Adventure with a vista

Their business is quite literally fun and games, but Amy and Matt Nilsson are making serious traction with their adventure playground firm Outfoxed.

The playground is set on a 1000-acre, undulating farm in Te Awanga with ever-present views of the South Pacific. The setting is tranquil but the activities are less so – visitors stalk each other with paintball guns in a smoke-hazed gully, take shots at clay targets, fire arrows, throw knives and smash golf balls off hilltops.

There is scope for more gentlemanly pursuits; the farm is also home to the 300-member Clifton County Cricket Club – a picturesque oasis of green nestled in the sun-burnt hills.

Outfoxed has become the work-do venue of choice for many local – and out-of-town – businesses, and many a stag do has farewelled bachelorhood in style there, more or less. On one occasion a tutu-clad stag clung on to Matt as he drove a jet ski around the farm’s 14 acre lake, dodging paintballs fired by his mates.

The business grew out of necessity, Matt explains. “The farm is a dry coastal farm, we farm for winter and de-stock in summer. We might have 5000 lambs by winter and just a few hundred cattle in summer – which doesn’t generate a lot of income.”

About six years ago the family began hiring out the main homestead for weddings in summer. “One day I was going clay bird shooting with some mates and we saw some nervous fellas waiting for a wedding so we invited them to come join us.”

Husband and wife team Matt (whose nickname “Fox” inspired the business’ moniker) and Amy soon found themselves running an adventure playground business.

“It all just snowballed from there. A friend rang and said ‘Mate, do you have archery?’ I said, ‘Yeah, we can make that happen’, and within a week we had archery gear and a range set up. Then a guy rang up and asked about paintball.”

Outfoxed has entertained the Hawke’s Bay Magpies and the Hurricanes development squad, Brodie Retallick, Steven Adams and a string of local businesses including Hawke’s Bay Toyota, Mainfreight and Red Steel, Amy says.

“We’ve had corporates that have come to us for the past three years running for their Christmas functions, that’s really cool.”

Amy and Matt are “people people”, she says, and get a real buzz out of seeing their visitors enjoy themselves. “We realise that work dos aren’t always something people look forward to.  People can be a bit highly strung when they get off the bus after they arrive, but they’re totally relaxed when they leave. Quite often they’ve done something here they’ve never done before.”

A hallmark of the Outfoxed experience is its rustic hospitality, Amy says.  “We don’t try and make it fancy.  Guests can self-cater. They can bring along some sausages and we’ll throw them on the barbeque.”

The Nilssons credit a lot of their success to the input of a few trusted advisors, including Hamish Pringle at Moore Stephens Markhams.  “He’s been really supportive; we’ll often get a call from him to say he’s been hearing good things about Outfoxed. We’re not that flash at the numbers and he’s been amazing at making sure we’re right on track. He lets us roam free and then pulls on the reins when he needs to.”

Amy and Matt multi-task running the family farm, Outfoxed and have a contract with The Farm at Cape Kidnappers providing activities for the lodge guests. They call on the services of one very loyal full-time employee, family, local good sorts and foreign backpackers to help out when they’re stretched.

Matt says there’s plenty of potential to add more exhilarating activities to the Outfoxed experience.  “We’re holding a few pretty exciting ideas close to our chest for now but with a name like Outfoxed…watch this space!”


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