Fly-fishing guide turns Covid-19 downtime into new outdoor survival kit attracting backers on US crowdfunding platform Kickstarter

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Experienced fly-fishing guide Matt Butler has launched a new outdoor survival kit for “weekend warriors” 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”.

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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.”

There was nothing as comprehensive and high quality on the market, Butler said. A lot of the competing products were cheap and flimsy and did not cover the essentials.

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.

The kit could not be used to live in the bush for months, he said.

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.

He had pitched the kit at the premium end of the market. It would be retailing in New Zealand at $250, but his early bird pricing was $185 at present because people would not receive it for five months.

“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.

Matt Butler is targeting the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, where outdoor activities are popular, with his new “Kea Kit”.

Supplied

Matt Butler is targeting the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, where outdoor activities are popular, with his new “Kea Kit”.

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.

He was ranking on Kickstarter in the top 10 of the product category, product design, and about 150 overall. At any one time there were between 2000 and 3000 campaigns running at once on the platform, which took 5 per cent of the total raised, he said.

The Kea Kit case weighs 1.8 kilograms and includes more than 30 survival items organised around the five pillars of outdoor survival, which are shelter, water, medical aid, fire and tools.

Supplied

The Kea Kit case weighs 1.8 kilograms and includes more than 30 survival items organised around the five pillars of outdoor survival, which are shelter, water, medical aid, fire and tools.

He had had ads running in the United States, New Zealand, Australia and Canada in the past six months and recently in Singapore through Facebook and Instagram.

And he was now using agents in the US and Spain to run his ads pitched at their big databases of Kickstarter users.

A lot of his “face-to-face” business contact is via Zoom. Butler said he would have like to have visited the factory in Thailand to watch the production, so he understood it more, but it would have cost $5000 to get home.

Covid had made it normal to do most business online. One day this week he had meetings via Zoom with people in the US, Algeria, Barcelona in Spain, and in France.

“You can do it all in one day. It’s pretty handy. You can get a lot done.”