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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've toyed with the idea of opening a small shop for years now. Never quite had the resources/time to do it. But recent changes in life may be presenting some opportunities that would make it a possibility.

So, if it is ok, I would like to hear from other individuals that have taken the plunge from hobbyist to business person. Mainly regarding the starting phases, how did you do it, what initial hurdles did you have between yourself and bigger companies, and other things that may have come up/discouraged you early on in the venture?

Thanks!
 

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It's something I had given some thought to at one point, but never did. IMO, it would be a good idea to work in one for a while. You'd learn a heck of a lot about how business is conducted in a very short time. Realize that you'd be working on the business, not on bikes. If you like the idea of running a business irrespective of what the product or services might be, go for it.
 

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Elitest thrill junkie
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Not a shop owner, worked in one and know a few. The biggest thing IME is community involvement. Putting on races, trailbuilding/maintenance, clinics, maintenance/service classes, rides, shop BBQ, things like that. It's a lot of work, but that involvement with the riding community binds the shop to them and attracts people. I think a classic mistake (shop I worked at) is having a bike shop and just sitting on your laurels and expecting business and customers to come to you. It may be completely overwhelming just to run the shop without doing the "extra", depending on experience, assets, and workforce available, but being able to engage the community is critical to success in the long-rung. The one constant in business IMO is that someone will always come along that do what you do better, faster, more efficiently, and so on. In the case of a bike shop, it's often "online shops", that require you to continually find new ways to reach the community. That way, you aren't stuck in the same rut just waiting for someone or something to come along and take your business.
 

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Professional Crastinator
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I have worked in a few shops, but wouldn't think of owning one. I am probably not creative enough or able to assess the changing needs of the bike community.
But, one shop I worked at also sold commercial exercise equipment. Not sure they would have been sustainable just as a bike shop due to the local bike market (lotsa kids/BMX). They have been closed for a long time after they discontinued the exercise equipment business and tried to replace it with skateboards (you'd have to sell a $hit-ton of skateboards...).
Another shop I worked at had a prime location, community connections, group rides, nice bikes, and expert staff. They are still in business.
A 3rd shop is part of a local chain. They are able to move inventory between stores, sometimes move staff, and, due to overall sales volume, are able to get their pick from some of the bigger mfr's. I tend to avoid them as it costs me at least an extra $20 each time I go there.
A 4th shop was acquired from a prior owner who tried their hand at bikes + outdoor gear. The new owner deleted the outdoor gear to focus on bikes. I am pretty sure he's a one-man gang, running the shop, doing repairs, leading rides (trailhead is right across the street!), keeping the books, and managing inventory. My favorite shop. He keeps spares of the latest stuff on-hand, so he is building a rep. as the go-to guy if you're in a pinch. He might even be entertaining the idea of loaner bikes for desperate situations.

So, as Jayem suggested, I think being able to read your bike community's needs/wants is probably a big part of success. You can't "be that shop" unless you're immersed in it. But the character of each shop is probably as individual as its owner. You can't use the cookie cutter approach. Nobody needs 2 of the same shop.

BTW - we had 2 Performance Bike shops within 30 miles of eachother. They are both gone. They had a reputation for having everything that no one needs, and no one to talk bikes to. It was weird to go there.

-F
 

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If you are thinking of opening it and making money, just forget it. To reach that point you would need 5 years or so and be well placed in the market. Without experience there is no way you can do it sooner, you will just burnout before achieving that traction.

If you don't care about money, then it might be a good idea, you will have a great time managing it and growing a community around it.
 

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How do you make a small fortune owning a bike shop? Start with a large fortune. ;)

Seriously, I had a small e-tail presence for a while to fund my hobby. I found it difficult to compete and margins go so low it became not worth my time.

With the right location a shop might be more viable. College towns or tourist areas may more opportunities.
 

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CEO Product Failure
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I have a buddy who opened a shop a few years ago. There are times when he pay himself $0.00. He invests everything into the shop, his employees, and his customers. He's probably one of the most selfless people I've ever met. His shop has grown 10 fold in 3 yrs. His vendors love him, his employees love him, his customers love him. However, he doesnt ride a $6k wonder bike; nor does he want / need to. He can pound you into the dirt on a 65mi ride using one gear on a rigid, steel framed bike. He doesn't own a car. Doesn't have health insurance. He's doing what he loves and that's all that matters.

He's not in my home town but when I visit, I try to find every excuse to buy something at his shop.
 

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Don't ask yourself 'do I want to run a bike shop,' ask yourself 'do I want to run a retail store.' If the answer to the second question is different from the first then run like hell.

The owner of the shop I work at often talks about how back in the day bike shop owners were irreverent, free-spirit types who loved cycling and just wanted to immerse themselves in that passion... According to him, the owners he meets at trade events are increasingly just business men who see profits and losses - not a hobby, much less a passion.

Unfortunately it makes sense that as the market gets more competitive what matters will be business-sense and not passion for bikes. Passion for bikes obviously helps, but it won't keep you in business.

Even a sense of community is kind of second fiddle these days. It's great to make enthusiast-level cyclists feel warm and fuzzy about your shop but at the end of the day capitalizing on every customer that walks through your door, the majority of which will be for kids bikes and hybrids, is what matters most.

For me, I'd have to be feeling some very strong environmental pull towards opening a shop to even consider it. I doubt many communities are feeling that pull right now.
 

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Thinking about riding.
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Doesn't have health insurance. He's doing what he loves and that's all that matters.
That won't be all that matters if he gets hurt and can't do what he loves anymore and is saddled with crippling debt in the process. This is a good indication of the life shop owners tend to lead... You couldn't pay me (the peanuts it pays) to do it.

Sad day when the guy on the front lines helping companies like Trek, Specialized, etc. make millions can't afford health insurance.
 
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