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start up shop

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start up shop

Old 01-08-10, 06:07 AM
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start up shop

I went to the Barnett Bicycle Institute this past fall. It was a great time. I have been working towards opening my own shop since August of 2009. If you have ever attempted something like this please tell me of your experience, whether you were successful or not. I am very interested in hearing your stories.
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Old 01-08-10, 06:44 AM
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Have you ever opened any type of business before? If not there is tons of fun coming your way. :>)

It appears you are in a good area to do this and I wish you the best.

"ready to navigate"
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Old 01-08-10, 08:09 AM
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Do you have a regular job already? If so, I would consider a shop at home first. Easy to advertise on Craigs List, zero overhead, allows you to build a business without putting serious money at risk.

Lots of overhead in having a bricks and mortar shop. All of that can be avoided by having a home shop.

Do a business plan. Do you have significant working capital in hand (to carry you until the business is making money)? Another reason to try the Craigs List/home business first.
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Old 01-08-10, 08:29 AM
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Some shop owners have told me you have to own your own building, ultimately at least, to make economics work well.
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Old 01-08-10, 09:00 AM
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I opened a shop about two years ago, it's been great. After a short while, I offered a colleague a share of the business so that we could operate as business partners, and that made things better in every way.

You will need money, and quite a bit of it, to open a bike shop. And even after you open, a line of credit with a bank is pretty much a necessity. And keep in mind, banks don't lend money as readily as they did two years ago (this is one thing that's been an eye opener for me, as I've had a very good relationship with my bank for decades, but now they're not nearly as easy to work with as they were). A business plan is essential. The willingness to work LONG hours is essential. The willingness and ability to work retail is essential, because the reality is, that's what you're doing in selling new bicycles.

If you REALLY want to open a bike shop, you will indeed need a brick and mortar location. Companies like QBP and bike manufacturers aren't going to deal with you if you don't have a retail location. Choosing bike brands that you feel confident in and that are available in your area can be difficult if there are established shops in your area that already carry the mainstream brands that you would like to carry. This took some thought and deliberation on my part, and while I'm happy with where we are right now, it is a dynamic process (things change, sometimes rapidly, in local markets).

I contemplated starting some type of bike business for quite a few years before I opened our shop, I even incorporated the name three years before the shop opened. But I never REALLY made the commitment to do it until the very end of 2007/early 2008. Once I made the commitment, I mean REALLY made the commitment, things happened pretty fast. Again, getting a location, then establishing yourself with suppliers and manufacturers, is a big deal and you're only going to do these things if you're REALLY committed to your idea.

From a mechanic's perspective, you will learn more about working on bikes in a bike shop environment in a few months than you can learn in decades of working on your own bikes. But keep in mind, if working on bikes is your passion (it certainly is one of mine), there's a lot more to running a bike shop than working on bikes. The bookkeeping alone is a huge responsibility. In addition to the two partners, we have two others who work here (think payroll). It's cool, because we're all truly bike nuts, but again, there's a lot of responsibility outside the realm of bikes.

I do have the advantage of having been in a couple of other businesses in my life, so most of the business side of things is not new to me (although business is a dynamic process, and every business is different). A major highlight of my time in the bike business so far was a trip to Interbike in September. My business partner and I went together, and it was heaven on earth for a couple of bike nuts. We hope to continue to go there at least every few years. Enjoyable as it is, it really is good for your business to get out there, meet people in the industry, and check out new stuff.

Good luck-
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Old 01-08-10, 09:26 AM
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Summary: volunteer for free at a shop for 1-3 months. If this is what you want to do, raise a lot of money. Think 3 months rent deposit (1st, last, and current), lots of credit for bike lines ($10-50k credit lines), enough money to pay for stuff through a totally dead biz time (for me it was 1 month in the late fall and 2 months in winter, so 3 months worth of salary, utilities, rent). And that's minimum. You really ought to have 6-12 months worth.

Another important concept: if you have to own the building you're in, you're in the real estate business, not the bike biz. You could do almost anything in that space if you can pay your mortgage monthly. If you own the building because you want to own the building (not because you have to own it) then you're okay. Choose your profession. This came from a long time bike industry person (who is out of the biz now - and he owned his own building).


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Old 01-08-10, 10:19 AM
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Bike Retailer is a source for industry news, if you don't already check it out. I was on there reading about Ski Market when I realized some of the articles would be pertinent here.

Retailer Shares Lessons from Closure

Ski Market (they were big in the area)

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Old 01-08-10, 11:28 AM
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I went to UBI this past Spring.

I have retail management experience.

I'd love to have my own shop but definitely lack the resources to open successfully.

I am working as a mechanic in a LBS for at least a year, maybe two, before I even consider my own place. Part is just that I am a relatively conservative wuss when it comes to business; part is recognition that a successful business is not just knowledge (school) but also experience (time spent working/learning on the job).

College is 4 years, bike school is 2 weeks. Consider a low wage mechanic job part of the expense of getting a bike shop education and it takes the sting out of it a bit... and is a screaming deal from an educational standpoint--you get paid to learn as opposed to paying to learn. Call it what you want--apprenticeship, residency, whatever--but get enough time in to figure out if you have what it takes to run a business successfully... or if it's even something you want to do.
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Old 01-08-10, 12:50 PM
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I agree. Having experience in a successful business is worth it's weight in gold. I will be back - as stated to you earlier - and by then should have cash to help bankroll said adventure (we know each other). Keep a notepad and write down what you know you'll need. Then start adding on the unforeseen expenses you hadn't thought of/through.
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Old 01-08-10, 01:01 PM
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Are any of these co-ops / collectives near you? These can be a great way to get experience wrenching on bikes / working in the bike business while still keeping your day job.

(The only downside is that when you get to experience the public if you haven't worked retail in a while, it can be a little off-putting. Most folks are WONDERFUL, but at least down here in Lalaland, there are just enough crazy people on 2 wheels to make you think twice about going full-time.)
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Old 01-08-10, 01:08 PM
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I have a pet one of those. She always begins any conversation with: "Got a quarter? Got a cigarette?" then she proceeds to tell me she wants me to fix her bike - which I visualize to be one tacoed wheel, a torn-open saddle, and a bent fork. She does this in stores, too. Nobody can understand more than a few words from her.
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