Small Business: Fraser Brothers looking to ramp up Sylvia Park entertainment

Fraser Brothers co-founder Hamish Fraser talks to Rahul Bhattarai about his family entertainment business and the brothers’ new venture – Live Wire.

What does your business do?

Live Wire at Sylvia Park is a family entertainment centre. We offer activities such as bowling, virtual reality, formula 1 simulators, an arcade as well as a bar and restaurant.

What was the motivation for starting it?

We are three brothers, and we all always wanted to be entrepreneurs. We’re thankful to our father for drumming into us from a young age that rather than work for someone else we needed to build something that could make a difference. That was the philosophy we all believed in which inevitably drove us to work together.

We saw an opportunity for a family entertainment centre in Sylvia Park a few years ago and worked closely with Kiwi Property throughout the initial conceptualisation process. We knew in order to overcome the competition for the Sylvia Park site we would have to throw the ball out as far as we could in terms of design then figure out how we could make it work afterwards. Having that approach was ultimately the deciding factor in our success.

What’s your background?

We grew up on a farm in Gisborne, drenching sheep and working as guides on the horse-trekking business our father started, so we learnt early on what it took to entertain people. We always worked hard from a young age but in hindsight we had a fantastic time as kids.

We started off in entertainment 15 years ago when we took over Lilliputt Mini Golf on Tamaki Drive. Over that time we have slowly expanded our operation into family entertainment and now we have entertainment centres at Sylvia Park (Live Wire) in Auckland and Centre Place (Fun Zone) in Hamilton.

How big is the team today?

We have 16 people working just at Live Wire Sylvia Park.

How was your business affected by Covid-19?

While we differ slightly on our offering, our business is fundamentally hospitality, so it has been a tough time as we have been closed for all of the lockdown and there has been a lot of unknowns in that time that we have had to deal with.

However, one of the advantages of working with family is the “we are all in this together” mentality and when someone was struggling we would buoy each other up. From that view point we were really lucky.

How long has your business been around?

We have been in business now just shy of 15 years but we launched Live Wire at the beginning of June.

What’s your focus for the next 12 months?

Primarily, it is to get our business back up and running, ensuring our offering remains at a high standard, make sure we can operate safely for our customers and our staff, and most importantly bring back the fun! We are also now working on the biggest multi-activity indoor entertainment centre in the country at Birkenhead which we will start building in March 2022.

What are your long-term plans, and where do you see the brand in five years?

We are in a growth phase and we want to bring our Kiwi entertainment experience to other parts of New Zealand. We are currently having discussions with landlords across the country to open up more Live Wire venues.

How does your business stand out in comparison to other businesses in the market?

Our difference is our offering, each venue we build is bespoke and we always try to bring the latest in global attractions and technology to our centres. This means each of our venues will have a slightly different experience. For instance, we have formula 1 simulators at Sylvia Park – that’s a New Zealand first. In Hamilton, we have fifth-generation escape rooms, which is also a New Zealand first. Birkenhead will have a cricket simulator that will allow you to face some of cricket’s best international bowlers – again, a New Zealand first. Our objective is to create environments that bring new experiences to Kiwis and lend themselves to socialising with friends and family; “Kiwis entertaining Kiwis” as we like to say.

How are you marketing it?

From launch parties and events to our social platforms, Google search tools and high quality video content to billboards, radio and the Herald with NZME. We are even currently wrapping a bulk truck and trailer that travels up and down the motorway multiple times a day with our branding.

What does the competition look like in this market?

Our main competitors in the market are large multi-national companies so we’re up against some pretty slick competition who are well-oiled machines, but competition is what gets us out of bed in the morning and as brothers, we are all competitive by nature.

What advice would you give to people who are thinking about starting their own business?

Do it. Out of the chaos we have endured in the past couple of years, opportunity will present itself; it is something we as brothers talk about regularly. This country’s economic backbone is still a small business and New Zealand’s entrepreneurial spirit while battered and bruised has not been broken, our resilience as Kiwis will come to the fore once more. If you have an entrepreneurial itch there is no time like the present to scratch it, it just takes starting.

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