College student starts his own bike company

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This topic contains 18 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of wkend wkend 4 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #103177

    A college student at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (where my brother attends school, coincidentally) has just started his own bike company. Right now he is only selling fixies, but he hopes to move up to “multi-speed and mountain bikes.”

    The opening sentence of the article reads:

    Wyatt Hrudka, 22, took delivery last week of 170 bicycles made for him by a Chinese manufacturer.

    While I applaud this young fellow’s drive and motivation, this is everything that is wrong with the bike industry today. If some college kid can just call up a Chinese company and have them make him some bikes in the colors that he chooses… where is the original engineering in the picture? Where is the REAL ingenuity and innovation?

    A further question: who wants to buy cookie-cutter Chinese bikes anyways? Apparently, he assumes that college kids looking for a cheap commuter do, because they are probably just looking at the price tag. And the thing is, he’s probably right.

    Your thoughts?

    Source

    #103178

    From the title,I expected him to be the one fabricating/welding the frames.He’s more of a business man from the sound of it and that’s a lot less impressive.

    #103179

    just all wrong. first of all… CHINA!!!

    #103180
    "mtbgreg1" wrote

    If some college kid can just call up a Chinese company and have them make him some bikes in the colors that he chooses… where is the original engineering in the picture? Where is the REAL ingenuity and innovation?

    A further question: who wants to buy cookie-cutter Chinese bikes anyways?

    It’s a business model that works, apparently. Airborne, IBEX, BikesDirect, etc. They’re all selling stuff they simply rebranded. Some have some designs they did on their own, but the meat and potatoes of it is catalog frames.

    #103181
    "dgaddis" wrote

    [quote="mtbgreg1":1bc2nk9a]If some college kid can just call up a Chinese company and have them make him some bikes in the colors that he chooses… where is the original engineering in the picture? Where is the REAL ingenuity and innovation?

    A further question: who wants to buy cookie-cutter Chinese bikes anyways? Apparently, he

    It’s a business model that works, apparently. Airborne, IBEX, BikesDirect, etc. They’re all selling stuff they simply rebranded. Some have some designs they did on their own, but the meat and potatoes of it is catalog frames.[/quote:1bc2nk9a]

    Ibex and Bikesdirect, sure, but Airborne has designed their 2011 line from the ground-up. I’ve seen the designs and I’ve given input and advice into the design. They’ve had to have their molds custom designed or retooled for their own designs.

    #103182
    "mtbgreg1" wrote

    Ibex and Bikesdirect, sure, but Airborne has designed their 2011 line from the ground-up. I’ve seen the designs and I’ve given input and advice into the design. They’ve had to have their molds custom designed or retooled for their own designs.

    Good for them, I didn’t know that. I know they started off selling rebranded IronHorse frames. Good to see them doing their own thing entirely now.

    #103183
    "mtbgreg1" wrote

    Your thoughts?

    Good on him for pursuing his dream.

    As for buying from China, I’d prefer he didn’t but I’m not sure if he’d be able to buy from the US and still be able do what he wanted.

    Hopefully the rest of his components are from the US and I’m guessing he’s putting everything together himself or with a group of friends, so that’s a bonus.

    He’s selling the bikes for $350, is that a lot for a fixie? I haven’t ridden one myself so I don’t see the appeal. I understand single speed, but a fixie…I just don’t understand (I like to coast a LOT 😄 )

    #103184

    Yeah, it sounds easy to start a bike company (just call up China!) but there’s still a lot to it. Not sure if this kid knows what he’s gotten into. Designing and manufacturing is just one small piece of the puzzle.

    First of all, he had enough money to order 170 bikes (which is a big hurdle for most folks to clear) and he was willing to risk losing the money to a shady manufacturer. He probably didn’t get a chance to tour the Chinese factory to make sure what he was ordered was reasonable quality which adds to the risk.

    Then there’s the inventory problem. Where to store 170 bikes? He’ll also need someone to help him assemble all those bikes unless they come fully assembled (unlikely). Then he’ll need product liability insurance in case something goes wrong with the bikes or someone gets injured. Even the experienced manufacturers get hit with recalls pretty regularly!

    He’ll also need a retail channel to sell the bikes (open a shop? or maybe a website where he’ll have to box and ship everything). That’s not to mention the marketing angle: what makes his bikes cooler/different from what’s already available? This last piece is what American companies are known for which makes it unlikely an inexperienced college student can piece it together.

    Still, I’m a big fan of entrepreneurship and risk taking. Think of all the (potential) American jobs that could be created: retail/sales manager, assembly mechanic, web/graphic designer, etc. Plus he’s paying for taxes, insurance, storage facility rental, etc. right here in the US.

    I say stick with the fixies and campus bikes where performance isn’t really important and brand the bikes with something hip/local. Would I invest? No – but I’m glad to see someone giving it a try!

    #103185

    Keep in mind that many plans include dealing with a bargain(cheap) producer initially to get your foot in the door and then taking more control of the product as you go. Not everyone has the funds up front to start building bikes in your dorm room. Sell some rebranded bikes, fine tune your brand image and start making the bikes you really want to make as the funding permits.

    Just an optimistic guess as to what he might be doing. He might be perfectly happy selling Wal-Mart bikes.

