Off to bite the Big Apple


Queenstown entrepreneur John Wikstrom often says “Get on a plane and do it” - and this time his family’s coming too.

Named last week in the top five Kiwi finalists of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Wikstrom jets out to New York next week with wife Maria and kids Henry, 11, Milly, 10, and Wilem, 6.

Wikstrom’s quietly chuffed about the entrepreneur accolade - he’ll fly back for the October 15 finals in Auckland.

Being a finalist will benefit his Queenstown-based global souvenir-photo firm Magic Memories, he says.

“Our business is all about evolution and continuous improvement and I think being named as a finalist [indicates]

The Queenstowner’s already picking the brains of previous EY award winners.

“I’ve already been in contact with two in New Zealand and have had amazing conversations - these are wonderful people and they want to help.”

The Wikstroms will live in Manhattan full-time until 2017 - “I’ve got a three-year visa,” Wikstrom says.

Their children will go to a top school personally recommended by a Kiwi mate already making his mark in New York.

There’s a sense of deja vu in the Big Apple sojourn - the family spent six months in London in 2013 while Wikstrom was boosting the United Kingdom operation.

“The UK is now our biggest market,” Wikstrom, 46, says.

“That’s why I know I can add a lot of value to the business in the US.”

Another Queenstowner will help him achieve a quantum leap there - senior Magic Memories executive Jessica Stall.

Wikstrom: “When we pick up new US sites, we need to be sure we get the Magic Memories products and processes and people [established there] and a lot of the culture as well.”

US visas are also being lined up for other staff from Queenstown, Australia and the UK.

“The US is the third leg in the stool,” Wikstrom says, now Magic Memories is well-established in Australasia and the UK.

The firm already has a small presence in the US with 10 sites and about 200 staff - “But that’s nothing to the US,” Wikstrom says.

The big push will come “with our own capital, our own people, our own products”, he says, creating “a business within a business” inside the attractions of Magic Memories site partners.

“I’m going to be building scale quickly in the US,” Wikstrom says firmly.

The Queenstown-based company is already substantial, photographing about 50 million tourists annually at more than 100 high-traffic attractions in eight countries.

With about 20 per cent of the shares, Wikstrom and his wife are among 19 shareholders.