HaloBiz™ launched originally in Hamilton in July 2011 with approximately 2,500 businesses and almost 700 community organisations listed in its directory. After the initial "testing" period it soon became possible for businesses up and down the country to participate.
HaloBiz™ has changed and grown from the idea its General Manager and People Connector Julie South originally imagined in 2008. With valuable help and input from her husband, Alan Breen, it’s now what you see today.
It took over two years to go from conception to inception.
Julie’s original idea looked nothing like the brilliant product you see in HaloBiz™ today. “There were times when I wanted to give up because it all got too hard” says Julie “I’m sure everyone who’s started a business from scratch gets frustrated at times and HaloBiz™ turned out to be no different”
It all started when their dishwasher broke down just prior to Christmas. She hadn’t been living in Hamilton for very long and didn’t know many people who would be able to point her in the right direction. “I had to take pot luck” she says. “I had no idea who would turn up at the door. All I knew was that the only thing we’d have in common was the broken dishwasher”
Crossing her fingers as she dialled, she thought how good it would be if there was a way for people to find businesses based on their interests.
“I imagined, for example, being able to find a dishwasher repair person who was interested in running, or cycling or any other interest that Alan and I shared” says Julie “how good would that be?!? Straight away you’d have more in common than a broken down appliance and, at the same time, with that connection comes an added sense of expectation of a job done better”.
In a world that really is saturated with online directories she knew she had to make something really different and unique plus something that would appeal and make a difference to as many people as possible.
At the time Julie’s sister was fundraising for her son’s football trip to Japan; another friend was fundraising for her son’s sports team and Julie was also involved in fundraising, so it didn’t take long for the fundraising angle to take centre stage.
“I thought doing the market research was time-consuming and challenging, it was nothing compared to finding a web designer with not only the skills to create what we wanted, but who had the professional integrity as well” says Julie.
Both Julie and Alan and thrilled with the product that Peter Morefield and his team at VO2 Web Design have produced. Everyone on Peter’s team challenged them to “dig deep” about what they were creating in order to make it the best possible website ever. “I didn’t think creating a website could be so emotionally draining” she says, “but Peter questioned and challenged us and out of these brain-storming sessions we got the most amazing website – something far better than if his team had just done what we originally asked!”
Prior to HaloBiz™ Julie’s career covered business management, sales and marketing in both large corporates and small business: all which she believes will combine to add value to Halo™’s clients.
Most small businesses don’t usually have the manpower, energy, inclination and/or skill involved to implement the PR and marketing strategies that can make all the difference from being an “ordinary” business to being an “amazing” one”.
HaloBiz™ wants to make a difference in that way too. “We’re going for 100% win/win” says Julie “the advertising business wins because it gets to benefit from Halo™’s unique marketing strategies and campaigns, the community-at-large wins through the added injection of extra funds and customers win because they can now start choosing companies that share common interests – you really can’t get better than that, surely?”