Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Setting up a Bike Business

With the number of people out on the streets of Britain cycling, perhaps there has been no better time to start up a mobile bike business from scratch. According to government figures, one in ten adults in England now cycle at least once a week and three percent of adults hop on their bike at least five times every week. Furthermore, roughly two percent of adults in England habitually get to and from work by bike. With this current generation’s strong emphasis on the importance of both healthy and green living, not to mention the constantly spiralling cost of public transport and the volatile price of petrol, bicycles are an increasingly popular means of transport for people from all walks of life. Of course, this means that there are lucrative opportunities for entrepreneurs who think that they have the skills, commitment and capital needed to launch a successful mobile bike business. That said, starting up a mobile bike business is far from easy. A lot of the practical questions that people have about setting up a mobile bike business have already been answered on our blog here. But here are some broader business principles and factors to bear in mind when you are dreaming up your path to success.
Location, location, location: The location of a business always plays a fundamental role in determining its success. Bear in mind that for a mobile bike businesses you will have to strike a balance or make a trade-off between setting up your business in a place where bikes are popular among locals or people passing through and not plonking your business among dozens of other better-established competitors. For example, on paper Cambridge would seem like the best place to set up a bike business as it has the highest proportion of adults who use a bike at least once every week, at 47%. This is compared with a figure of 5% in many other places in England. The number of cyclists means that there are also a large number of bicycle retailers and bicycle repair establishments dotted over the town, however, which in turn means that setting up a bike business in Cambridge is actually quite a tough challenge. Could the answer be, offer a unique mobile service to suit the demand of customers needs?
Nonetheless it is all about striking a balance and other location-related questions to bear in mind include whether the place where you intend to establish your repair shop is accessible and convenient. For example, if it is a repair shop and located in an area close to offices then you can expect to tap into busy lunch-time and post-work trade- when local workers who also ride a bike may look into getting a flat tyre or squeaking brakes fixed. More generally, placing your establishment in a place with a healthy amount of foot-fall maximises your chance of benefiting from passing trade. You may also decide to set up your business in a community which you already have links to and, therefore, strong potential for a loyal customer base. These questions over location are important to think about not just for your own benefit but also because these are probably the very questions that a bank manager will ask when you make that crucial application for a business loan. Although you will have saved some capital to invest in starting up the business, in the vast majority of cases that extra bit of help from the bank will be fundamental to getting off the ground. A solid business plan based on a good location for your business with rent at the right price is therefore key.
Unique selling points and incredible service
Nail your unique selling point: All businesses need a unique selling point, or USP. Without a USP you are more likely to struggle against the competition, which, as already emphasised, may be at a huge advantage compared with your new business because they are more established and likely to be more experienced. There is a wealth of examples of successful mobile bike businesses with their own unique USPs so the best advice is to get Googling and find out what makes some of the more popular start-up bike businesses a hit. For example, some bike repair stores have an hour long drop-in service towards the beginning or end of each day so that people with straightforward bike repair problems do not have to book days or perhaps even weeks in advance. Drop-in services are also a great way to expose your business to as large a customer base as possible; a person that comes in to get a light fixed during a drop-in session just may come back for their bike MOT or when a more complex repair issue arises. If you are keen to open a repair shop you might also want to consider whether it might also attract more customers to sell a small but exciting range of bikes that are not on offer elsewhere in the area.
Offer amazing service and a fantastic experience: Market research survey after market research survey has proved that great customer service can leave a lasting impression on a customer and make them more likely to become a returning and loyal client. In the mobile bike industry specifically, great service is not just about politeness, energy and enthusiasm but also about being knowledgeable without being intimidating. If you have some kind of professional background in cycling or mechanics and you are opening a repair shop then, of course, that is a massive advantage. If cycling has been more of a hobby up until now, it is strongly recommended to do some serious swotting up or invest in some training and tool kit. You may want to look at buying a used van as your mobile workshop and learn how to kit it out.
Pay attention to small details: Finally, amazing service is also about the little touches. For example, if you have room in your shop front then why not consider moving in a nice sofa and attractive coffee table so that customers can wait in comfort if they are having a small repair done. Lay out the latest editions of a couple of your favourite cycling magazines for your customers to enjoy. If the decor is looking a bit soulless, you might want to consider getting some nice professional printouts of some snaps of world-class cyclist racers or Tour de France winners and put them up around your outfit. Basically, let your creativity and love for cycling take hold as you create a bike-lover’s paradise!

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