you to fly at speeds of up to 57km/h.
“It was a lifestyle choice, I wanted to have a little bit more flexibility and enjoy what I was doing. I came from a corporate background working for an oil and gas company, and now have the freedom to do what I really love,” says Lomaloma.
“I’ve managed to turn something that I would do on the weekend into my nine to five.”
Lomaloma’s passion for the water began as a child growing up in Island Bay, a south coast suburb of Wellington, swimming, diving and playing around with boats. He is also a keen and accomplished rugby and rugby league player, having played both sports at representative level in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
“A big part of me, being sports orientated, was around rugby and rugby league. It took me to London for two years where I made some great friends, travelled to some awesome places and just had an amazing experience. And it was always a tough decision whether to pursue more of a rugby career versus a CA career.”
But on finishing school, the Fijian Kiwi knew that he wanted a tertiary education. While he was the first in his family to go to university, he was given plenty of encouragement and support from his parents and believes one of his greatest achievements was in making them proud.
“I knew accounting would give me a solid background to anything I wanted to do,” he says, “and it has been very valuable in helping me create my business.”
After achieving a degree in accounting at Victoria University, Lomaloma made his sporting sojourn to the UK before returning to New Zealand to become a chartered accountant.
Then, while working full time in the corporate environment, Lomaloma and a couple of friends set up a business hiring out jetskis on the Wellington waterfront.
“It was just a weekend, after hours thing, but it made me realise I could make OK money and do something I love at the same time.”
So in November last year he quit his job at OMV and opened his business in Queenstown.
Lomaloma credits a lot of his success to his accounting experience.
“It’s been invaluable,” he says “My CA background played a huge role, especially with regard to franchising the business, becoming incorporated, and raising finance.”
“I got my bank loan due to my finance background. I have friends who have had real trouble raising money and getting loans for their businesses. They said I was wasting my time wanting an unsecured loan from the bank.”
But, he says, he knew how to sell his case, and achieve compliance from a safety perspective.
“I am used to having the right documentation and know how to manage administration and things. That helps heaps. I even sold some of that knowledge to an Auckland company who were planning on hiring out boards as well.”
Getting on board
With the boards costing around NZ$20,000 however, Jetboards New Zealand was not a cheap business to set up. But Lomaloma was able to garner enough finance and interest to get it off the ground, including selling 100 tickets online for the experience before the business even existed.
“That really helped with set-up costs.”
Also before starting the business, he sold a franchise in Tauranga. The accountant figured if one piece of equipment was hired out ten times per day, he could start paying them off fairly quickly.
He says group bookings have been a huge advantage, as he can sell all three experiences at once to eager tourists. One adrenalin-charged 45-minute spell on the lake costs NZ$200.
The business is unusual in that it offers a choice of three jet activities.
“Most of the companies overseas offer just one, hoverboard, flyboard, or motorised surfboard, but we offer all three,” says Lomaloma, and he has big plans to go further afield.
In May, Lomaloma is heading to Fiji to establish the business there, thereafter intending to spend the summer months in New Zealand and the winter in Fiji. He also has plans to franchise it in other South Pacific islands, and possibly even Greece.
“It’s not a budget experience and I want to set it up where tourists have the means to pay for it. And once I have an established business model it will be much easier to launch elsewhere.”
Apart from location-specific issues, such as compliance and safety, the business model will be the same and be set to go. “Same kinds of customers, same check-in systems and tech. It will be much easier next time”.
My recommendation would probably be to just sit down and think what is it that you really want to be doing — regardless of money or expectations — and if you are happy doing something, work hard for that.
Give it a go
And what advice would Lomaloma give to chartered accountants setting out on their studies and careers?
“You need to do your time, work hard, and pick up the skills to run a business. That comes first.”
But after that, he says, chartered accountancy offers you the freedom and opportunity to pursue anything you want to do. “The role of accountancy is moving from bookkeeping and compliance to being business influencers – they have always done that, but it’s becoming much more so.
“Accountants make key decisions in business, and their soft skills are becoming much more important, such as networking and people skills.”
He says networking plays a huge part in business and your overall success.
“Don’t expect people to know what it is that you’re doing, you need to be out there so people are actually aware what is that you are pursuing.”
“My recommendation would probably be to just sit down and think what is it that you really want to be doing — regardless of money or expectations — and if you are happy doing something, work hard for that.”
He says his CA background gave him the confidence and the skills to realise his dream.
And, he says, don’t wait. If you have an idea, give it a go. “I thought I needed that corporate life, the career thing, but I knew I wanted to be outside, travel, the adrenalin rush of sport. I wanted to be out enjoying life.”
When working in the corporate world he says it was all about month end. But now he’s set to travel and establish his business around the world.
Lomaloma hasn’t however abandoned chartered accountancy, and is still involved with Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand facilitating and marking the Capstone Programme. And with his love of rugby and the skills he has accrued in accounting, Lomaloma is now involved in sport governance — and his dream would be to get a spot on the New Zealand Rugby League Board.
“One of my goals is to get into paid governance roles and having a CA background gives me a sound financial background, so I feel like I have an advantage.”
But at present, his lake-side business is keeping him busy. “The pull between sport and a corporate career was always a struggle,” he says. “I was always trying to carry both, putting half of my energy into my career and the other into sport.” Now, however, he’s happy to focus on his business and enjoy the best of both worlds.
Alexandra Johnson is a freelance writer based in Wellington.
This article was first published in the April 2016 issue of Acuity magazine.