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Our History

By Conrad Canterford


The Early Water Sprite

Water Sprite started its existence as the family holding company for a secretarial and publishing business in 1989. It produced a few magazines, newsletters, and similar material more as a hobby than anything else. It was based in Tatura, Victoria, in the heart of the Goulburn Valley irrigation area. This is the origin of the water wheel in our logo (the town motto for Tatura was "Water Wheel Country", although that may have been adopted after the company had its logo). Most of this was settled on during a car trip to Adelaide with my mother and brother.

My mother was the real origin of the business - she was making use of the desktop publishing boom to do a little bit of extra work on the side. I was only involved as a mostly silent shareholder and director, as the company rules at that time required that a company had to have at least two shareholders and directors.

The logo was designed by a friend of mine from University - Andre Czausov. I still admire the various bits of work of his that I still have around, including the logo and a few magazine covers that he did for a publishing venture I was involved in prior to the setting up of Water Sprite.

The Changeover

In 1999, the publishing business was wound up. Shortly before that, my wife and I had been approached by a US company to act as their "legs on the ground" for a number of tour groups they were anticipating sending over. We took over the company as an empty shell in April, 1999, some six months or so after we had dealt with the first, and as it happened only, tour to come over.

Unfortunately for us, the US company managed to expand its domestic market, and shelved plans for more tours for Australia in order to focus on their home market. Somewhat bravely, we resolved to set up and operate our own tours in Australia, in the hope of maybe using that to get our name known on the international market to do what we really wanted to do - show overseas performance groups around our country and have them "strut their stuff" in the process. Again we were stalled, this time by rulings from the ACT Agents Board that to carry on the tours would require us to be registered as Travel Agents, with a several thousand dollar security bond and the employment of a senior travel agent as necessesary conditions on that - neither of which we had.

During the year 2000 we started our backup plan: We would start two support divisions, and use them to kickstart the rest of the business. Thus, the Catering Services and Ticketing Services Divisions were started.

Catering Services

Catering Services won the contract to provide the catering for the ANU Film Group Inc., and the following year won the contract to operate the Moonrock Cafe at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. We also won the contract to run the Cafe "over-the-road" from Moonrock at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Things looked to be going nicely until a contract dispute with the management of the Deep Space complex brought our contract to an early end and at the same time finished off what we had hoped would be a number of reasonably priced cafes at serveral tourist locations.

Although we only kept the Moonrock Cafe contract for 15 months, Catering Services was by far the most profitable venture for Water Sprite yet, turning over some $300,000 dollars during its four year life. Catering Services has now been retired, with the choice not to continue the contract for our first and last operation - the ANU Film Group - happenning in November 2003. Film Group required ongoing effort from myself to keep it stocked and operating, and having finished full-time University I felt that I could no longer dedicate so many of my evenings to it. After four years I just wanted to do something else. Having built it up to a well patronised and profitable little business, we passed it on to a Rotary group who were very familiar with how we had operated, in the hope that they would continue our work and put their takings to good use.

Ticketing Services

Ticketing Services started with a trial run providing ticketing for the Australian National University Choral Society (more commonly known as SCUNA) at one of their concerts in 2000. While it was a success, we did not follow through with it, and the ticketing side did not do much more than provide our internet services for a couple of years while I focused on the Catering and did some study at University as well.

In 2003, we came back into the ticketing game, picking up agreements to provide ticketing for both ticketed SCUNA concerts for the year and also for the 2003 Intervarsity Choral Festival, which was held in Canberra that year. As a follow on from that, we also provided online payment facilities to the Perth Intervarsity Choral Festival, held in February 2004, and the Melbourne Intervarsity Choral Festival, held in February 2005. We also provided ticketing and door sales for a science fiction convention in late 2005.

Where we are now

In early 2006, the decision was made to abandon the old Division structure, and instead focus on becoming an integrated internet services business. We had been providing some internet services under the old Ticketing Services banner, and it made sense to expand and build on that base. To that end, we started providing full ISP services in January 2006. We added some more telephony products to that in June 2007, to become a full service communications provider.

On the sales and ticketing side, we have agreements to do several future Conventions.

Further afield, I would still like to see us get back into the tour management business. We still have the knowledge and experience to provide tour and event support for all sorts of groups, we just do not have the contacts to market the service. It was what we originally set out to achieve, and I plan on getting there eventually, even if we have taken some detours along the way. I would not rule us out of getting back into the catering/tourism management area either. I have got the experience of having done it before, and I must say I did enjoy that line of work.

Help us raise more money for community projects!

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(c) 2007 Water Sprite Pty Ltd

This page is maintained by Conrad Canterford.

It was last updated on Feb 28, 2008.