It all began with a couple of chance encounters, three people and their mutual love of cycling and the outdoors. Read about Bike It Now!'s start-up journey.
ANZ customer story
The year was 2012. Duncan Randall, an enthusiastic cyclist and manager of Clyde-based shop Bike It Now! was outside the store washing – you guessed it – some bikes, when he met Kathryn Fletcher (known as Fletch) and Lisa Joyce.
They chatted, and Duncan soon found out that Fletch loved talking as much as he did. He also discovered that Fletch and Lisa were moving to the small Central Otago settlement of Clyde shortly. Later that year, Fletch, who taught PE at St Hilda’s Collegiate School in Dunedin at the time, took a group of Year 11 students on an Otago Central Rail Trail trip, hiring bikes from Bike It Now!
But it wasn’t until Duncan and Fletch bumped into one another at a local café a month or so later that their bikes and business connections were truly cemented. Fletch thought that helping Duncan drive cyclists to the start of the Otago bike trails would be fun.
"I told him 'If you ever need anyone to do some driving, let me know. I’m free and have the relevant driving licences. '"Fletch continues, "so there were no obstacles to me transporting passengers and bikes. And Duncan replied, "'great, you start tomorrow at 9am.'"
When Bike It Now! came up for sale in September 2013, employees Duncan and Fletch, together with Lisa, jumped at the opportunity to buy it.
"While we didn’t have any experience owning a business, I had a feeling that our combined expertise along with everyone’s hard working and positive attitude was something special, and we could all see the direction we needed to take it," says Fletch.
Fast-forward to today, and the business’ turnover is three times more than initially forecasted – something they attribute to hard-work, wanting the best for their customers, and good guidance from their accountants, Impact Consulting and ANZ.
They have transformed the business from a company which hires out bikes for people to enjoy the Central Otago trails, to a full tour organisation as well as selling an extensive range of bikes and accessories, and offering repairs and servicing.
"We put the personal touch in to all our dealings with customers; they get the same treatment whether they are buying a $10 inner tube or a bike worth $1,000," says Duncan.
Bike It Now!’s major suppliers are surprised at its high turnover, achieved in Clyde, which has a population of around 1,000 people.
"Historic Clyde definitely punches above its weight and is a growing town, with a unique selection of shops, three good quality restaurants, and accommodation ranging from a tent site at the holiday park to a luxury room at the Oliver’s," says Fletch.
At the height of the season from September to May, Bike It Now! has ten staff, and that drops to five in the quiet months.
Such rapid growth has meant a bit of seat-of-their-pants stuff, says Fletch.
That’s why having a good bank manager – in their case Paul Keegan of ANZ – was crucial, she says.
"Paul has bought bikes from us and shares our enthusiasm and excitement for the business. He is relaxed, but still asks us the difficult questions, the ones that make us think about how to do things better."
Paul gave them advice to help them write their cashflow and profit forecast, in order to apply successfully for a business loan.
Running the business hasn’t been without challenges, says Fletch. "Some days can be tricky. Luckily we all have positive personas, and have lots of laughs when we’re all working together."
Duncan: "The first year or two we put in long hours, we were often still unloading trailers at 8pm, but we have the balance a bit better now."
Tips for start-ups? You’ve got to be passionate and believe in your product, says Duncan. "Commitment comes in the form of time and understanding from family and friends. If people believe in you then that’s a massive help."
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