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King Of The Road

by fatweb

By Davina Richards

You’ve probably seen her. Leaning over and blowing a cheeky kiss in your direction, usually accompanied with the slogan ‘Be JUCY, Live JUCY, Rent JUCY’. She appears in all her glory on the back of the distinctive green and purple rental campervans, gracing the roads across New Zealand and abroad.

Well her name is Lucy, a fun-loving 1950s pin-up girl who revels in adventure and the spirit of travelling, and she anchors the JUCY brand.
Behind the scenes is Tim Alpe, one half of JUCY’s founders. He and his brother Dan launched the company 13 years ago, working from a small garage in Parnell, Auckland. Tim was 27 and Dan 25 at the time.
Following the success of JUCY here in God’s own, the company jumped across the pond in 2008, stuck a Kiwi flag in the sand and added some street value to Australian roads.
America was the latest market JUCY broke into in 2012, but this was no unlikely landing strip for the leading tourism business which already raves JUCY Cruise Milford Sound, a JUCY hotel in Auckland and JUCY car and campervan hire across New Zealand, Australia and the US.
The New Zealand tourism industry, much like Kiwi innovation, is a growing success story and still gaining momentum. So what better way to make a living than to help people have a good time on holiday?

The road to success

Success is almost never a straight smoothly climbing line. It’s more of a spaghetti junction with the arrow barely piercing through the top.
You’ve pretty much made it once you’ve by-crossed the American border, but for Tim, success hasn’t come without the odd blip along the way. One of his earliest and biggest business decisions was to change the company name from Ezy Rentals to JUCY, where he admits they were a bit naïve and didn’t consider trademarks and protecting the brand.
“When we rebranded to JUCY we realised the importance of really focussing on creating a brand, as opposed to just having a business and we have created something with universal appeal that can cross into different sectors. Suffice to say the worst decision was not to focus on the brand at the outset,” Tim says.
“I think for us it’s really about ascertaining what are the best opportunities for the business, as there are plenty of opportunities for us to ‘Jucy-fy’ the world. But i

t’s about selecting the opportunities that best suit the brand and the business, and I suppose concentrating on the ones we know well and not focussing on opportunities that maybe aren’t right for the time being. And making sure we have the right people around us to achieve those goals.”

Like for any business, and for any business wanting to permeate the largest market in the world, challenges are inevitable and some seem almost impossible until they’re achieved.
Tim says launching into the US was like dealing with 52 different countries. Different states with each detailing red tape and different time zones were consuming factors; he waited six months to secure a business license and four months to get a bank account.
“We overcame these obstacles by placing an employee from NZ HQ into the US for three months to help write the business plan. She understood JUCY and the brand and how we operated, and we put her into California for three months to help us write the business plan.
“Then we also looked to work with an existing operator up in the US for the first two years of operation which enabled us to get on the ground without having the expense of big leases and other major overheads. We made sure that we had our own staff in the market early on to really look after the best interests of the business and our customers.”


