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Looking for something fun to do with your friends, family or colleagues in the great outdoors? Sandrine Gaymard and her team at Ecoline have got you covered with their zippy and innovative treetop adventures. Here, we chat with Sandrine about the inspiration and hardwork behind her thriving business.

So, Sandrine, tell us about your business…

Ecoline designs and builds custom made tree-based recreation adventures with the ‘wow’ factor. We take pride in being innovators and, by using the best European and Australian technology, we design activities where even toddlers can enjoy an exhilarating treetop experience in total safety. We have developed our own safety systems and have installed EcoTrack at one of the most successful and famous attractions in Australia, Taronga Zoo, and opened the world’s longest rollercoaster zip lines using our EcoZip system.

Ecoline’s business is spread over the entire cradle to customer cycle: research, design, construction and operation. We currently operate three TreeTop Adventure Parks (Central Coast, Newcastle, Western Sydney), Sydney TreeTop Safari, TreeTop Crazy Rider and TreeHut. We have also designed and built six high ropes courses for other companies, with more ropes courses and rollercoaster zip lines in the planning stages both within Australia and overseas.

Who are your clients?

The majority of our TreeTop Adventure Park and Sydney TreeTop Safari customers are everyday families. TreeTop Crazy Rider appeals to a new demographic for us as it is fully accessible for people of a variety of abilities, including clients who use wheelchairs. All of our experiences are popular with birthday parties, schools, corporate groups, tourists and community groups. Ecoline creates ropes courses for clients such as the Urban Jungle at Sydney Olympic Park, Taronga Zoo and the NSW Government.

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Sydney TreeTop Safari

Sydney TreeTop Safari

What prompted you to start your own business?

My husband and I discovered high ropes courses in France. We loved the concept where families, groups of friends and colleagues can push personal boundaries and bond through a shared nature-based experience. We felt it was ideally suited to the Australian people and environment.

Did you identify a gap in the market?

Yes, there was definitely a lack of quality, unique outdoor activities accessible to the general public. In 2008, Ecoline established the first tree-based high ropes course open to the general public in Australia. There was also a lack of safety systems adapted to young children so we developed EcoTrack.We have enticed almost 500,000 children under the age of 10 to climb in the tree tops. This allows them to acquire important skills through physical and mental challenges.

Even more importantly, TreeTops helps keep kids (and adults!) away from screens and shows them the pleasures of being outdoor and healthy. We also found after six years of operating high ropes courses, our customers wanted more zip lines. Instead of building longer, higher zip lines, we decided to develop a new product that made zip lines go around corners, drop, twist and turn through the forest. The EcoZip rollercoaster zip line system was born!

What’s special about your business?

We are innovators. Customers can always expect something different and new when they visit any of our parks. We are always trying to create the ‘wow’ factor and something new for our customers.

What’s your ‘Point of Difference’?

Our creativity, passion for people, the environment and the communities in which we work. On a more practical level, our parks currently include: the longest point-to-point flying fox on mainland Australia (360 metres); the hardest challenges (Newcastle black course); the largest high ropes course in Australia (Central Coast 108 challenges); as well as the world’s longest rollercoaster zip lines (Xtreme 1km and Pioneer 330m). We also provide the only canopy tour in New South Wales and the only in the world providing views of a major city skyline (Sydney TreeTop Safari).

Choose to do something you are passionate about. You’ll always be excited and motivated to go to work.

Who are your competitors?

During summer, our parks compete with families going to the beach. There are now a number of other companies building and operating high ropes courses in Australia. We actively work with these organisations to lift safety and operational standards of the industry across the country.

What was your first major achievement in the business?

The opening of the first TreeTop Adventure Park on the New South Wales’ Central Coast in 2008 was our first major achievement. We had built a number of courses for other people prior, but this was the first that was ‘ours’. Being awarded the Australian Business Award for Enterprise three years running, and for Innovation also three years running, and being awarded the People’s Choice at the 2015 NSW Tourism Awards were also proud moments.

What has been your biggest challenge?

