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Sports equipment manufacturer is fit for global success

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Kate de Lautour

Napier-based company Hotshot Sports Equipment has been supplying schools, community groups and kiwi back yards with high quality sports and playground equipment for 30 years. Now the family run business has its sights set on the international market, with an exciting new concept in outdoor gym equipment.

Hotshot Sports Equipment owner Roger Forsyth had a light bulb moment when travelling in China in 2010. While in Beijing he noticed the popularity of outdoor exercise equipment and imported several machines from China.

However, the Chinese machines were poor quality and could not be installed safely, so a “Mark 1” range was developed by the Hotshot team and installed at Kennedy Park Top 10 Holiday Park in Napier for 12 months.

 The feedback from users indicated a need for machines with adjustable resistance to allow each user, full machine functionality, regardless of the individual’s size, age or ability.

An application for research and development funding was successfully made to Callaghan Innovation, (formerly MSI) and the innovative resistance technology was developed, prototyped and tested for application within outdoor exercise equipment and ultimately registered with an IPONZ patent.

The machines cover the four key areas of general fitness including cardio, strength, flexibility and balance. Importantly, they are robust, being able to withstand extreme weather conditions including salt-borne spray and vandalism.

A formal market validation programme has been carried out with export market entry experts Katabolt, and partly funded through NZTE’s Capability Development Programme.

The extensive research has included interviews with councils, government organizations, playgrounds and park managers, retirement centres, health boards, retail complexes, commercial gym managers and suppliers, holiday parks, correctional facilities and urban planning consultants and specialists.

Roger’s son Brett Forsyth is managing the commercialization of the “Gym Guru” product.

Recently returned to New Zealand after ten years living in Hong Kong and the UK, and with a background in IT and banking, specializing in the implementation and rollout of new technologies, Brett is well placed to drive the project.

In his last role in Hong Kong he was COO for a sports wagering fund with more than $1 billion HKD turnover and 300 staff globally.

“Hotshot Sports has a 30 year history as a successful owner operator organization.

“The investment in this new technology will take the business into the global marketplace. Ultimately the impact will be increased gross turnover, increased employment, increased exposure to a wider global audience and on-going benefits to the local economy.”

To date, this is the largest R and D project undertaken by the company with significant financial investment sunk into external resources and expertise including Napier’s Axia Design, Plus Rehab Physiotherapy and Campbell Eastern from Metalform.

“As a business we have received plenty of support, advice and helpful guidance from within Hawke’s Bay and around the country.  

“Coming into this project I expected to find closed doors and protected information however I’ve been amazed at how willing kiwis are to share and assist.

“I think you forget this about our country, the great thing is there is minimal hierarchy to deal with, it doesn’t matter who you are, most people are willing to help.

“There’s also an innovative culture which obviously stems from the number 8 wire mentality, however I believe we are becoming much smarter in our approach to that innovation and there are plenty of organisations available to help turn those ideas into reality.”

Brett is excited at the prospect of seeing the new technology in action with orders of units for three Auckland parks.

“Over the next 12 months we aim to identify a global partner, with the objective to distribute a product line, via an established network.”