KEA Outdoors founder, Matt Butler on the RNZ Panel:
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Experienced fly-fishing guide Matt Butler has launched a new outdoor survival kit which has attracted more than $100,000 pre-sales in a week on American crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.
Based in Wanaka, Butler, had been packed and ready last year to travel to Central America and South America in his “off season” but Covid -19 stopped that plan in its tracks.
Frustrated with the messiness of various safety and survival items in the bottom of his pack, he decided to tackle an idea he had had for a long time to design a well-organised, easy to carry and high quality outdoor survival kit.
Covid was “a blessing in disguise because it cut everything off and forced me to sit and think and finally do something”.
His “Kea Kit” has more than 30 items of survival gear organised into five separate modules in a 1.8 kilogram small, water-resistant case.
The five modules were based on the five key survival pillars, which were shelter, water, tools, medical items and fire. Items include fire lighting tools, first aid kit, emergency blanket, head torch, knife and a fly for shelter.
“You can either chuck the whole thing in your bag and take it for the whole day, or you can just take out the bits you need on shorter trips like the medical kit if you are just going for a short day fish or a hike or something.”
It was aimed at the “weekend warrior”, and beginners or intermediate outdoor enthusiasts, and those going fishing and camping and walking, who wanted quality, durable survival gear and the convenience of it all in one place.
He saw a gap in the market which he knows well and spent the past year, designing, refining and putting prototypes together, while he lived off his savings. With the borders closed, 95 per cent of his customers, mostly American, were shut out and his fly-fishing guide business shut up shop.
“I knew if I put all my effort into the pre-launch I’d be able to do well.”
He raised $25,000 on the first day of his Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and more than $100,000 in the first week. He has just over three weeks to go and is hoping to raise more than $200,000.
The commitments from “backers” were essentially pre-orders that would enable him to pay for the manufacturing and packing of the kits in Thailand, he said. He had sold almost 650 in the last week. Delivery is planned for November.
At the moment 40 per cent of the orders came from the United States, 20 per cent from New Zealand and 15 per cent each from Australia and Canada.
“Crowdfunding is good because it removes the risk of doing something if you aren't sure about demand.”
Kickstarter was an excellent marketing platform for testing demand because it had about 30 million views a week.
"The campaign is now ranked the 2nd most funded in the design category for New Zealand which is a great achievement considering the platform launched here back in 2013"
Covid-19 and the closure of borders wiped out his Wanaka-based business but, rather than being downcast, he quickly pivoted to create another outdoors-related business.
Just as Alert Level 4 lockdown happened last year, Mr Butler came up with the idea of the Kea Kit, an outdoor survival kit for outdoor adventurers that made preparing much more comprehensive and easier.
It had been in development for a year and he was preparing to launch it on crowdfunding site Kickstarter in May.Originally from Waikato, Mr Butler lived in Auckland for a few years before moving to Wanaka about six years ago, a move driven by a desire to go fishing.
But sick of fishing by himself, he decided to give guiding a go. He started working with lodges in the first year and then went out on his own. He usually did about 100 days a year, mostly with American clients.
The season ended at the end of April so the last month of last year’s season was lost as New Zealand was in lockdown. This season, there had been "almost nothing" except for the odd Kiwi. Guiding needed Americans and their return could be "years away".
Mr Butler, who has founded beREDI Outdoors, had always been planning to get into something new. He had planned to do guiding for five years and then transition out.
He spent a lot of time in the outdoors but he hated packing his gear and always forgot something important, which was the inspiration for the Kea Kit.
Organised into the five pillars of outdoor survival — tools, shelter, medical, fire and water — it included more than 40 items of the most essential survival gear, including a rain-fly tarpaulin, emergency blanket, first aid kit, fire lighter, water filter straw, compass and headlamp.
Experienced outdoor adventurers tended to build those sorts of kits themselves, but Mr Butler believed no-one was targeting the mid to low range "weekend warrior types".
He had done a lot of testing and sampling which had helped give him the confidence that the business was going to work.
Launching the startup also allowed him to stay in the outdoors industry and in the next five years, it was predicted the industry was going to grow by 10%.
A lot of people would be looking around their own home country.
A lot of North Islanders had never been to the South Island and they would probably end up coming to the Wanaka area before going overseas, so he believed it was the right time to be getting into it, he said.
Wanaka based Kiwi startup, beREDI Outdoors launched its first product this week to help people better prepare for all their outdoor adventures. With more Kiwi’s choosing to explore their own backyard due to travel restrictions, it’s never been more important to push home the message of being fully prepared when heading into the outdoors.
beREDI has since launched the KEA KIT, a compact, organised and modular outdoor survival kit that includes everything and nothing you don’t to survive and thrive in the wild.
Following it’s launch on Kickstarter on the 1st June, the KEA KIT has raised over $100,000 in pre-orders in just 7 days, from a group of over 550 backers. The Kickstarter platform allows beREDI to raise the funds required to do a mass production run of the kit, a cost that would be prohibitive without the support of their backers.
Matt Butler, the founder of beREDI and Wanaka Fly Fishing Guide says he’s been humbled by the positive response, “I set off on this journey to develop a new product over a year ago, after the Covid-19 border closures decimated my guiding business. I was always frustrated with carrying all my essential survival gear in such a cumbersome and unorganised way, so I decided to create a better solution. I put a lot of effort into ensuring the KEA KIT was both functional and versatile so it was suitable for all type of adventures. It’s just great to see that all the hard work is resonating with other outdoor enthusiasts like myself and I’m pretty stoked with how it’s all going so far!”
beREDI has also partnered with the Kea Conservation Trust to support them in their mission to protect the Kea population, by donating several KEA KIT to help keep their field workers fully prepared. Matt says, “I have a deep passion for the Kea and hope to not only drive awareness of their plight but also support where we can as a small startup”.