HomeLink history - It's beginning in the Southern Hemisphere
Our Annual General Meeting in May 2003 in Copenhagen featured a milestone celebration as we marked the Golden Jubilee of HomeLink International.
From our early beginnings HomeLink is now growing in just about every corner in the world. The growth of our business is reflected in the growth and continuing support of our valued members some of whom have been with us since 2000 when John & Valerie took over HomeLink NZ.
It was in the 1980’s that HomeLink reached the Southern Hemisphere with the birth of HomeLink Australia with Organiser Nigel Lemmon at the helm. Although the history of the early years is a bit sketchy we believe that in 1989 the then Australian Organiser Aaron Brett had marketing rights with Viv & Craig Pellett representing him in New Zealand. Spreading the word was to prove a difficult exercise and HomeLink NZ faltered.
At this stage, Neil Smith who became a dynamic force in building the fledgling company in NZ became a member of HomeLink. He had just retired from School teaching and he and Nyra his wife decided upon a retirement spent travelling. It was on one of his Home Exchange jaunts in Vancouver that he saw a newspaper article and contacted Jack Graber the Canadian Organiser. Knowing of the problems with HomeLink NZ, Neil was eager to find if he could secure the rights for HomeLink in New Zealand and was put in touch with Renger de Ruiter who was the HomeLink Director at the time and also father to the present Netherlands Organiser Inga de Ruiter.
With Neil in charge the database began to build as more and more Kiwis discovered the joys of Home Exchanging. It had always been a low key operation here with little in the way of advertising and in those early years with no internet. About 5 small books a year were published to keep members informed. The database grew with the assistance of the then UK Organiser Jim Anderson and the Ireland Organiser Paul Murphy who helped Neil with his first online database.
In 1993 John Martin phoned Neil Smith and became perhaps the 60th NZ member. We still correspond with our first exchange partners from San Francisco who are still members as well. We wrote letters of course in those days. Many of them. Always replied to. We didn’t phone as it was much too expensive but we did have lots of phone calls from Neil with interesting offers or just to see how we were getting on. He was a lovely man.
As the internet grew it became time for NZ to have a Web site of its own and this was not easy for Neil. One day he phoned John and said that he needed to sell the business and would we be interested. Valerie, who had recently become addicted to the Internet was wildly enthusiastic. We too had recently retired and in the year 2000 HomeLink NZ was to become our retirement interest and a big part of our lives. The internet is now dominant and until recently we still had our wonderful books. Since 2000 the NZ membership has quadrupled but we still rely a lot on the word of mouth of our members who must be happy because the renewal rate is consistantly around 60%
Jack Graber is still in charge of HomeLink Canada and has been joined now by daughter Leanne. Renger de Ruiter has retired and HomeLink Holland is now run by daughter Inga. Jim Anderson is no longer the Organiser for HomeLink UK and has passed on the business to Caroline & Jon Connelly. Paul Murphy & His wife Marie are still the Organisers for HomeLink Ireland. US, Spain, France, Norway, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Denmark still have the same Organisers for many years.
2016 and it is now second generation in the Martin family with John & Valeries daughter Sarah Cooke now running HomeLink NZ.
We are all a big family and our experience counts a lot. Why not JOIN us, you will never regret it. Over 50% of our members have been with us for over 5 years. Some even 20 years.