Man with a plan

21:07, Oct 27 2012
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Daniel Radcliffe

At the age of 22, Daniel Radcliffe had a "quarter-life crisis".

He was an Otago university graduate but his first stint in the workforce lasted a mere 72 hours. He quit after three days, convinced life at an office desk was not for him.

Fast forward six years and Radcliffe has built a highly successful international volunteer business. So successful he has already paid back the bank the establishment costs and taken shares in two family farms.

The business master's student is the director of International Volunteer HQ, born out of a volunteering stint in Kenya.

After that initial dally with the job market, he headed back to Uruti to work on the family farm.

Unsure what to do, Radcliffe decided to head overseas to volunteer and arranged to work on a school project in Kenya through an American volunteer tourism company.


"This was short term, not too intensive, and meant a holiday as well," he said.

"It's known as 'voluntourism' and is becoming a popular way of travelling."

The concept is the basis of his own company that will this year send 8000 people to 19 different countries.

"Provided it's not a specific medical field, we take anyone as long as they're 18, and we take families as well," he said.

The idea to set up shop on his return from Kenya was based on the expense it cost him to go and the inability to see where that money went in Africa.

"It was awesome, but I paid about $3000 for three months.

"It's pretty easy to see the costs and we worked out about $1200 was making it to the country and $1800 was the margin for the company back in the States," he said.

"Lots of people found it expensive to do and the fact that you couldn't see where the money was going left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths."

Radcliffe says there was an opportunity to set up an organisation that was more affordable and transparent.

"Volunteers pay a set fee to us, so if you want to go to Kenya for a week you still pay the same as if you're going to Peru for six months.

"It's a fee of $249 and that covers all pre-departure support, registers you on to the programme and signs you on as a IVHQ volunteer," he said.

A second fee is paid to the company in the partnering country, which goes directly toward covering meals, accommodation and airport transfers.

No project gets off the ground without some cash and for Radcliffe this meant convincing his parents his idea was worth backing.

"I borrowed some money from the bank on the back of my parents' farm and got a website built in Auckland.

"I then went back to Kenya, got it rolling there and then went on to Vietnam, Nepal and Thailand," he said.

Travelling through the countries volunteers are sent to is important, particularly for people who haven't been abroad before. "A lot of people use us because we've done the research, done background checks and there's a sense of security for people.

"That's important for a lot of parents, especially in places like the States, where for some people this is their first trip abroad," he said.

Radcliffe's New Plymouth based- business has continued to flourish since 2007, with staff numbers doubling almost every year.

"In two weeks I head to Sri Lanka to set up IVHQ over there," he said.

"We've built such a good name now that basically every day we have a new organisation contacting us from overseas, so it's a piece of cake."

Over 30 organisations in Sri Lanka have contacted IVHQ and Radcliffe has already narrowed potential partners down to five.

Once Sri Lanka is signed up IVHQ will have reached 20 partnering countries.

For the first year of business, IVHQ operated out of Radcliffe's parents' home in Uruti.

"It probably isn't the sort of base people envisaged when they signed up for IVHQ," he said.

"I love the Naki and it's home. Of our 8000 volunteers signed up this year, 50 are from New Zealand, and for the other 7950 it doesn't matter if we're in Auckland or New Plymouth or Uruti."

Most volunteers using IVHQ don't know where New Zealand is and the bulk of their work is done via telephone and email.

Radcliffe says he works about 60 hours a week between the business and helping on his parents' Uruti sheep and beef farm and White Cliffs dairy farm.

"Working on the family farm is great because things can get quite stressful and it's a good break and it doesn't really seem like work," he says.

Now 28 years old and in a relationship, Radcliffe said he couldn't have got the ball rolling on his own business at a better time.

"Initially I was concerned about whether it would work but then I talked to friends in Auckland that were hating their jobs but hadn't left them," he said.

"I thought I'm 22 now and if it doesn't work by the time I'm 25 I might have a bit more debt but I'm 25 and can start again.

"In hindsight it was an awesome approach to take.

"I didn't have any kids, didn't have a girlfriend at the time, so I didn't have dependents."

Radcliffe says travelling overseas and seeing the work volunteers have done is hugely rewarding.

"Since setting up, the bank manager has said to me that at the time I borrowed the money they said it would end up being money my parents would have to write off," he said.

"They just didn't understand the concept."

Radcliffe says his parents' faith in his idea was a recipe for success.

"I think if most 22-year-olds went to their parents and said they were quitting their job and wanted to borrow money against the farm to start a volunteer travel company, they would probably get a boot up the bum and be told to go away and do something serious."

Taranaki Daily News