Matt Butler shared his passion for outdoor adventure as a fly-fishing guide in Otago for six years before his work became another COVID casualty.
“Once the borders closed, my work totally dried up, as it was wholly reliant on foreign tourists. So, during the first lockdown, I knew it was time to consider future moves – thinking back to my biggest frustrations while guiding,
being properly prepared sat top of the list.”
From there, with safety and preparedness at the forefront, Matt says he naturally gravitated towards curating a highly versatile pre-packed survival kit to be used across all types of adventures.
“That’s when the KEA KIT was born.”
For Matt, the driving goal behind KEA is to create reliable and versatile outdoor gear that caters to adventurers of all levels participating in a wide range of activities.
“We’re dedicated to creating the gear that helps you better prepare for all your adventures, so you can explore with confidence and do the things you love most,” he says.
Each kit includes more than 30 products compactly organised into the five pillars of survival – water, shelter, tools, fire, and medical. The hassle of curating your own kit has been made easy with Matt’s bare-necessities selection of quality KEA safety gear in one convenient case.
Matt knows how rewarding it is to spend time exploring the outdoors. He recalls loving fishing from an early age, despite no one else in his family sharing the feeling.
“I used to battle away on the wharf on holiday without much luck until I received a fly rod on my 12th birthday,” he says. “This is what set up my love for the outdoors and has encouraged me to explore some incredible places; it led me to eventually becoming a guide, travelling the world, and, ultimately, founding KEA Outdoors.”
He says having the opportunity to explore and fish throughout Fiordland by helicopter were particularly memorable experiences from his earlier years as a guide. Matt also thinks that in terms of opportunities to explore, living in Wanaka can’t be beaten: “some of my favourite spots would have to be South Westland and Southland/ Fiordland. I spend most of my time fishing in these areas as there is a plethora of different landscapes and rivers to explore.
He remembers his guiding years fondly, but Matt says that it wasn’t something he planned to get into or ever saw himself doing.
“It all started after I left my first business in the North Island that I started when I was 19. Then at 24, I needed a break from the hustle and bustle so decided to move to Wanaka and just fish for myself. I fell in love with it so much that I decided I would explore as much of the country and the world as I possibly could before turning 30.”
Thanks to guiding, Matt was able to chase an endless summer jumping between the northern and southern hemispheres.
“It was a great time but COVID came along and cut all that off so I could focus on this new venture just as I was turning 30.”
Getting off the ground
Prior to its launch, the KEA KIT spent a year in the product development and pre-marketing stage. A successful Kickstarter campaign was a major factor in helping Matt’s vision come to life.
“The Kickstarter campaign allowed me to test actual demand and then raise the cash required to make a few thousand kits,” he says.
“In just over 30 days, the campaign raised more than $300,000 from backers in New Zealand, Australia, the US, and Canada. This gave me the confidence to pursue the project and build what is now KEA Outdoors.”
International travel restrictions in recent months have benefitted Matt’s new business in a number of ways, with challenges from shipping and production delays not slowing growth.
“In general, it’s great for the outdoor industry, as it has more people looking for adventure within their own borders,” Matt says.
An increased number of Kiwis choosing domestic exploration has also seen a surge in accidents due to a lack of preparation. KEA KITS now serve to combat this issue.
“We’re focused on building gear for keen and upcoming adventurers who just love to be out there with a versatile kit they can trust and easily take with them – no matter what the day holds.”
Preparation is key
For those starting to take an interest in outdoor adventure, Matt says it’s critical to know your limits and take it slow, to begin with.
“Adventure is not certain by nature, but you can make smart decisions around your ability and the weather that will go a long way to ensuring things don’t go badly in the first place. Then if they do, at least you know you’re covered with the KEA KIT.”
While thinking about the needs of explorers, KEA Outdoors is also keeping an eye on the kea itself.
“Kea have always been a shining light to me as a species that have come through tough times, live in crazy inhospitable terrain, but still manage to thrive and have fun doing it,” says Matt. “Upon the completion of the Kickstarter campaign, I knew they stood for everything we do as a company, and we wanted to pay homage to this.”
The kea bird is renowned for its adaptability and resilience to continue to survive in New Zealand’s harshest mountainous environments – not unlike the KEA Outdoors range.
“The Kea Conversation Trust is also a key part of this journey, as they are at the forefront of protecting and ensuring the future of Kea. Initially, we’ve donated KEA KIT to be used by their field teams in the outdoors, as well as raised donations from our customers to fund the work they do. It’s a partnership we hope to foster and grow as the company does.”
KEA Outdoors doesn’t celebrate one year in business until June, but there’s plenty more where these kits came from.
“We’re initially focusing on products that have a true purpose and need in the outdoors, like our upcoming launch of the KEA STASH: a smell and leak-proof trash bag that compacts rubbish down and makes it easier to carry on your adventures.”
Matt says there are several other exciting launches lined up for the year, and further down the line, he hopes to expand into international markets.
“The dream would be to build KEA into a renowned and loved Kiwi outdoor brand that helps people adventure with confidence all over the world.”
Don’t forget to visit their website to learn more about KEA Outdoors or shop online at keaoutdoors.com.
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