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Starting my own bike shop.

Old 06-03-15, 03:55 AM
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Starting my own bike shop.

Hi, everyone!

Hope you're all doing well. Does any of you have experience starting a bike store? Being an entrepreneur and bike enthusiast, I'm seriously contemplating of starting my own bike store. I hope you can give me a helping hand.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 06-03-15, 05:30 AM
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Originally Posted by jack_cyclist
Hope you're all doing well. Does any of you have experience starting a bike store? Being an entrepreneur and bike enthusiast, I'm seriously contemplating of starting my own bike store. I hope you can give me a helping hand.
I have thought a few times about opening a repair business, and also a rental business. The rental idea was a good one, actually, but my being an enthusiast works against the repair idea. I am too enthusiastic, and that's not always good for business.

Where I live there is not enough critical mass to sustain a shop. Not a walk-in shop. I do believe one could sustain a repair business if it was done without the overhead of a dedicated storefront, maybe in connection with a local hardware store or something like that.

In the city an hour away there are four shops. There's the right combination of critical mass and trails and city support for cycling and good incomes to support four shops. Two of the four are bikes-only, one is bikes plus skis, and the other is bikes plus outdoor gear.
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Old 06-03-15, 06:26 AM
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Starting up a bike shop is a good way to turn an enjoyable hobby into a job.
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Old 06-03-15, 06:44 AM
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Entrepreneurship: Forbes has a good article on this

The Real Definition Of Entrepreneur---And Why It Matters
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Old 06-03-15, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by jack_cyclist
Hi, everyone!

Hope you're all doing well. Does any of you have experience starting a bike store? Being an entrepreneur and bike enthusiast, I'm seriously contemplating of starting my own bike store. I hope you can give me a helping hand.

Thanks in advance!
Why a bike store?
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Old 06-03-15, 06:49 AM
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Go to a bike shop in a place away from where you are (50 miles or so) and ask them questions. You will be far enough away that they will not see you as competition. Look for a shop that teaches before selling.
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Old 06-03-15, 06:50 AM
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What about a mobile shop out of a van or trailer? Look at Streamline Bike in Austin. He rents and repairs from an Airstream.
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Old 06-03-15, 06:53 AM
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Good luck...
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Old 06-03-15, 07:01 AM
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I thought about it a couple times too. Reality is that you will probably work 60hrs a week to create a store that you will constantly worry over for at least the first 5 years. It's hard if you aren't in or near a city, where most people are bringing in for repairs especially. Plus, the internet is killing the LBS. Dont take it as discouragement. Last thing I want to do is smash someone in pursuit of the American Dream. However, just recognize it will definitely be an incredible amount of hard work, long hours, a lot of worrying, running around, and marketing like hell.

But, thats not to say that you shouldn't buy a small trailer or shed, keep your day job, and do repairs from a shed in your house. That's what my friend does now. He gets the steadiness of a job, and does as many repairs as he can or wants to. He bought a small wood shed thats about 800 sqft (those Amish prebuilt sheds) and put it on the side of his house. Set it up as a shop and went from there
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Old 06-03-15, 08:39 AM
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bike shop can mean different things to different people. What do you see your bike shop doing?
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Old 06-03-15, 08:59 AM
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Clark Howard always recommends anyone who wants to be in a certain business to work for someone else in that business for six months or so. For one thing, you learn the ins and outs, but you also get a better sense of whether you really want to do it before you risk your own money.
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Old 06-03-15, 09:27 AM
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The real question isn't whether or not you want to open a bike shop, the question is whether the local market can and will support the existance of a bike shop. Who would be your customers? What do they spend their money on? Where do they go today to spend that money? Why would they choose you instead of where they go now, i.e. what will you offer that the competition doesn't? Is this customer base increasing or decreasing and why? What will be your costs in opening and running the shop, how much will you spend on marketing? How do those figures compare to what the potential customers are willing to spend? How long can you operate at a loss?


A lot of places talk about business plans and so forth, but the fundamental groundwork is in the questions above.
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Old 06-03-15, 10:50 AM
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I'm interested in this thread as well. I have one of those pie in the sky dreams of retiring from work someday and running a local bike shop.

My local town used to have one, but it closed years ago. Recently, they have built a really nice hike/bike trail with an accompanying MTB bike trail running parallel with it. They are also in the process of adding bike lanes around town.

Also, a local bike club as started up on FB and has regular rides around town now. Several clubs from Dallas do training rides in the area as well. So we've sort of become a small cycling town once again.

A larger shop that is headquartered in a town 25 miles away or so decided to open a small branch here and one of the members of our local cycling club is the one man show there. They've been open a couple of months so far. Business is not going great. The location is fairly poor and they've done almost no marketing for it. For example, there is no mention of it on the HQ shop's Facebook page that I've seen, except for one group ride picture where everyone replied and said, "where is that?"

With all the rain we've had last month, they've cut the hours back to Thursday-Sunday I believe. There is some discussion around starting a group ride there to get a little more attention to it.

But I'm paying close attention to see what this store does right and wrong and if it stays open to give me ideas about the future.
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Old 06-03-15, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by jack_cyclist
Does any of you have experience starting a bike store?
Been there, sold it.
A LBS is a time intensive low GMROI seasonal retail and service business with a fair bit of capital investment in perishable fickle/fashion inventory and significant liability risk.

Hobbyists will go under quickly, good merchants with skill and savvy may not.
It's a good way to make a small fortune by staring with a large one.