Onwards and upwards

JUCY back home refuses to stand still. It has shifted into a different industry sector by moving from traditional rental cars and campervans into accommodation; the first JUCY hotel opened in Auckland in 2010.
“We had a huge amount of interest from our customers who wanted places to stay and they wanted to stay with JUCY throughout their journey, so we spotted the opportunity and launched the hotel in Auckland. It was a new learning curve for us, but it’s been fantastic,” he says.
While the company plans to roll out the hotel/accommodation offering in Christchurch and other sites, JUCY continues to expand its vehicle side of the business in America and a new range of JUCY rental cars have just hit Australian roads.
“We are not good at saying no to opportunities and have been fortunate to have a board around us that’s been able to ask tough questions – is this the right thing for the business? And then having the balls to turn around and say no, don’t do it.”
Arguably the biggest game changer for the business was moving from rental cars to campervans.
“We worked with boat builders to design a vehicle which was totally unique, using fiberglass and it proved a lot more cost-effective than our competitors. Also painting our vehicles green and purple when traditional motor homes were usually white created a huge amount of interest and a community of JUCY people driving and parking up together.
“Moving offshore to Australia in 2008 was also a huge milestone – we were unproven in overseas markets at that time and by launching there we proved we could go international, and this led on to the US.”
JUCY has its own campervan manufacturing division called JUCY by Design and is where the campervan units are built onto the imported second hand Japanese vans. JBD is based in Auckland and Los Angeles.
Spreading the word
These days guerrilla advertising is what successful marketing material is made from and since the beginning JUCY was prone to try a bit of left field advertising to promote the brand, including parking campers outside tourist hotspots to get noticed.
“We had quirky merchandise such as branded g-strings and we sponsored unusual events like jelly wrestling – all the things that were a little bit controversial we got involved with.
“The guerrilla marketing was an inexpensive way to get our product out there and promote the business as we didn’t have the luxury of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising. So we had to be creative and by being a little bit risky we definitely caught the attention of people,” he says.
A strategy which worked a charm and couldn’t have been pulled off without the help of its dedicated and loyal JUCY crew.
It could have been (embarrassingly) misspelled or it could have been intentional, but the letter ‘i’ has been left out in its company name JUCY. I’ll just assume it’s because there is no ‘i’ in team because JUCY is a little family unit drenched in a culture all of its own. In fact, there have been five JUCY weddings and six or seven JUCY babies from people who have met as a result of working together.
“Culture is key within any organisation and this is totally true with JUCY. We are a marketing business and our people are our biggest asset. We have a person whose full time role is Queen of Culture and her role is that we get the right people on board, induct them accordingly and really invest in people. We don’t have an HR department at JUCY – we have a Queen of Culture and a People Jucyfier and we are prepared to invest in our people.”
Driving desire
Tim’s work life began with Tourism Holdings Ltd in Los Angeles, Auckland and Melbourne. But there’s no denying that even as a young lad, Tim’s fate was always to be in business. His father, Chris, started Maui campervans in the 80s, to which Tim recalls cleaning campervans with his brother Dan every
school holidays.
“Dad has been instrumental in helping Dan and I grow and establish the business, and he is still very involved. About two years ago we were struggling a little bit in the US and we sent him up there for a month to help out. He ended up buying a house there and spending about seven months of the year there helping us with the business.
“Dan and I have learnt a lot from him about the industry, how you grow and handle a fast growing, fast moving business and he is hugely influential in the way we have established the business.”
His father’s advice was to “employ your weaknesses”. “As it turns out we have about 247 weaknesses. It’s really important to appreciate you can’t do everything yourself and to get the right people around you to help you really achieve your goals.”
Tim clearly works hard to make a living, but he also doesn’t forget to make a life too. After all, what’s money and success if you don’t have anyone to share it with? He runs an international business and has a wife and three children aged three to eight, so you can imagine the demands of equal attention.
His brother Dan, is equally adept at juggling work and family life with his wife and two young children. But Tim says business and life is all one in the same.
“I’m an active relaxer so I’m always out doing stuff with the kids like taking them to tennis, school etc. I went to Hawaii last year with my wife and as long as I got three or four hours work done in the morning, then I was pretty good company in the afternoons.
“I’m not good at doing nothing. I’ve never slept-in in my life.”
If you’re not here for a long time, but here for a good time, JUCY keeps its brand promise of funky and comfortable travel services at budget prices for those who’ve got the travel bug.
Jucy awards:

  • Tim Alpe won Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2010
  • 2011 Winner University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs’ Challenge
  • 2013 Joint winner in the NZTE International Business Awards – AUT Business School Most Innovative Business Model
  • 2013 Finalist in NZTE International Business Awards – ANZ Best Business category
  • For the seventh year in a row, JUCY was awarded the prestigious Golden Backpack Award 2013 for Best Car/Camper Rental in New Zealand.

Jucy facts:

  • 2,700 vehicles
  • More than 240 staff
  • One hotel
  • One cruise boat
  • Operates in 13 locations in NZ, Australia and USA
  • 300,000 people drive, sleep and cruise JUCY each year
  • More than 21,000 Facebook fans
  • 7,300 Twitter followers
  • More than one million You Tube views.


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