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  1. #1
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    Starting On-Campus Bike Repair Business - Advice?

    So this coming fall I'm starting a small bike repair "business" at my university. Since I couldn't find a bike shop job this summer, I thought that this would be the next best (or even better) thing. So, I made up a poster, price menu, talked to a couple local shops about cable and tube discounts in return for references (not sure that they're completely thrilled about it, but whatever) and am in the process of buying some more tools to run this thing smoothly. So, bikeforum community, I want to pick your brains on what you think of this, what advice you may have for me as a self-taught (aka mediocre) mechanic regarding repairs, dealing with customers, prices. Any shop mechanics out there? Any entrepreneurs on here? I'd love to hear from you (and I'd love to get a co-op too!)

    Check out my ad...

    (I have a non-risqué version too, don't worry)


    and price "menu"
    Last edited by cdicenso; 08-08-11 at 03:11 PM.

  2. #2
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    That's cheap for a tune-up. Are you pricing it that way because you're not a good mechanic or are your local shops about the same price? My shops charge $50-60 for the basic tune-up - clean, adjust, lube.

  3. #3
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    Yeah, my local one charges $45. I can definitely do a tune up no problem, but I don't feel that it's worth that much. Maybe I should bump it up a little bit though. Hmmm....

  4. #4
    Senior Member bigbadwullf's Avatar
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    Don't be afraid to charge for your services. Especially after you start getting more jobs come in.

    I'd pay to watch her work on my bike

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  5. #5
    Dan J chinarider's Avatar
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    Seems cheap to me too. What you need to figure out is what you need to charge to make it worthwhile. Is this to be full-time or part-time? Either way, if you get all the business you can handle will your prices be enough to cover your overhead and make some $? Do you have to make enough to live on or is this supplementing something else? Do you have to rent a shop or are you doing it out of your home? Insurance, phone, parts, tools? If it doesn't add up at a price you can charge & still get the necessary business, rethink your idea.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    Your prices do seem low. Remember, you're going to deal w/customers who'll come back and ask you to redo work because they are not satisfied for one reason or another, whether justifiable or not. You'll encounter old bikes with junk parts that will require far more than $5.00 of your time to adjust one brake, much less both of them.

    You might do flat-repair as a loss-leader, but are you replacing the tube at that price, or patching it? If you patch it, someone will come back to you later with their tire flat again and blaming your patch job. If you replace, then charge enough extra to cover the cost of the tube.

    I agree about getting insurance. Protect yourself. You are worth that much.

    What's your basic value proposition? Are you less expensive than the local bike shops? Are you more convenient? Will you get work done more quickly? Given that you're in class most of the day, will it be easier for your prospective customers to just go to a shop that is open than to try and track you down? What is going to be your drawing card?

    And charge more.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    You should photoshop that poster pic and change Schwinn to Schwing!

    Seriously though, I'd select a less risque photo for a poster. Also, if you want to be totally legit, you'll probably need to register the business, get a business license, and deal with associated taxes (business taxes, sales and use taxes, etc. as the case may be for your locale). Not likely you'll need to, but check into making quarterly estimated income tax payments as well.

  8. #8
    Senior Member bigbadwullf's Avatar
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    The pic might turn off those of the female persuasion from coming to you. Then again the ones that do come to you...

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  9. #9
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    A friend decades ago built it all into a trailer he hauled on to campus
    and the bike trail in the park on the weekend.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
    You should photoshop that poster pic and change Schwinn to Schwing!

    Seriously though, I'd select a less risque photo for a poster. Also, if you want to be totally legit, you'll probably need to register the business, get a business license, and deal with associated taxes (business taxes, sales and use taxes, etc. as the case may be for your locale). Not likely you'll need to, but check into making quarterly estimated income tax payments as well.
    I got this too, but I really want to put up both...


    The pic might turn off those of the female persuasion from coming to you. Then again the ones that do come to you...
    I'm at an engineering school; that poster's good for business, bad for chicas.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
    Your prices do seem low. Remember, you're going to deal w/customers who'll come back and ask you to redo work because they are not satisfied for one reason or another, whether justifiable or not. You'll encounter old bikes with junk parts that will require far more than $5.00 of your time to adjust one brake, much less both of them.
    You're totally right. I upped prices a little bit...



