Growing up in Tauranga, co-founders of Kids Ride Shotgun Tom Hayward and Dan Necklen bonded through their mutual love for mountain biking. As they started to grow their families, they became increasingly frustrated it wasn’t a child-friendly activity – sparking the idea for a new business venture.
“I grew up riding bikes, and really loved it, but once I had a family and wanted to take them biking, I found it wasn’t that easy,” Necklen says.
“Even though I had a nice mountain bike, I couldn't find a child’s seat that was appropriate to go riding in the forest with my younger son. I asked my friend, and now business partner, Tom to have a go at making something for me to use. As soon as other people saw it, they started asking me where it was from, and how they could buy one.”
So in 2017, the pair co-founded Kids Ride Shotgun to fill a market gap. Necklen explains it was one of the first businesses in this product category, as most manufacturers primarily produce adult equipment and sell children’s gear as an afterthought.
“We want children from ages 0 to 5 to be able to experience the amazing sport of mountain biking with their families. Riding, and everything it offers, helps to positively build up kids, and we believe they deserve to have equipment made specifically for them.
“Kids Ride Shotgun’s purpose is to help raise the next generation of mountain bikers and we can see this big opportunity to help change mountain biking for families. We’re only just getting started.”
Over the last few years, the company has experienced the COVID-19-induced ‘bike boom’, which saw demand for their Shotgun child bike seat skyrocket. Kids Ride Shotgun’s revenue grew over 550 percent, and the company has grown from four to 14 staff within the past year.
Necklen believes the business’s success during this period can be attributed to its products enabling families to stay active, given many were cooped up indoors during lockdowns.
Off the back of soaring product orders, Kids Ride Shotgun became a FernMark licensee, to support its expansion in overseas markets and cement its country-of-origin roots.
“As we established ourselves, we noticed several businesses started selling knockoffs of our product using our imagery. This coincided with us rebranding with a new visual identity and a new packaging look. We wanted to establish ourselves as a credible, outstanding New Zealand brand and the FernMark was just what we needed to show our authenticity and credibility in a growing market.”
Over the past few years, Kids Ride Shotgun has expanded around the world, with a specific focus on the Northern Hemisphere, particularly Europe and North America where mountain biking is a commonly loved sport. Following the initial local focus, Necklen estimates 95% of the company’s business is now outside of New Zealand.
He says the FernMark brand represents being an incredible New Zealand business which is ‘taking on the world’.
“We are proud to be a small New Zealand business which has overcome a geographical disadvantage. We have had to be innovative and think differently about how to enter other markets. The FernMark is an indicator of where we are from and that we are punching above our weight.”
With Kids Ride Shotgun’s success, the company has expanded to provide diversified products, including children’s books on mountain biking, seat accessories and equipment for when kids graduate to their own bikes. All products are designed in New Zealand to handle the rugged outdoors. Packaging is also made from 100% recycled materials wherever possible.
Over the next year Kids Ride Shotgun is looking to increase its staff roster and is in the middle of developing some incredible new products, to continue serving mountain bike families around the globe.
To find out more about Kids Ride Shotgun and its products, visit kidsrideshotgun.com