In the last 12 months, Venture Beyond has increased its revenue 34 per cent. Owners, Jill and Ian Cammell, attribute much of that growth to their Regional Business Partner funded training with Michelle from Destinate NZ.

Based in Kinloch, just 20 minutes west of Taupō, Venture Beyond offers sightseeing tours and ferry services to Lake Taupō’s Western Bays, which are only accessible by boat.

“Honestly, you need to see them. The Western Bays are a world-class destination that not many people know about,” says Venture Beyond owner, Jill Cammell.

A series of circumstances led to the husband-and-wife duo starting the business during the Covid pandemic.

Ian had been working on the lake as a contract skipper for 15 years when the pandemic hit in 2020, severely impacting his income. Another local boat service didn’t survive the pandemic so Love Taupō and Bike Taupō approached Ian to see if he’d be interested in ferrying mountain bikers to the Great Lake Trails.

Ian and Jill dived into the opportunity, purchasing a boat and opening Taxicat Adventures (now rebranded as Venture Beyond) in early 2021.

Initially they thought their main income stream would be transporting mountain bikers from the Taupō Marina to different parts of the Great Lake Trails, whilst offering sightseeing services on the side.

“But Ian had a real passion for the Western Bays and wanted to share it with others. The business pivoted almost immediately to sightseeing which would prove to be our bread and butter and support us as a Covid startup,” says Jill.

Venture Beyond has now moved its base to Kinloch and created three different sightseeing tours throughout the Western Bays. Its bespoke boat tours explore majestic rock faces, hidden ravines, private beaches, crystal waters and cascading waterfalls.

Jill believes that over the next 12 months the sightseeing side of the business will supersede the mountain bike transportation.

This is the result of the couple’s passion and tenacity to create a truly unique experience for domestic and international tourists.

Ian is the skipper, tour guide and health & safety officer whereas Jill focuses on customer service and manages all the business’s administration needs such as taking bookings and accounts.

As for Jill’s favourite part of being a business owner: “Seeing how happy Ian is to jump out of bed in the mornings and share his passion for our region and the Western Bays! Personally, I really enjoy talking with customers and helping them discover which sightseeing product is best for them.”

“Growing the sightseeing side of the business has also been a real highlight for both of us,” she adds.

Jill says that their biggest business challenges has been the seasonal aspect of the tourism business, the uncertainty around Covid and recent changes to domestic spend.

This led her to apply for Regional Business Partner funding in 2023. She worked with Michelle from Destinate NZ to enhance brand awareness, create a marketing plan, build a business plan and make valuable tourism trade connections.

The trade connections in particular have proved vital with Venture Beyond’s turnover increasing 34 per cent in the last year.

Relationships with tourism wholesalers and travel agents are easily their biggest growth area with these trade connections recommending and booking clients on Venture Beyond’s sightseeing services.

Venture Beyond now has trade connections and markets in Australia, the United Kingdom, United States and Europe.

“I’ve learnt so much and working with Michelle has given me confidence in what I’m doing. Her support has been pivotal to our success,” concludes Jill.

Find out if your business is eligible for Regional Business Partner funding.