Safety first with a smile at Newclare

Safety first with a smile at Newclare
Security companies conjure up images of burly scowling bouncers on a power trip, but a new Wellington player – Newclare Welfare + Security – is challenging that notion.

Newclare Welfare + Security is challenging the perception of burly scowling bouncers on a power trip.

Jesse Newson

PHOTO: Mike Heydon

Found guilty of smuggling cannabis in Bali and subsequently sentenced to jail in 2005, Schapelle Corby quickly became a household name not only in Australia but all over the world.

Corby’s plight spurred Jesse Newson, thousands of kilometres away in Hawke’s Bay, to come up with the original concept for the INO, an electronic personal property device to give travellers peace of mind. Designed to be placed inside luggage and sound an alarm if opened by someone else and contents were exposed to light, it would inform you (via a smartphone app) where that occurred and whether it had been deactivated by an official airport security officer’s device, or whether the bag had fallen into the hands of somebody else.

Upon moving to Wellington in 2009 to attend Victoria University, he further developed the idea for INO and contracted an Auckland company to build an early prototype.

When he heard about the Bright Ideas challenge in 2011, run by economic development agency Grow Wellington, he knew he had to enter.

Just 20 at the time, Newson took out the ‘most exciting entrepreneur’ category. He’s always has an entrepreneurial streak; along with a buddy, he founded a vending machine company as a teenager in response to the healthy foods in school legislation that cracked down on the sale of junk food. They eventually sold it to some younger students, who carried on with the business for a couple of years until the legislation was repealed.

Until then, he’d always found his age to be a barrier in pursuing his entrepreneurial dreams. But at Bright Ideas, he found himself alongside others his age, as well as plenty of more seasoned start-up types, who treated them as equals and freely shared their experience.

Since then, Newson has made progress on the INO, but quickly ran into some “quite big barriers” with the TSA in the US and the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority around regulations. The red tape issues have prompted him to circle back and take a good hard look at his proposition, which he says could now be adapted for domestic use in office and storage spaces, and potentially in freight and international cargo shipping.

“There are a lot more hoops to jump through to continue to develop it,” Newson says, and he’s not sure when – or even if – the INO will be hitting the market.

Newson has plenty more to keep him occupied, however. He’s finishing off a degree in commercial law and accounting, working at Grant Thornton, and running another company along with business partner Evan Clare on top of all that.

Newclare Welfare + Security is a new player on the Wellington scene, born out of Newson’s experience as a senior residential assistant at one of the university’s hostels (which is where he met Clare, who studied law and criminology and is Newclare’s director of operations).

While he knew nothing about the security industry to start with, witnessing firsthand a late-night security guard’s indifferent response to a fellow student’s assault was the catalyst for getting into the game and lifting standards.

“As a residential advisor at the university I dealt with a lot of drunk people, drugged people, and stressful, traumatic situations,” he says. “And I’ve seen the side effects of different ways of dealing with those situations and approaching those people – taking the right tone and approach can mitigate the situation substantially. This is all part of our model and extensive in-house training.”

Newclare, which draws on a technical advisory board that includes members of the police force, has grown to five staff and secured as many sites, mainly to university student accommodation and a couple of bars (schools and hotels are also likely future target prospects). Many of its employees are senior students themselves, who hold Certificates of Approval that certify them as security staff.

“The understanding of the university hostel environment is a major part of the success of the model. We’re not just taking people who’ve never experienced the environment they are working in.”

Entirely self-funded to date and fully licensed as a security operator by the Ministry of Justice, the company offers a more personal touch and dynamic approach to security than what has been available in the past, according to Newson.

“We’re spreading that model out as customer service-focused rather than that preconceived idea of what a security guard is – sleeping on the job, that sort of thing,” he says.

While security is by and large a competitive, price-based business dominated by the likes of Armourguard and First Contact, Newclare’s motto is ‘here to care’. And it pays its staff well, Newson says, attracting the “cream of the cream of the industry”.

“Our model recognises that [security] is an extension of customer service as opposed to just that person in the corner,” he explains.

“It’s a softer touch to security but one thing we assure our clients is that they’re trained to take that hard line as well.

“It’s more of a concierging role and customer support, adding value to a similar price to what you pay for security.”