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Old 06-22-11, 12:48 AM   #1
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Starting a business: From bicycle garage to bicycle shop?

So I've been flipping bicycles for 2005, I learned a lot of things about bicycles in my years of experience. I've overhauled hubs, bottom brackets, headsets, removed devilishly stuck bottom brackets with Sheldon brown's handy-dandy bolt-tool(AKA: a grade 8 bolt with 6 split washers), learned how to tweak derailleurs, cut cables and in the last year started learning the art of wheel building and learning to fix some taco'd wheels.

In the last few months I've had a bicycle repair ad on my local craig's list. Not to promote myself or anything shameless like that, I'm looking for a little feedback and invaluable market research from you guys, the kind of customers I hope to gain and keep as a mechanic. So, I call my shop *******(Thoughts on the name? Constructive criticism welcome!), because more than anything I value people riding their bikes when the season is ripe for it and I usually charge half of what my local bike shop charges because well 1) I have no overhead as I'm running it out of my garage and 2) I think their prices are often kind of ridiculous. ($70 to tune-up a bike).

Also thinking about changing my name to Bike City, The Bike Lane(I'm inclined to this one myself), or the Bike Garage(if I never find a location, heh!)

I have 6 excellent clients right now. Two of them small business owners like myself. Every client I gain I think at what point should I prepare a business plan, find a location and take that big leap?

Anyway business is kind of hard to round up. I don't think people find my ads very easily on craigslist and it just sort of crossed my mind now about maybe paying for advertising or creating a website. My newest client suggested I add my address to Google business listing! so he could leave public feedback. Although I think most people may find that shady? Thoughts?

Last edited by Mr_Wrench; 06-22-11 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 06-22-11, 02:49 AM   #2
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Go to for business advice.

You may be getting away with this because you have so few clients. An LBS has to pay for a business license, taxes, and hopefully insurance, ect. At some point the government will discover you are not paying all the required fees, then you may end up out of business or being fined. Recently there was a spate of stories about governments shutting down children's informal businesses like selling drinks.
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Old 06-22-11, 03:49 AM   #3
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Your prices will have to go up once your overhead goes up. You will find out just WHY the LBS is charging $70 for a tune up. Also depending on your area it may be illegal to run a business out of your garage in a residential area. I have been a small business owner several times in the past. I was always told that best two days were the day you opened your doors for the first time and the day you close them for the last time...and I can see why now.

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Old 06-22-11, 06:55 AM   #4
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Just my opinion, but Bike City is about as lame a name as you can get. It sounds like something out of Mad Magazine. The Bike Lane would be confusing and not very memorable. The name has got to be unique. I like Rapid Repair Bikes. Simple, alliterative and tells the customer what you do.

Have you tried the local pennysaver? How about hosting an event, say one where for a day, you give free chain cleaning and inspection, or fix up a child's bike free with every adult bike(equal or more in need of repair). Have a bicycle rodeo for kids.

Have you written any press releases for your local paper? One that has an interesting angle, not the services that you do, but the human angle of a guy fighting back against the economy by running a business like yours. Get three of your customers ready to give the paper quotes.
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Old 06-22-11, 08:21 AM   #5
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I say, go for it. Open a bike shop and do your thing. I dont think the name is all that important. Being part of the community is.

A bike shop opened about 5-6 years ago in my town. I bought a bike from them shortly after they opened and get treated like royalty every time I go there. The guy sells family bikes to families. Mostly mountain bikes, and comfort bikes. He does lots of repairs and operates a very friendly shop. Parts and repairs are pricey. He's not catering to the sporting crowd, but to parents and their kids. Kid has a flat tire they take the bike to him. Kid needs a new bike, they buy from him.

I guess what I am getting at is define your business and the neighborhood its going to be in and service their needs.
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Old 06-22-11, 08:32 AM   #6
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I can't count how many LBS are in my area and quite frankly, I don't know how they all stay in biz. I don't know what your market is like but you might want to think about a niche. Some shop names try to reflect their customer base. Examples of names:
Cyclogist, ProVelo, Full Cycle, Pelotin, Velox -- roadie, pro shops
Just Ridin' Along, Rocky Mt. Recumb. -- specialty
Road 34 - Bike shop with a bar !!! and deli

You get the idea.
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Old 06-22-11, 09:13 AM   #7
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Will need Liability Insurance, and a tax number to begin with..
And such requirements to get the distributors to sell you Parts.
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Old 06-24-11, 08:17 AM   #8
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There's a difference (distinction) between repairs and sales. I would think that a repair business would require less space, less inventory, less overhead, less headache with manufacturers.

There's some well established bike mechanics schools. I would imagine that would be wonderful for you from a personal matter as well as for a business investment.

Near me is a bike mechanic and he went to a mechanic school and also was on the Mavic neutral support team at the Tour de France. Going to that particular mechanic school opened a lot of doors for him.
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