14 October 2021

Finalists in Westpac Champion Business Awards 2021

Local tour company Akaroa Dolphins have made the finals of the prestigious Canterbury Business Awards.


Competing in the 'Champion Customer Experience - Small Enterprise' category, this family-owned enterprise has made it through to the final three, where they are up against two other Christchurch businesses. The winner will be announced on November 25 2021.

The awards recognize excellence, innovation and success of local businesses and judges have also praised the finalists for their efforts handling the Covid crisis while looking after the well-being of their staff.

Caring for their staff and creating a family atmosphere in their business has always been at the core of Akaroa Dolphins business ethos and this is one of the factors that has stood out for the judges.

Part-owner Julia Waghorn said that one of the positive aspects of the Covid lockdowns is that they provided an opportunity for the business to really spend time fine-tuning specific aspects of the business, including staff well-being.


“During Covid, we knew we had to really look after our team. We spent time fine-tuning our wellness strategy and initiating some new ideas.”

“Our team's wellbeing is our top priority, and each day starts with a chance to share our wins and sore points over coffee.”

“We have introduced a wellness programme that focuses on emotional, physical, and cultural wellbeing.

"Our customer service team is trained in all aspects of the business, keeping them fresh and engaged.

"This helps with our culture of having a work-life balance, as team members can swap with one another when needing an extra day off without work pressure and means we can scale up when demand requires it.”

The Customer Experience category of the awards had the largest number of entries ever, so getting through to the final three is quite an accomplishment.

“It was so good for the team morale during these difficult times” Julia added.

All the hard work and planning has paid off for the company, with numerous glowing customer reviews that highlight the unique nature of this small company’s operational model.

“The thing that struck me was that it felt like we were being shown around the harbour by a member of the family”, one reviewer commented.

This is not the first time that the company has been recognized. It won the Tourism Small Enterprise category at the Canterbury Business Awards in 2015. In 2018 Kiwi Bank chose the Akaroa Dolphins for their campaign ‘Business Success Stories’, based on their overall performance as a company.

Consistently reflecting on and refining their business model has been a feature of Akaroa Dolphins and a big part of this has been their commitment to the local environment and community.

Last year the company partnered with Akaroa Area School in its reforestation project at Hammond Point, providing sponsorship and voluntary labour for the project. The company has also assisted Pohatu Penguins with the Korara Little Blue Penguin survey, supported the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust, and donated $30,000 towards the Akaroa Hospital rebuild, to name just of few.

In an age of mega-corporations and multi-national conglomerates, it is refreshing to see a family business succeed through its passionate commitment to its staff, local environment, and the local community.

Finalists ~ https://www.westpacchampionawards.co.nz/finalists.html


Written by Garry Brittenden

Article featured in The Akaroa Mail

Photos by Chalita Aommy Klumjui