JUCY is a New Zealand owned and operated business with family at its heart.
Back in 2001, two Kiwi brothers decided to take a gamble and start a car rental business with just 35 cars. Years later, Tim and Dan Alpe's vision has developed into New Zealand's most recognisable fleet of campervans and a thriving car rental operation, with more than 4000 vehicles in total across four countries. Then there's JUCY Cruise, with two cruise boats in Milford Sound, and JUCY Snooze, an accommodation business with a rapidly expanding number of JUCY branded hotels.
Here is Tim's story, in his own words, about how he went from failing university to creating this immensely successful tourism business.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Auckland but spent three years at boarding school in Hamilton, where I went when I was just 10 years old. While it was tough and I spent a lot of time homesick, it taught me a lot about being independent and set me up well for the future.
I grew up with a father who had his own business and who taught my brother and me the importance of hard work and focus, and an amazing mother who ensured we had a safe and loving home life. I had an amazing childhood and am so grateful for the opportunities that were given to me.
I was very lucky that I had parents who encouraged me to take risks and not to get down when things didn’t go to plan. This helped when we set up JUCY and also helped when I had my own family.
Brothers Tim (left) and Dan (right) with an early JUCY campervan
Did you go to university?
I'm sorry to say that I wasn’t the greatest student when I was at school, and while I gained university entrance, my university experience wasn’t very successful.
I tried twice to go to university and failed badly both times. I struggled to concentrate and was easily distracted by other opportunities. While I regret not doing better, I'm also grateful for what I learnt over those two unsuccessful years, as it taught me some valuable life lessons.
Not getting a qualification taught me that I had to work very hard to ensure JUCY's success. I often wonder if I would have set up my own business if I hadn't failed at university. I'm in awe of anyone who graduates uni, but I also know it’s not for everyone and doesn’t guarantee success.
Ironically, I went back to university 20 years later and completed a three-year course at Harvard Business School. Good things take time, as they say.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I was lucky enough to grow up in a very entrepreneurial family. I knew from an early age that I wanted to have my own business and that it best suited my personality and skills. I was fortunate to have a brother who also felt the same way and who was prepared to take the sometimes more challenging road of owning a business, rather than working for someone else.
How did you come up with the idea for JUCY?
The idea for JUCY came while we were on a family holiday and was born on the back of the fact that we loved tourism and had previously worked for a rental company.
We knew we wanted to create a fun, engaging brand that would be appealing to the 18-35-year-old travellers, as it felt like this was a market that wasn’t being serviced well by existing operators.
What factors have been key to your success?
The main reason JUCY has been successful is that I was able to start and grow the business with my brother Dan. The advantage of doing business with family is that you trust them 150% and know that they believe in this business as much as you do. JUCY wouldn’t be anything like it is today without family.
In the beginning, we were young and had very little to lose by taking the gamble to set up our own business. We had no wives, kids or mortgages and as such felt like there was no risk in giving this a go. The arrogance of youth was a massive help in giving us the confidence to jump into our own business.
Another important factor is passion for our business and our customers. We absolutely love what we do and get a massive kick out of seeing our customers loving their JUCY journey. We wouldn’t have been able to grow a business if we were offering something like accounting services. Nothing against accounting, but we are just like our customers and love travelling to amazing places. It’s a lot easier to sell what you do if you love it!
And we could never have done this without our dedicated, passionate team. We are very fortunate to have a team that believes in what we are trying to do and who are as passionate about JUCY as we are. We have four values in our business - fun, family, pride and passion. These are values that all 400 people at JUCY live by every day, and what drives what we do as a business.
What problems have you had to overcome on your JUCY journey?
We experienced a lot of challenges, especially in the early days. We were two young guys trying to persuade banks, landlords and customers that we knew what we were doing and could pull off this business thing.
While being young was a huge advantage, it was also a major challenge for us as we weren’t taken that seriously. We overcame this by delivering on what we said we would do. Actions speak louder than words. It's a lot easier to be taken seriously when you're producing results.
The other challenge was stopping ourselves from getting down when things didn’t go to plan. Starting a business is tough and can be stressful, especially in the first few years. We worked seven days a week for a long time, which meant we had no social life at all. It was made even more difficult by the fact that our mates were living overseas doing their OE and we were working nonstop. It’s great now but was tough in the early days.
What are the key ways in which JUCY is still developing?
Innovation is critical to our business and something that we focus on every day. We must be constantly looking at how we can improve our offering and do that by asking ourselves every day, “How much better can it be?”
People, People, People
Our greatest asset is our people and that is why we spend so much time developing them to be the best they can be. It is our people who make the difference between JUCY and other companies and ultimately will determine if we succeed or fail.
Talking to our Customers
We're lucky that we have a brand our customers love to engage with. Our customers will tell us when we are doing well and when we are failing. It is this feedback that ensures we are always improving what we offer and how we treat the people renting our vehicles, cruising on our boats or sleeping in our pod hotels.