    You think that should be enough for adjustments? Old brakes for sure can be a real biatch to get right, I'll just do the best I can and tell them to go to a shop and buy new ones if they're not satisfied.


    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
    You might do flat-repair as a loss-leader, but are you replacing the tube at that price, or patching it? If you patch it, someone will come back to you later with their tire flat again and blaming your patch job. If you replace, then charge enough extra to cover the cost of the tube.
    I'm going to be replacing it, I mean that's what I always do for my bike. The prices on the menu don't include parts, I don't really have the cash to buy in bulk so I'm gonna hit up a shop that gives me a discount (I worked it out with the owner) and charge the customer whatever it cost, plus a dollar or two for my time to pick it up.

    I agree about getting insurance. Protect yourself. You are worth that much.
    Never even thought about that. Thank you, I'll ask my pops about that.

    What's your basic value proposition? Are you less expensive than the local bike shops? Are you more convenient? Will you get work done more quickly? Given that you're in class most of the day, will it be easier for your prospective customers to just go to a shop that is open than to try and track you down? What is going to be your drawing card?

    And charge more.
    Currently the only on-campus option is a shop in the gym basement where you largely have to do it yourself and it's not open too late. Off campus there's a bunch of shops but the closest one is 1.5 miles away, kinda farther than most people would want to walk with a broken bike in Atlanta heat. So I'm offering convenience and flexibility. I'll do other repairs, but I mostly want to focus on the most common/effective fixes: new cables, tune up, tubes. I'll admit I am a bit scared to charge too much, but I want to be conservative, I'm not a certified mechanic. This is going to be a learning experience, business and mechanical.

    Thanks for your feedback!

  12. #12
    DON'T PANIC!
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    Double the prices and then have a 50% grand opening discount. If you find that you can work on volume and still make money then you can drop your rates.

    PS: Don't forget you will need to build up a slush fund for that day you break, in reality or the customers mind, a bike.
    Last edited by Brontide; 08-09-11 at 09:05 AM.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cdicenso View Post
    Old brakes for sure can be a real biatch to get right, I'll just do the best I can and tell them to go to a shop and buy new ones if they're not satisfied.
    You could also eyeball or test things to begin with, and give the customer a sense of whether your adjustment was really going to make a difference. Are the current pads worn down to nothing? Are they cheap OEM pads having no grip? The trick probably is to foresee potential problems and set the right expectation with your customer.

  14. #14
    Senior Member bigbadwullf's Avatar
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    1) Georgia Tech isn't a cheap school to attend.
    2) Georgia Tech engineering school certainly isn't cheap to attend.

    Those going there have some cash(or Mom and Dad do). They will fork out $$ for repairs.

    Make DAMNED sure the bike shop you refer people to KNOW YOU sent them. Be a pain in the butt to them by calling and making sure the person got there and they know who sent them. That is your ticket to them paying attention to you. You make it worth it to them. Otherwise you are just their competition and in their mind you are just taking food out of their kid's mouth and their kids college fund to GT.
    Last edited by bigbadwullf; 08-09-11 at 09:23 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
    You could also eyeball or test things to begin with, and give the customer a sense of whether your adjustment was really going to make a difference. Are the current pads worn down to nothing? Are they cheap OEM pads having no grip? The trick probably is to foresee potential problems and set the right expectation with your customer.
    Right, right. I want to help them, be a guiding hand if you will. I gotta get a good reputation.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigbadwullf View Post
    1) Georgia Tech isn't a cheap school to attend.
    2) Georgia Tech engineering school certainly isn't cheap to attend.

    Those going there have some cash(or Mom and Dad do). They will fork out $$ for repairs.

    Make DAMNED sure the bike shop you refer people to KNOW YOU sent them. Be a pain in the butt to them by calling and making sure the person got there and they know who sent them. That is your ticket to them paying attention to you. You make it worth it to them. Otherwise you are just their competition and in their mind you are just taking food out of their kid's mouth and their kids college fund to GT.
    Absolutely. There are a bunch of rich kids. I don't want to exploit them of course, but I also want to be competitive with the bike shops.

