When Sarah Hilyard discovered axe throwing in Sydney she was confident she’d be a natural. She pulled eight of her friends together, booked a session and got ready to show everyone up. But to her consternation it was her partner, Lloyd Bombell, who ended up winning and – to add insult to injury – being offered a job as an axe throwing coach.
“I was told I had the right look, I could throw and I had a bit of banter so they asked if I wanted a job,” says Lloyd. “I picked up a few weekends here and there and started looking after their axe throwing league.”
The idea to move across the ditch and start up axe throwing in New Zealand came after Lloyd and Sarah visited on holiday a few years ago. On a road trip to Wellington to visit some friends, their decision on where they should set up shop was made immediately.
“This place is magic,” says Sarah. “We were driving down Oriental Parade and there were dolphins swimming along next to the car, everyone was out with their dogs and kids and it was so full of life.”
So now, in an old building that used to belong to the Wellington Free Ambulance sits Sweet Axe Throwing – a business dedicated entirely to chucking axes around.
Axe throwing is a sport that’s fast growing in popularity around the world, although Sweet Axe Throwing is the first of its kind in New Zealand. Ideal for group outings, like work dos or birthdays, Lloyd and Sarah coach groups on how to throw an axe correctly and insist that axe throwing is for anybody.
“It’s not gendered, it’s not based on your size, strength, or anything like that, it’s just about how well you listen to us,” says Sarah. “Lloyd’s mum’s had a go and she was terrifying with an axe.”
Lloyd and Sarah’s entrepreneurial spirit makes starting a business look easy
Sarah and Lloyd’s passion for the sport and their entrepreneurial spirits make starting a business look easy. And part of their success is in dividing up the labour to suit their different strengths.
For Lloyd this means being the face of the business, organising the bookings and running the sessions day to day.
“It’s an odd job because it’s not about axe-throwing prowess, it’s about having that persona,” he says. “I come from a hospitality background so it’s always been in me to make people have the best time they can have.”
And while Lloyd watches over the axes being thrown around, Sarah keeps the business ticking over behind the scenes.
“Lloyd’s the people person and the salesman,” says Sarah. “And I do most of the technical side of things – from social media and marketing, to administration and corporate relationship management.”
Sarah drove the planning for the business, spending months doing market research, writing a business plan and putting pressure on Lloyd to make projections for the business.
“Xero gives us live information on how our business is performing showing us graphs in a visual way” – Sarah Hillyard, Sweet Axe Throwing Co
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