Becoming Entrepreneurs: Chevy Chase Style
Becoming Entrepreneurs, Chevy Chase Style
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Remember this classic Chevy Chase scene from the original National Lampoon’s Vacation? I saw Chris do that same thing this weekend. Minus Christy Brinkley or a swimming pool.
In our not so spare time, when Chris isn’t at his full time job, or I’m not working on building my own business, we’ve been working on yet another gig – The Robert Axle Project. Born out of a love for mountain bike touring and trail building, the Robert Axle Project solves a bike and bike part compatibility issue. New mountain bikes have the newer 12mm “thru-axles”, providing added rigidity and handling for riding. However, there is no way to attach a BOB Trailer to these new bikes. So if you buy a new mountain bike, just be prepared that you won’t be able to attach your BOB Trailer to it.
Being the opportunists (read: crazy people) that we are, we saw this as an opportunity to go out on a limb and start a business. So we researched, designed, produced, marketing and selling the Robert Axles with the hopes that it would, at the very least, be a grassroots movement towards keeping BOB Trailers on the trails. We figured – we’ve bike toured with BOBs, we build trails with BOBs – so do other people right? Our goal was to keep our costs down while spreading the word through our friends, acquaintances and the regional mountain bike community about this new product.
Sales have been trickling out the door, and we’ve shipped almost as many products outside of the U.S. than we have domestically. Two weeks ago we were contacted by Old Man Mountain, a company that builds bike racks for mountain bikes. Turns out he needs our product, so we are working on a new design for this market. On Friday, we got a surprise email from a Swiss cycling distributor that they were interested in placing a large order and perhaps becoming our distributor in Switzerland. This sent us into a “we better get our shizzle together” frenzy as we realized that our little pet project could be much bigger than we ever suspected. Of course we also immediately think “trip to Switzerland!!!!”
We are learning how to be entrepreneurs. It is exhausting, stressful, exciting and empowering all at the same time. We think about and discuss things like “universal design”, “cash flow”, and “market audience”. We’ve had some R & D help from Chris’ colleagues at the machine shop where he works and we have a few friends who give us moral support to help us trust ourselves. While making money is important (right?), we feel giddy about the idea that people can purchase our product to help them go on adventures on their bike. Yippee!