The lifestyle may seem idyllic in the Coromandel surfing resort of Whangamata, but last year was tough for Aaron Storey, who runs Storey Computing.
He headed to Whangamata to establish Storey Computing nine years ago, after studying business computing at Auckland’s Unitec. He has since also set up a number of IT-related firms – interWeb Technologies for web design, Extreme Modz for Xbox and media centre development, and remote support service igeek.
Although he tried to make ends meet through all the businesses, he admits the he ran at a loss for much of last year. However, he had an understanding landlord who gave him breaks on rental payments, while also securing an assistant staff member through a government employment scheme.
Working from a second floor office in a main street building in Whangamata, Storey Computing previously served Whangamata, Tairua and Pauanui. However, having sold his car, Storey now focuses on Whangamata alone, along with the igeek remote support service.
Storey developed igeek’s website and software in January and has begun offering it to the 800 customers he has on his books. The software centres mainly on virus removal and software upgrades.
He developed the service for the many elderly customers with minor IT problems, who simply needed a few minutes of quick tech support.
Storey also sees igeek as a way of bringing in work from outside Whangamata.
As a small town with 4000 permanent residents, Storey says there is not much work to go around.
Even in the summer months, when the numbers swell with holidaymakers, relaxing is a stronger priority for them than technology. He claims competitors come and go because they don’t get enough consistent work to make their businesses viable.
A strategy to stabilise his income is the development of service plans for his business customers. They pay an annual service fee for maintenance and repairs, which helps guarantee his income. This currently accounts for 10 percent of his revenue.
Storey supplements this by developing websites based on open source systems, and carries out IT work for local companies involved in digitising horticulture machinery or installing microchip-based controls for elevators.
The Xtreme Modz part of the business involves taking motherboards from Xbox consoles and putting in a 1000 GB hard drive. A new Linux operating system is loaded and the system can then stream media around customers’ homes. Storey also carries out Xbox 360 repairs.
He also has other projects in development and expects a better year ahead.
“This year has been okay. We have been paying off the debts and making more money, but it is still a struggle,” he says.
Unfortunately, igeek and other ideas need some business capital to get the push they need, says Storey.
“Unless you are unemployed, the government doesn’t want to give you a grant. There are not many opportunities,” he says.
However, Storey’s government-sponsored assistant technician Mikayla has helped keep the business viable, as she provides support functions such as answering the phone and dealing with face-to-face enquiries.
Another challenge for the business is getting supplies from Auckland, which Storey says can take several days with items sometimes diverted via Hamilton or Tauranga.
Storey Computing uses NCP Group, Rainbow Technologies, Checksun and Q&B Computers as distributors. He also sources product from Dick Smith Electronics.
However, the bad times have been worth it for the lifestyle in Whangamata.
“Everybody is laid back. If you are late for a job, no-one cares. We say we are on ‘Whanga’ time. Many people who move away from this town come back because they miss it. When you are walking down the street everyone says ‘hi’. It is a friendly place to live.”