    Outback Bikes, the shop that I have a discount with, will give me 20%. The owner said it was alright(!), most likely thanks to their current sponsorship of our cycling team. Definitely, yes, I'll have to make sure that they know I sent them, since, after all, it's really all I'm offering him, besides buying tubes and cables. However my location on-campus offers me a good bargaining chip, and if I create a good relationship, who knows, job offer?

  17. #17
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cdicenso View Post
    Right, right. I want to help them, be a guiding hand if you will. I gotta get a good reputation.
    I rebuild a lot of low-end bikes, Huffys and that sort of thing. I realized very early on that I'd never be able to adjust my way to a good reputation. Almost every low-end bike that I work on gets new brake pads and cables. If I can't put on new pads and cables, I'd rather not even touch the brakes, because I could adjust all day and the brakes would still be "meh". OTOH, put on clean cables and decent-quality pads, and suddenly the brakes actually work!

  18. #18
    Senior Member alhedges's Avatar
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    The problem with the risque poster is, as mentioned above, that female customers may not feel comfortable coming to you for work. Maybe if you could put it in a place where no women would be it would be okay. It is attention grabbing.

    The prices seem quite reasonable, although I'm a little concerned that people will not notice the "parts extra" bit at the top and be unhappy when they learn that it isn't *really* $5 to fix a flat? Have you considered including the price of a new tube in the flat cost?

    Also, do you think that you should include wheel truing as a service? Or as part of the tune up?

  19. #19
    Senior Member mwchandler21's Avatar
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    I'd imagine the interest from the majority male students and male cyclist will out weigh whatever small amount of female customers you lose. Besides its a college campus, I doubt very many female students will care.

  20. #20
    Senior Member mwchandler21's Avatar
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    If this was an elaborate ploy to bring traffic to a site with scantly clad girls on bikes, I say well played sir.

  21. #21
    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    From reading what you've posted so far, I predict problems.

    Easy example: someone wants the rear brake adjusted on their X-Mart "Eagle Crest" or whatever. You're all "oh sure, $10." Then it comes to light that the wheel (which is the brake rotor and a de facto component of the brake system) is out of true, badly enough that you can't really do a good brake job. So you're all "bah, well I'll true it, I guess," and then it comes to light that the wheel's axle bearing cup is halfway caved-in and it has 1/2-inch of lateral bearing slop, so that has to be dealt with before you can true it. As we say at the LBS, "the worms called, they want their can back!"

    Instead, I'd suggest getting on board at a local bike shop. Let them carry the monkey on their back of running the business, stocking the parts, etc. You get to leave it all behind at the end of the day, and you'll have backup if you get stuck on something.

  22. #22
    DON'T PANIC!
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    Alternate thought. Go high end. You already admit that one of your biggest advantages is convenience. Charge $20/hour + parts and do white glove, same day, type service with pickup and dropoff. Workout deals with the LBS to get a discount on service since they don't have to deal with the customers :-) which is usually a win for them.
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  23. #23
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    If this is being done on campus,you might have some liability issues with the school boards lawyers.

    I don't mean to scare you off from doing this.... BUT.....These are the days of sue crazy lawyers and judges that entertain mass quantities of sleazy lawsuits......

    It's one thing to supply tools and let people work on their own bikes,not so easy supplying a service and covering yours and the schools ass.If you own a house or real property,it could be for grabs if things go wrong,without some extra measures.

    Don't let your ass hang out too far!

    Good luck.
    Everything should be as simple as possible...But not more so.---Albert Einstein

  24. #24
    Caustic Soccer Mom apclassic9's Avatar
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    Aside from all the legal ramifications, you'd probably be better off including the cost of base-rate tubes and cables in your repair; if you want to charge $5 for a flat fix, add the cost of the tube in & advertise THAT price. Don't forget sales tax. And, if you have to get a business license & all that crap, don't forget that 15% of your earnings will for for FICA.
    As with mud, life, too, slides by.

  25. #25
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    where you find the model at? lol

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