"Pejorative, noun: A word or phrase that has negative connotations and is meant to belittle or disparage" Merriam Webster Dictionary.
Almost 4 years ago I began an electric bike company in the garage of my home in Alameda. I knew that in order to successful it was very important to be able to keep fixed costs to a bare minimum. Once I ask a financial business consultant, "What is the number one reason businesses go out of business?" Without drawing a breath she said, "Undercapitalization." She said a business has to have capitalization for 5 years because that is about how long it will take to make a profit.
I knew the fundamentals of business ownership as I have owned businesses in the past but I had never started a business in a garage. Of course there are many very successful businesses that began in a garage including; Apple, HP, Disney, Google, Microsoft, Dell computers, Virgin, and Amazon so I knew it could be done. However, I also knew I would be referred to as "A guy who works out of his garage,' implying unprofessionalism.
Nevertheless, there were some wonderful benefits from working at home. Astro, our little French Bulldog was always in attendance as I worked throughout the day and into the night.
While I had all the bikes stored in the garage, my work stand and tools were in the house. All day long and into the night I would build and repair bikes and there at my feet would lie Astro. Sometimes he would crawl into one of the boxes and sleep and other times I would find him sleeping on top of my tools.
During this time I had no employees and worked 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. This was a pattern I would follow for the next 3 years. Every dollar profit went right back into the business for more tools and inventory.
After working out of the garage (and dining room) for just over a year it was time to find a new location. The hardest part about moving of course...was no longer having Astro beneath my work stand.
Our first location was right near downtown Alameda and was owned by a wonderful couple who enjoy cycling as much as we do. Within two weeks our business expanded so quickly we had already outgrown our space and had to lease an additional warehouse.
Our speciality was converting standard bikes to electric bikes and because we had done so many of them we had been able to come up with a number unique methods of installing motors and batteries. While at the Clement Ave. location we began to add more mechanics, engineers and office staff. We also began to build our first machine shop.
It was during this time we opened a second location in Sacramento and hired a General Manager to cover the Greater Sacramento Region. Perhaps the day of profit would arrive prior to that 5 year window my CPA advisor predicted.
Then the Coronavirus changed everything. On March 12th, 2020 we closed the Sacramento location and placed the General Manger on furlough. On March 17th all non essential business were ordered closed.
I met with my Landlord and bought our the lease with the money that would have been our profit. It was time to return to the garage.
Depressing to say the least. We went from the fasting growing business of electric bike conversion on the West Coast to zero in a day. I think what made it worse was no one knew what the future looked like. I could not say "Things will get better" because I knew they could get worse.
I continued to work on bikes and convert bikes to electric from my garage. Astro was happy to have me back and I was happy to be at home even if it meant I was "That guy working out of his garage," once again.
Eventually, bicycle repair shops were declared an essential business and were allowed to open. It was time to pack up and move on once again.
Today, we are in a 2000 square foot warehouse with an office and machine shop. Currently, we have 8 employees and hope to reopen our Sacramento location. We have also become a Yuba Bike dealership. We are back on track...and hope we can stay the course as we pilot through these difficult times.
How does one plan for the future when the future is unpredictable? We thought tomorrow would always look something like today until the Coronavirus proved us wrong. The future is unstable, obscure, and unpredictable therefore the only remedy is all of our future plans must account for an unstable, obscure, and unpredictable future.
I have always assured all of my clients of whom we have converted their bikes, or sold them their bikes that we will be here for them when their bikes need service. Perhaps, a better way of putting it should be, "As long as it is in our power to do so, we will be here for you."
Thanks for reading a bit about our history and I hope it might be useful to you as you think about trusting us to convert your bike to electric, or in purchasing any of our bikes.
Our bike shop in San Leandro