Simon Barnett

Bachelor of Business Studies (Honours)

Simon Barnett has created a globally-successful business out of producing well-designed and distinctive products. And he’s done it by keeping an irreverent, straightforward Kiwi attitude to business.

His company, Obo, may be based in Palmerston North but it provides gear worn by 65% of the world’s hockey goalkeepers, including New Zealand’s Black Sticks.

Simon, the company’s ‘team captain’ always had an eye for business and a focus on innovation. He started up his first business when he was just a teenager, importing, manufacturing and distributing table tennis equipment . He wasn’t a huge hockey fan, has never played hockey or even tried on a full set of goalie protection gear! He used his knowledge of hockey equipment from a period of his life spent importing hockey gear and added his ability to spot a gap in the market – what he calls a ‘niche niche’ – and started his own, now very successful, hockey goalkeeper gear company.

Today the company’s reputation is well-cemented around the world. With a tagline of ‘good shit that really works’ , Obo is also very much based in solid, Kiwi reality.

And Simon continues to innovate. One of the biggest dangers with hockey is the speed of the ball – it can travel at up to 160km per hour. When the company wanted to move into producing helmets, they built their own simulator. The Antipodean Collider fires balls at helmets, replicating the speed of the real game. This is all filmed, and the product designers can then use this to figure out the best materials for helmets. The helmets make their goalkeepers the least injured players on the hockey field.