    #103186
    "trek7k" wrote

    Still, I’m a big fan of entrepreneurship and risk taking. Think of all the (potential) American jobs that could be created: retail/sales manager, assembly mechanic, web/graphic designer, etc. Plus he’s paying for taxes, insurance, storage facility rental, etc. right here in the US.

    Completely agreed!

    It looks like he’s using his resources as best he can (start up from friends/family, sister doing the web design) and he’s working with his LBS for selling the bikes.

    Hopefully it works out for him.

    Very good point on the sticking with fixies.

    #103187

    trek7k, you bring up a ton of good points! Starting your own bike company definitely isn’t easy…

    And I think the idea of staying with fixies isn’t bad either. They’re simple. Not like most mountain bikes…

    #103188

    It is a great thing to live in a country that if you put your head down and work and actually get some where. Bikes fron China? Who knows. Hope it works for him. Wait a second! If the bikes from China don’t sell just start a racing class, "The Pot Metal Only" class. Awards are based on how close you get to the finish before a major break down. Have the bike shipped to the event, use the box for the overnight cook out and there is no bike worth tranporting home. Think of the energy savings. There is a bright side to almost everything. I do hope he makes it in buisness all kidding aside. 😄 Later,

    #103189

    So he’s literally the Michael Dell of bicycles. 😆

    When I interviewed local framebuilder Waltworks a while back, this exact topic came up. It was outside the scope of that blog post, but Walt has been to the cycling trade shows and he said there are multiple Chinese vendors with various frames marked with "Your Logo Here." These frames can be had for about $70 each for steel or aluminum, with minimum orders usually starting around 100 units. There are also generic carbon and titanium options for a bit more money.

    So figure 100 frames at $75 each, throw in some shipping and bam, you’re a [i:7zfo2kb3]Bicycle Company[/i:7zfo2kb3] for under ten grand!!

    The curve ball in this whole scenario is that, according to Walt, a lot of these frames weren’t half bad quality-wise. In Asian countries bikes are a huge part of day to day transportation and these Chinese frame shops have welded literally millions of frames, so from a manufacturing standpoint they have the process down to a tee. In some cases they may even be made by the likes of Giant, Pacific (GT) or one of their subsidiaries. They are usually similar, if not identical to some famous company’s bleeding edge design from 3-5 years ago and he said the welding was good and the weight was pretty average on the ones he checked out.

    The whole premise of this rabbit trail that he and I went on was his statement that he doesn’t sell frames, he sells customer service. He said anyone can learn to weld a frame, but with the custom guys you can literally pop over to the pub and design your own bike over some frosty brews. That’s what these upstart resellers can’t provide. He also said that mass produced frames are perfectly fine for a lot of riders and if the availability of $399 complete mountain bikes gets some people into the sport who otherwise wouldn’t bother, then there’s value to that. Statistically, some of those people will get bitten by the upgrade bug and eventually come to him for a custom frame anyway.

    #103190

    "A further question: who wants to buy cookie-cutter Chinese bikes anyways? Apparently, he assumes that college kids looking for a cheap commuter do, because they are probably just looking at the price tag. And the thing is, he’s probably right."

    The free market will decide whether or not they want Chinese bikes. If this guy’s shop does well then great for him. Personally, I probably wouldn’t purchase one. If his shop does poorly it’ll be up to him to change his business to meet whatever his customer base is. The free market is just that. Free to fail, free to succeed. The risk is his to take….

    #213382

    This is good and inspirational story. You can always break the barrier when you have eagerness, dedication and bright thinking and establish your own business the way you wanted. Just always trust your instinct and that what makes you happy. Along with the right resources, starting a business is always possible. Branding your own business is what you need to care of when you have one, a business branding and consulting firm tips like this one http://eatmywords.com/tips/choosing-a-naming-firm/ would be a big help.

    #213406

    A resurrected topic. By the way, whats the update on the kids biz?

    #213444

    There is a butt for every seat. He is probably tagging an untapped market in his local area and will likely be successful. He is simply sourcing parts and building “his bike”. Not uncommon. This is where many riders, myself included, got started. My first was a BD bike from motobecane. It didn’t murder my budget and allowed me to learn at a minimal cost of entry and learn to work on my own stuff. I still have the bike and thrash it regularly. However I see your point. It Ingenuity and innovation are very expensive. I bet he gets an A I. His marketing class though!

    #215820

    Anyone who takes a risk with their own money and reputation and jumps in to the world of capitalism gets an A in my book

     

    not an easy task and many fail trying

    #215998

    $350?!  Way cool!  He cannot have made too much money.  The insurance policy alone to protect his customers for the life of the bikes will be an ongoing expense long after their purchase money is gone.  As a direct to customer businessman, he will be responsible for insuring the frame/fork and for construction, component safety (such as the quick releases he chooses?) as well as the assembly of the bike.  Should a customer suffer an injury in an accidnet, the legal fees will be an education!  He will also get an incredible education in collecting and paying sales tax, quarterly estimates, and (if he has set up a corporation) corporation filings.  He would make more money working at Taco Bell and not have the liability to deal with, but welcome to the world of bicycle sales!

    We recently settled with a litigant who was injured as a result of the quick release (on the front wheel) issue that grabbed a bunch of air time in the bicycle world (Shimano & Trek).  We did not select the quick release that was installed on the bike, but we still got sued and our insurance company (thank goodness!) had to pay.  People will purchase a bike without checking into these issues, but they will also run into court to get paid when things go south.  I hope he (and his customers) are covered.

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