As a wife, sister, daughter and mother (to four children), the biggest challenge continues to be maintaining the right mix of family and business. Also, to be the best I can to everyone.

What obstacles have you overcome?

The planning for our first TreeTop Adventure Park took eight years. We were the first company to propose an activity like this in Australia. No one had even heard of a tree based ropes course before! We had to be patient and have faith in our concept. Getting insurance was also very difficult at first but with no claims in over 280,000 participants, we now have plenty of offers!

TreeTop Crazy Rider

TreeTop Crazy Rider

What is your marketing strategy?

More than 35 percent of our customers are repeat climbers who have a massive voice on social media, among friendship circles and networks. We find word of mouth is the most common referral method at 60 percent, which works really well for us. We concentrate the rest of our efforts on tourism marketing, PR, events, social media and television.

Who is/was your business inspiration?

Helena Rubinstein was a beauty product entrepreneur from the 1900s. She was a strong female inspiration. She taught me that you can start from scratch with no help, and that hard work would reward you.

What is one thing you could be doing better in your business?

We are constantly striving to learn and improve, through listening to our customers. We can improve our marketing to overseas visitors. We are working towards this goal and have recently had marketing material developed in simplified Chinese.

What’s your opportunity?

Our new roller coaster ziplines are attracting huge crowds. It has also provided us with the opportunity to add to our suite of products, to export and build overseas. Socially, we want to give people the opportunity to learn about the environment and how to responsibly enjoy and protect our natural assets.

Do you have a mentor? (Or did you have a mentor during your business-building phase?)

No, however my husband and I have always supported each other. We could not have achieved as much without both of our complementary skills.

How important is this relationship to your success?

Paramount.

TreeTop Crazy Rider

TreeTop Crazy Rider

Are you a mentor?

Yes, but not formally. I mentor a couple of members of our support team.

Why do you mentor?

I find mentoring provides benefits obviously for the individuals involved, but for the company as a whole and for myself. I love seeing people grow and flourish in a supportive environment. Personally, I really enjoy sharing my passion for business and for our products.

What does the future hold for your business?

Short term, we are incredibly excited about the international buzz EcoZip and TreeTop Crazy Rider has created, as well as seeing our new ropes course at Taronga Zoo flourish. After that, we are looking forward to bringing the benefits of climbing in the trees to as many Australians as possible.

Where to from here?

In Australia, locations such as Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth look promising. Our products are already attracting attention overseas, so the sky is the limit!

What’s the best business tip you can offer our readers?

Choose to do something you are passionate about. You’ll always be excited and motivated to go to work.

‘I love my business because…’

I work with talented, passionate people, create smiles every day and get to monkey around in the trees!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Come monkey around with us!

 

At A Glance

Business name: Ecoline including TreeTop Adventure Park, Sydney TreeTop Safari and TreeTop Crazy Rider.

Business structure: Proprietary Limited

If partnership, names of partners: Frederic Galimard

Location: Australia wide, international

Your position: General Manager

Year business established: Ecoline, 1998. The first TreeTop Adventure Park opened in 2008.

Annual turnover: $2.5 million

Number of employees: ~100

Industry: Outdoor recreation and tourism

Do you export? If so, where to: We build and export our safety systems and unique adventures worldwide.

 

Name: Sandrine Gaymard

Lives: Central Coast, NSW

Memberships, associations:
Outdoor Recreation Industry Council (ORIC)
Australian Amusement Leisure and Recreation Association (AALARA)
French Association of Ropes Course Operators (SNEPA)
Destination NSW
NSW Chamber of Commerce
Tourism Industry Council NSW
Central Coast Tourism Office
Newcastle Tourism Industry Group
Lake Macquarie Tourism Office
Cumberland Chamber of Commerce
Hunter Chamber of Commerce

Visit:
www.Ecoline.com.au
www.TreeTops.com.au
Facebook
Twitter

First published February 2016.

Jennifer Kiely

Jennifer Kiely is Editor and Co-Founder of Samara Magazine. A professional writer, editor and proofreader since 2000, Jen's first paid writing job was at age 19 for fashion retailer, Jeans West.

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