Trading the city for the far north was the best move Maggie Dalziel and Brooke Noonan could have made. The second best, for their business, was reaching out to Rocketspark Design Partner Natalie White, who gave them a new brand identity.
Natalie (Nat), Creative Director at Magic fingers Graphics, worked with the couple on their business website for Riverside Escapes and was nominated for three different awards in relation to that work at the Rocketspark 2021 Launch Partner Awards. She won two of them; Best Branding Package and Best Client Impact, only just missing out on the Website of the Year award.
It was almost five years ago now that Maggie and Brooke came up to the far north. Prior to that they were both living in Auckland and working at Auckland Zoo.
“We worked there for a combined 33 years, Brooke did 22 of them. We decided we really wanted to do something else, something different, somewhere different and just live life a little bit different,” Maggie said.
Maggie is originally from Scotland and Brooke was brought up in the Hawkes Bay.
The duo wanted to look for a piece of land where they could build not only a house, but a dream around what their life might look like in the future.
“We didn’t have a particular place in mind. We were looking everywhere, from the West Coast, to Hawkes Bay, to Nelson, and we didn’t actually have Northland on our radar,” Maggie said
It wasn’t until a friend of theirs recommended they head up to Northland and have a look, and on the day they were leaving the property they now call home went on the market.
“We thought, ‘why not just go have a look’? The vendors met us at the front gate and they said ‘let's walk rather than drive’.
“We walked around the property and we found 500 olive trees and an amazing river that flows along the front and literally the first thing we said to each other was ‘oh my god, the dogs would love this!’,” Maggie said.
The couple have four dogs, and Brooke said it was a big priority for them to find somewhere that suited them, too.
“We wanted to be able to spend more time with them. Where we were in Auckland, we were leaving for work at 5am and not getting home until 5/5:30pm and it just really wasn’t fair on them, or us. We had stressful jobs and that started affecting our health and wellbeing, it was a good time to leave hectic Auckland and our hectic lifestyle and jobs,” Brooke said.
Another big thing about the land was that it had amazing 360 views that it would never lose, making it a unique destination. Maggie and Brooke had been wanting to incorporate glamping into their new business and the land matched everything they wanted to provide for their future guests, themselves and their dogs.
“We are still growing into it, we are the kind of people who like ongoing projects. We like to keep developing, we’re thinking of a third cabin at the moment. There’s a lot that we can develop on this land because there is just so much potential.”
They bought the land and moved on November 4, 2016.
The pair were really focused on trying to build a house that was sustainable. They wanted to make the whole property off grid, including the cabins that guests come and stay in.
“It was brilliant when we achieved that,” Maggie said.
In the time between the first and second one opening, Brooke said they’d learnt a lot about what guests wanted and needed.
“It was really interesting looking at what they needed, but also what they took from it and seeing the difference in how they arrived to how they left, it’s been a really cool journey to tap into,” Brooke said.
Not long after The Green Rabbit opened, Covid came along and no one knew what was going to happen.
“You can’t predict the future, you can't plan for business,” Brooke said.
But when they opened again in late May 2020 they were booked out right through to their busy summer season.
“Usually we will get weekends booked up no problem, but we were getting weekdays booked out, we were just slammed with both cabins. Which was fantastic, but a lot of hard work. Everyone was travelling, it was incredible.
“It’s only just slowed down this month [May], it’s still busy, but we have days in between where we haven’t got guests in the cabin and that’s kind of like a nice little breather,” Brooke said.
Brooke said it was incredible because their name was spread far and wide. This was partly due to a website redesign by Nat.
Nat, who has been a Rocketspark Design Partner since 2017, said Riverside Escapes could have been hit hard during Covid, especially with restrictions on businesses throughout 2020 in New Zealand.
“After reaching out for a web audit via my Instagram DMs, they upgraded to a redesigned site, from a do-it-yourself WIX site, to Rocketspark late in 2020.
“A well designed site has given them more credibility online with presence and images, greater Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), 'organic searches' results and a ripple-like effect of referrals their way.
“Looking at referral analytics, they generally have approximately 38% in direct searches, 31% via social media and 26% via organic searches. Knowing that almost 40% of users are coming in directly has been an interesting stat that we didn't think would happen.”
Nat said she wanted the website to be true to Maggie and Brooke’s character and let it shine through their business. She wanted them to rest easy knowing they had a seasoned designer looking after them.
“Changing the website completely and building it on Rocketspark definitely increased their success. Building it with sound knowledge of heading styles, keywords implemented in content, doing the hard work in the back end with SEO helper Flint and adding alt tag text on images - all of the little details support the good looking front end of the site,” Nat said.
Brooke said it was great working with Nat, especially as she took time to visit Riverside Escapes to learn more about the business and what the ladies were after.
“Talking to Nat is so easy. She’s just so laid back and she loved our property and accommodation. I’d started a website, so I asked her to have a look and give us some pointers,” Brooke said.
Maggie said Nat was really encouraging, and she understood what they were trying to do.
“It’s quite easy to assume and think somebody wants something, but she didn’t do that. She ended up coming and staying in one of the cabins by herself to get a real immersive experience. We say people come one way and they leave another way and the next day she was like, ‘I get it’,” Maggie said.
Brooke said they’d played around with a few sites before so they had an idea of what they wanted and they had heaps of content, but what Nat brought was the branding.
“We didn’t have our own font, she popped the layout, the colours, graphics and she really just polished everything up. She also helped heaps with SEO and other background stuff that I struggle with.
“It’s hard to explain branding to people until you see it and suddenly it makes sense and she just nailed that for us.
“We’ve been getting repeat visitors, and visitors from all over the country, not just Auckland, which is fantastic.”
Brooke said Nat had handed over the reins of the website, but she was still available if they needed her.
“Nat is just so hard working and we’ve seen her grow over the past year and she has a waiting list of, I think, 6-8 months, so she’s going places. She’s done some really amazing work,” Brooke said.
Maggie said as customers, they loved to support Nat by giving back where they could because she’s supported them so much.
“Nat moved here all the way from Cambridge to be with her hubby on his farm and it could’ve gone either way for her, but she’s made it work and she’s just doing so well. And she’s only 40 minutes from us, which we really like,” Maggie said.
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