-Bandera
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Old 06-03-15, 11:45 AM
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I always thought that a bike shop should be involved in cycling activities and have some sort of representation or presence at the events , I know that will mean cost for somebody but the idea is to get personal with your possible customers , and they knowing where you are located,, mho
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Old 06-03-15, 12:15 PM
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I looked at the idea, once. No matter what the business start up, succesful startups always seem to have good momentum from the onset. They angle or market to attract business in a way that taps the curiosity of the potential customer. Add in great customer service & you might have a great shop!
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Old 06-03-15, 12:43 PM
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I have thought of this as well. My family owned a grocery store so I have some experience with what I might be getting in to. Here are some things that I think about:

1. Find an area that is currently under served or poorly served by existing bike shops.
2. In that area, find a reasonably good location with strong visibility. You don't have to be in the center of the commercial district, but you need to have traffic.
3. Avoid going into debt with inventory. Start by being a used bike shop and/or a consignment shop. Of course you'll also do repairs and sell other things.
4. Be involved in bike groups. Make your shop a meeting place or starting place.
5. Start your own riding groups by using "Meet Up" or some other sites.
6. Figure out your shop's identity. Is it a shop for high-end bike junkies who race time trails, criteriums, etc.? Is it a shop for the avid and recreational biker who enjoys weekend and social rides? Are you in a tourist area where rentals and beach cruiser bikes are popular? Are you near a ski area and mountain biking is the thing? Whatever it may be, you need to develop a reputation for something.
7. (Goes along with number 6) Figure out where you make money. Is your bread and butter going to be service and repairs? Selling accessories and parts? Selling bikes? Clothing? Something else? Of course you'll probably do all of those things and more, but know which retail area is your strongest area and which ones support it. Focus your store (and your store's identity) on that.
8. Be organized. Figure out how you will sort, catalog, store, and sell merchandise. You need a system - probably one that can be run through various computer platforms.
9. Know your suppliers. This is harder than it seems - particularly at the beginning. Do you know now where you will buy tires? Tubes? Other stuff? If you're selling new bikes, do you know how to finance a floor plan? Lots of questions to ask.
10. Have a lot of cash or start very small and grow very slowly.
11. Be determined but not stubborn. Know the difference.

Good luck.
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Old 06-03-15, 01:09 PM
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No. 1 rule: a bike shop is first and foremost, a business; it exists to make money (with certain exceptions, of which none come to mind).

When I was a consulting engineer this was almost always the most difficult concept for entry level engineers, right out of college, to grasp.
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Old 06-04-15, 02:19 AM
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Originally Posted by JonathanGennick
I have thought a few times about opening a repair business, and also a rental business. The rental idea was a good one, actually, but my being an enthusiast works against the repair idea. I am too enthusiastic, and that's not always good for business.
Hahaha. Thanks for sharing your story. Appreciate! Hopefully you'll push through with your rental and/or repair biz.
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Old 06-04-15, 02:37 AM
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Thanks for the pointers! Will keep them in mind!
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Old 06-04-15, 02:47 AM
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Hi there! Thanks for giving me several pointers! Appreciate! They're very helpful.

I have a couple of follow ups though.

I'm actually planning to have a bike shop that has a little bit of everything. For instance, I'm planning to put some high-end bikes and some affordable ones as well. I'm also contemplating of selling clothing, accessories, parts, and even energy gels, among other stuff. Would that be a good idea or would it better if I focus on a particular target market/product? Thanks! Appreciate!
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Old 06-04-15, 02:56 AM
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Originally Posted by practical
6. Figure out your shop's identity. Is it a shop for high-end bike junkies who race time trails, criteriums, etc.? Is it a shop for the avid and recreational biker who enjoys weekend and social rides? Are you in a tourist area where rentals and beach cruiser bikes are popular? Are you near a ski area and mountain biking is the thing? Whatever it may be, you need to develop a reputation for something.
7. (Goes along with number 6) Figure out where you make money. Is your bread and butter going to be service and repairs? Selling accessories and parts? Selling bikes? Clothing? Something else? Of course you'll probably do all of those things and more, but know which retail area is your strongest area and which ones support it. Focus your store (and your store's identity) on that.Good luck.
Hi there! Thanks for giving me several pointers! Appreciate! They're very helpful.

I have a couple of follow ups though.

I'm actually planning to have a bike shop that has a little bit of everything. For instance, I'm planning to put some high-end bikes and some affordable ones as well. I'm also contemplating of selling clothing, accessories, parts, and even energy gels, among other stuff. Would that be a good idea or would it better if I focus on a particular target market/product? Thanks! Appreciate!
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Old 06-04-15, 03:00 AM
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Originally Posted by KenshiBiker
No. 1 rule: a bike shop is first and foremost, a business; it exists to make money (with certain exceptions, of which none come to mind).

When I was a consulting engineer this was almost always the most difficult concept for entry level engineers, right out of college, to grasp.
Thanks for the pointers! Will keep them in mind!
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Old 06-04-15, 03:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Blue Belly
I looked at the idea, once. No matter what the business start up, succesful startups always seem to have good momentum from the onset. They angle or market to attract business in a way that taps the curiosity of the potential customer. Add in great customer service & you might have a great shop!
Hi, there! Good point! With regards to customer service, do you have any specific pointers regarding this matter? I'm a bit of an introvert. Hahahaha
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Old 06-04-15, 03:16 AM
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Test the waters, work in a bike shop for at least a year. Pay attention and find out what your limitations are, and the challenges of the business. Put in some six and seven day weeks to get a feel for the pace. Then see if it's for you.

And if you want "a little bit of everything" you will need serious bank. Ten bikes in three frame sizes, all over $1K? Kids bikes, accessories? Advertising? How long can you tread water until you make money?

I agree that selling nice, rehabbed bikes is a better start. But...I don't run a shop.
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