By all accounts, the 1st annual PDX UNbike exceeded all expectations!
Over 40+ businesses gathered to discuss challenges and opportunities within the bike industry and to create a collaborative moment towards co-creating solutions. Topics ranged from raising capital to strategic partnerships to inexpensive marketing tools.
Several staples and startups were in attendance including: Circa Cycles, North St. Bags, Metrofiets, Civilian Bicycle Co, Portland Pedal Power, TriLibrium, Blaq Paks, Cycle Dog, urthTrek, B-Line, Nutcase, Rhytmic Metal, Shift Wellness PDX, Gracie’s Wrench, Cycle Portland, CyclingPortland.com, First City Cycles and the NW Skateboard Coalition.
The event kicked off with a quick-overview of how the UNbike worked: participants were invited to shout out topics they wanted to discuss. The moderators confirmed a quick show of hands and then attendees rotated topics depending on their interest.
The Top 10 Topics and Highlights included:
- Human Resources / Staffing: Sharing resources amongst like-minded businesses. This could be for a base-level purpose where trust is already established.
- Professional Services (Legal, Accounting, etc.): Enable businesses to not spend all their money on a single resource and pay-for-what they only need.
- Insurance: Opportunity to pool insurance needs for a collective purchase, and lower the overall costs.
- Insurance: Would be helpful to build an insurance FAQ for members.
- Capital (crowd funding, venture capital, etc.): Crowd funding investors that can pool local money together is the easiest method for getting capital.
- Capital (crowd funding, venture capital, etc.): Revenue-based payback lending is skyrocketing.
- Shared space: Large upside of not having to find your own space. It saves time, energy, and money.
- Customer Retention / Referral Programs: Customer service is the top priority for keeping customers.
- Customer Retention / Referral Programs: People love being appreciated. Write them personalized notes. Give them chocolate, simple thank-you gifts, etc.
- Marketing / Web Presence: Have an elevator speech ready to go, you never know when you’ll need it.
- Expensive Tools: There is an opportunity for a shared space that has low costs for taking classes, sharing tools, and is geared more towards professionals than hobbyists.
Here is the full summary of the break-out groups:
Human Resources / Staffing:
- Centralized staffing
- Sharing resources amongst like-minded businesses. This could be for a base-level purpose where trust is already established. Example opportunities include: timesheets, reviews, goal setting, handbooks generation, hiring protocol, FAQ resources, templates, consulting, and job placement incubation.
- One of the challenges with HR is the fun vs no-fun culture. How can HR become an open and cheerful experience as if being part of a family?
- Some shared documentation opportunities include 360 reviews, peer reviews, leadership, and managing growth. All while not tied to compensation.
Professional Services (Legal, Accounting, etc.)
- Enable businesses to not spend all their money on a single resource and pay-for-what they only need and use.
- Is there a place to get all the services needed?
- Rather than having to search out for reputable providers?
- What opportunities exist for start-ups?
- What about businesses who are farther along in their models?
- Legal and accounting seem to be the most expensive.
- Are there DIY options?
- Liability Insurance
- Is there a method for group coverage for all members? (Full disclosure: The COG Space is already working on this…)
- Businesses are unsure if they have the right insurance or even knowledgeable about the risks.
- Products / Manufacturing Insurance
- Some parts have higher rates. Businesses pay a lot because insurers do not know or understand the products. They think bikes are just dangerous.
- User Activity Insurance
- How to gather information? What is the best option?
- Worker Compensation
- How to get it? What’s the normal rate? Is this required?
- Can this be purchased by the hour?
- Unemployment Insurance
- What are the requirements? Does the law require this insurance?
- Health Insurance
- Super difficult to find affordable for businesses.
- Current providers of insurance
- Insurance agent is the most common. However, a lot of businesses have concerns about asking for the risk or fear of being “caught”. There is a lack in knowledge and the concern of insurers upselling.
- Lots of interest in looking with other businesses on similar activities.
