Clip ‘n Climb reaches new heights

Have you heard the one about the Irishman and the Kiwi?

It’s a great tale of how Christchurch businessmen John Targett (the Irishman), and Tim Wethey (the Kiwi) combined their creative talents and industry experience to develop Clip ’N Climb – a colourful climbing arena that has revolutionised indoor climbing and is achieving exciting global growth.

After operating successfully in New Zealand and dipping their toes into export markets, the pair, through their company Sheer Adventure has now signed manufacturing licenses with large specialist companies in Oregon, USA, and Lancashire, UK to sell and manufacture the Clip ’N Climb products into US and EU markets.

This includes the full range of Clip ’N Climb’s themed climbing challenges, that when combined with an auto-belaying system has made the activity fun, safe and accessible for all ages.

“We created a totally new category of indoor climbing with Clip ’N Climb, but realised if we wanted to remain the market leaders we had to get out of the blocks faster than we could from one small manufacturing base in Christchurch. It also takes a lot of time and expense to ship products to these markets, so the only solution was to have other people do it for us,” says John Targett.

Last year, Sheer Adventure and its new partners shared the cost to attend two of the world’s largest amusement industry shows which created a “huge buzz” around the Clip ’N Climb brand, he says.

“We were delighted to win an Honorable Mention in the Best New Product category at the IAAPA Attractions Expo 2012 in Orlando. It was great to have that success as first-timers, as it is not easy to stand out at these colossal shows. Every stand is screaming look at me, look at me. If you haven’t gone there to stand out, you’re wasting your time.”

He says there have been 268 strong sales leads for the Clip ’N Climb attraction from this event alone.

“We think we’ve reached a tipping point given the level of interest and awareness created at the shows. The feedback we’re getting from our partners, particularly in the EU, is that we’re about to do some serious business and should experience exponential growth from now on.”

Clip ’N Climb attractions are already established in counties such as USA, UK, Germany, Canada, Cambodia, Spain and Northern Ireland. There are sales ready to be confirmed in several more including Columbia, El Salvador and Korea.

Tim Wethey says Sheer Adventure is still servicing markets outside the USA and EU itself with the kitset modular system it pre-fabricates at its Christchurch factory. But he and Targett plan to set up a similar manufacturing license to service the Asian market once its USA and EU partnerships are more established.

“Our biggest challenge is delivering to all our markets in a timely manner, especially with competitors starting to copy our products.”

Although this is a concern, he says Sheer Adventure has the advantage of years of research and development behind it that has “ironed out” any issues or potential hazards. Then there is the growing recognition of the company as the innovative, world-leading developer of the technology.

“We continue to be focused on originality, the ongoing development of the products and quality of the climbing experience. Last year we launched three new challenges and are developing another two that are close to being ready. We are constantly pushing ahead.”

Targett and Wethey don’t claim to have the monopoly on good ideas at Sheer Adventure. They encourage original thinking from their creative and production team who are involved in all aspects of the product’s development.

“There are no egos here – everyone comes to the table and throws their ideas in. In the end we simply go with the best one. We promote a positive environment and culture, where people hopefully feel empowered,” says Targett.

In 2010, to help fund the expansion of Clip ’N Climb, Sheer Adventure sold its interest in TruBlue, a new generation auto belay with magnetic eddy current braking technology it developed in a joint venture with Christchurch design engineers Holmes Consulting. It has retained the distribution rights for TruBlue to Clip ’N Climb facilities worldwide.

Targett says for the last 10 months Sheer Adventure has worked with another Christchurch company, Design Energy, on a new safety attachment system for climbers using auto belays that is “totally different” to the traditional carabiner. It will be launched at a major international climbing conference in May 2013.

“We are in the process of applying for a patent for this device that will again, considerably improve the risk management and health and safety of climbers in the auto belay environment.”

The Sheer Adventure team is looking forward to attending the big trade shows again this year with one of their latest climbing innovations, the ‘Twister’ tower, and will continue to support its manufacturing partners as they grow and develop new international markets.

Clip ’N Climb looks set to become a genuine global brand. However Targett says the financial rewards for this achievement are only part of the picture.

“We are definitely interested in getting a decent return for our investment, the time we’ve put in, and the risks we’ve taken. But at the same time you can’t put a value on the buzz we get for creating something and seeing it grow and flourish on the world stage. To be able to say we did that is pretty special.”