Two years ago, Dan Necklen, managing director of Shotgun, wanted to take his three-year-old son riding with his older brothers but couldn’t find a suitable option for his full suspension mountain bike. So, he asked friend Tom Hayward to make one.
Necklen says, “We tried it out, and then friends starting asking to buy one – and that was when we realised there was a bit of an opportunity worth exploring”.
The Shotgun Kids MTB Seat, retailing at $220 NZD, is designed for children between the ages of two to five and up to 22 kilograms. It has quick release for easy fitting and removal, adjustable width to fit any frame or shape and full rubber protection for alloy or carbon fibre frames.
The front mounted seat ensures active participation with the child who is able to see what’s up ahead and a chance for the parent to interact and talk with their child.
Talking about the design process, Necklen says, it started with a basic prototype for him to use with his son which he then gave to a local bike shop for feedback.
“Then the local paper noticed a Facebook post about the product, and ran a story about what we were up to, so we used the opportunity to take pre-orders...
“After delivering the pre-orders to customers a couple of months later, we asked for feedback about how the product could be improved, and rolled that into our first production run.”
Shotgun has tapped into trends such as raising active kids, reducing screen time and spending quality time as a family, and has been trading for a little over 18 months. It has distribution established in New Zealand, and more recently Australia.
At last count there were 105 stockists in New Zealand, and around 70 stockists in Australia – although Necklen says it expects Australia to surpass New Zealand in the next month or so as awareness builds.
“In terms of US and UK, we’re now looking for individual stockists and distribution partners…we are keen to build distribution and trade relationships in those markets.”
This will be helped along by a significant investment Shotgun has received from Smile Trust for a 25 percent stake in the company.
Necklen says, “Tom and I were lucky to be introduced to the trust through a mutual friend”. He adds, “behind the trust sit two experienced angel investors who share our passion for mountain biking, and see the global opportunity.”
He says Shotgun will use the investment to launch into the US and UK markets with direct online sales as well as traditional bricks and mortar distribution.
“We'll use social media, online advertising and mountain bike media to create demand, and we'll need to scale up production too.”
Necklen’s background will also come in handy, having run his own digital marketing business in Tauranga called Likeable.
“After running [Likeable] for around 6 years, I was ready for a change. And with Tom’s background and experience in product development – teaming up really made sense. And we’re also both mountain bikers with kids, so the product was a natural fit.”
Talking competition, he says Shotgun has a handful of competitors, but it has chosen to focus on the “mountain biking mum or dad who has a nice bike, and doesn’t want to scratch their frame or have anything permanently attached to it.”
“Features wise, our universal fitting, frame protection and quick-release fitting help to set us apart.”
As with any start-up there have been challenges. Understanding and meeting product compliance requirements has been a challenge, as has been managing cash-flow during growth.
Necklen says, “As a marketer, there’s a bunch of stuff I’d like to do to promote the shotgun seat, but up until now our profits have mostly been re-invested into replenishing stock and refining the product,”.
The feedback received so far has been positive from both customers and industry.
“We’re lucky to have a product that’s making memories for parents and children … we realised early on that we’re not selling a child seat, we’re selling an experience, with our product as the enabler.”
Necklen says the ultimate goal is help parents raise the next generation of mountain bikers.
“There are no shortage of opportunities in terms of supporting products, but for now we’re focused on the shotgun seat and gaining traction in new markets.”
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