- Opportunity to compile an insurance FAQ list for members.
- Opportunity to pool insurance needs for a collective purchase, and lower the overall costs.
Capital (crowd funding, venture capital, etc.)
- Tech seems to be the area where capital is flowing. How do we bring some of that capital to the biking industry?
- There is potential with products that have a tech overlay or that are medical (booming industry right now).
- Crowd funding investors that can pool local money together.
- Revenue based lending is taking off.
- Manufacturing sector is difficult to raise enough capital. You need at least $300k upfront.
- Sponsored incubators and programs exist for small businesses.
- Small Business Adminstration (SBA), Oregon BEST, Mercy Corp NW, and Onami.
- Is there a method for building PDX brands so that capital flows more easily?
Space (Retail, Office, and Industrial)
- Huge opportunity for a shared retail space for all members.
- Opportunity for a co-op where people buy-in with ownership and they sell everything.
- Shared space has the upside of having to find your own space. Saving time, energy, and money.
- There is a need for mid-sized businesses to use the space. They could also assist the smaller businesses and startups.
- Majority of the PDX UNbike attendees shared a need for industrial space that includes ramps, bay doors, lighting, ventilation, Wi-Fi, sink, private space, and the ability to scale.
Customer Retention / Referral Program
Establishing new business:
- How do you get the word out?
- How do you get new people to know you exist?
- What about with expanding new business?
- LinkedIn was mentioned. Web traffic statistics helps understand if users are being utilized.
- Social Media is a huge opportunity. For example, if you post a photo, you get a discount. Or, having a contest for the best testimonial on Twitter.
- Asking the obvious question, how did you hear about my business?
- Gift cards and discounts are a great method for getting new business. So is using automatic discounts with other bike friendly businesses like Supportland, Chinook, or the BTA.
- Example, Pedal PT gives out a 10% off cards.
- Opportunity for a referral network at the COG Space.
- Customer Service is the TOP priority.
- How to services meet customer needs with constant contact, yet while still tweaking products.
- Challenging with the administration of business-to-business relationship management through only having a dialogue around sales.
- Loyalty programs can work well. They are also relationship building.
- Surveying those who have not renewed in order to observe renewal rates.
- People appreciate being appreciated. Write them hand-written notes. Give them chocolate. Etc.
- Groupon doesn’t work. It’s a drain on your time and finances.
Marketing / Web Presence
Inexpensive Marketing Tools
- Events, content, social media, flyers, employees, word-of-mouth branding, free media, partnerships, relationship building, incorporating beer with marketing, and coupons.
Social Media Tools:
- SEO – metadata tags optimization on websites
- Online Sales
- Shopify is huge.
- LinkedIn – not really recommended for marketing.
- WordPress/Weebly/Wix websites.
- Facebook (don’t spend $ advertising on it)
- Adwords – paid search results
- Have an elevator speech ready to go, you never know when you’ll need it
- Market Research
- Leisure Trends group or industry reports help.
- The library has reference USA simply MAP and Nielsen.
- Finding balance between the old school vs new school advertising. Press relations, radio, print, tv, etc.
- How do you target specific customers? For example, older people? Or younger people?
- How do you drive traffic to your website?
- How to sell affordable products and determine the price?
- How to know what potential customers are looking for?
- What are the ideal benefits and features?
- Should you buy foreign vs. used (non-metric) tools?
- How do you finance tools?
- What about a bike tools library?
- How do we get others to rent/trade time on tools?
- Need for networking to know who has what tools and talk about projects.
- No single business really has all the tools they need.
- There are limits to sharing at scale without getting to ADX size.
- There is an opportunity for a shared space that has low costs for taking classes, sharing tools, and is geared more towards professionals than hobbyists.
- A sharing trade-off model where businesses buy specific tools with the intent on sharing with a specific businesses. This isn’t an open-sharing model, but rather collaboration on expensive tool ownership.