Q&A with Black Label Experience’s Tania Stoyanof

Tania Stoyanof

Tania Stoyanof, Black Label Experience

Tania Stoyanof has spent most of her working career managing start-up ventures or campaigns, whether it was Xtra’s or The NZ Herald’s new digital media offerings or helping to formulate Tourism New Zealand’s luxury strategy. Today, the mother-of-two runs a relatively new business, Black Label Experience, which is offering bespoke, unique New Zealand experiences for the global elite.

Title: Founder/Owner

Job description:  Managing Director

What is the most satisfying aspect of your job? Starting from scratch two years ago with just an idea, shaping it into a business and watching how this has evolved and is taking on a life of its own, and being ‘in market’ with very limited resources or any help/advice from the industry bodies to achieve this.

Almost every week there is a small win, to keep me going, which is also testimony and evidence that my efforts and ideas to build awareness of my brand, raise my profile and credibility of my luxury tourism business, Black Label, to a very niche market is working and is reaching the target audience.

What is the toughest part of your job? Being a start -up business owner working almost entirely alone is challenging and can be a lonely and at times an unrewarding job. The long unpaid hours, staying focused, quelling the self-doubt, staying on track with my plans and keeping my eye on the prize almost every single day takes a lot of mental fortitude.

I also have so many ideas which are impossible to execute when resources are extremely limited and when I am working at maximum capacity and bandwidth and feeling I am missing opportunities.

What is the biggest challenge facing tourism today? For NZ, protecting landmarks and attractions which make it one of the most desired countries in the world to visit, for example, our glaciers are melting due to global warming. Good examples of the negative impact of natural disasters on destinations like the Christchurch earthquake and more recently Kaikoura in particular where the locals and local economy rely a lot on tourism. Also, external factors such as political or economic instability. When this hits, people are less likely to spend money on luxury items such as travel.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be? A reasonable and fair visitor tax which could raise revenue for the local economy with a percentage going back into growing tourism, improving infrastructure for tourism rather than putting the financial burden on ratepayers or government. It could also provide a special fund earmarked for day-to-day help such as free mentoring, resources (people) and investment into new businesses to help them get up and running and to develop their identified opportunities which will put them and NZ on the map.

Why did you decide to work in tourism? After years working in the corporate marketing world, I was growing a little tired of it and really wanted to be doing something for myself. I wanted to be my own boss and do something that I believed I would be good at as well as utilising my existing business, marketing and start-up skills. Really, I wanted to create my own future. I was contracting to Tourism New Zealand doing research and analysis for their global marketing strategy for the luxury sector when I saw an opportunity – bespoke, unique New Zealand experiences. I decided then, mid-2014, that I’d try and make my idea work and had a soft launch of Black Label Experience in 2015.

Has there been a role model or any other type of inspiration that’s motivated you in your career? There’s not really been any single person. I’ve always been placed in positions when I’ve had to learn as quickly as possible so I’ve tended to have my head down concentrating or learning the new role.

What are you preoccupied with at the moment at work? I’m really preoccupied with developing out the product and the opportunity. I’ve had some really interesting approaches from people around the world seeking unique tourism products so I’m working with some of them developing those. One in particular, is very interested in a New Zealand ‘military-type’ experience and I’m working very closely with him. He’s even got Red Bull and Netflix interested in filming which would be great.

What advice would you give women thinking about entering the industry today? Speaking generally because I’m very new to tourism, I’ve been very lucky in my career as I’ve had great men mentors who have supported me and pushed me to achieve my aims. I haven’t always had that support from my women managers – maybe because I’m quite loud! I’ve never been shy in coming forward and I think that’s important.

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