You might have heard it from the horse’s mouth, but equestrian travel is going up in style.
Areion Sports Coaches, the trailblazing manufacturer of custom-built horse floats, caravans and 4x4 motor homes in the Bay of Islands, is the latest recipient of Top Energy's $30k Business Development Fund.
Horse riding duo Sean Hallowes and Tanya Bijl set up the company in 2019 after seeing a gap in the New Zealand equestrian market for lightweight, comfortable and fuel-efficient trailers.
With Sean's background in building luxury motorhomes and his experience with composite fibreglass materials and specialist moulds, Areion replaced the heavy steel frames traditionally used in horse floats.
The result is less susceptible to rust caused by horse urine, weighs an average of 300 kgs less, and has well-insulated living spaces with large bays, smooth edges and lots of storage space. Owners and their horses would arrive at events fresh and ready to compete.
Areion's innovative designs have garnered immense popularity, attracting inquiries from as far as Invercargill, and not just for horse floats. They’ve had to expand their product stable to include retrofitting caravans and more recently, manufacturing 4x4 motorhomes (expedition vehicles).
Their success has spurred demand for their product and outstripped current production capacity.
“Since our prototype horse trailer was released in 2021 word-of-mouth sales have been astounding,” says Sean. “We’ve held off marketing to keep up with the number of calls coming in.”
Top Energy's Business Development Fund will provide the financial boost that Sean and Tanya need to scale production. It will be added to Areion's own $30,000 cash injection and used to purchase workshop equipment and more internal fibreglass body moulds, hire staff and prepare for their expansion into Australia.
“Our goal is to get to a point where we build everything in-house. It will help us to streamline our manufacturing process, reduce production timelines and increase the output of our entire product range.”
“It will be great for our Far North economy too. As we expand, we'll employ more people from the local community and train them up in a variety of skills from coach building, engineering, cabinet making, fibreglass technology and spray painting.”
Top Energy's Chief Executive, Russell Shaw, emphasises the company's commitment to supporting businesses that drive economic growth in local communities.
The judges admit they always find it difficult to select a winner from the high-quality applications they receive. Areion’s submission demonstrated innovation, market knowledge, a clear understanding of business, as well as offering the biggest economic impact and opportunity.
The Business Development Fund, launched in 2014, encourages and promotes entrepreneurial initiatives in the Far North region. Grants of up to $30,000 are awarded biannually to businesses with ideas or initiatives that have the potential to diversify and stimulate economic development.
The money is either awarded in full to a single stand-out idea or in smaller amounts to several initiatives, depending on the number, quality and merit of the applications received.
For more information about Areion Sports Coaches, go to: www.areion.co.nz
For more information on the business development fund go to: www.topenergy.co.nz/tell-me-about/sponsorship/business-development-fund