If you’ve ever been to a bicycle shop, you may have been struck by how exclusive or unwelcoming the environment was. But that’s where one shop, Bryson City Bicycles, aims to set itself apart.
Read about how this destination bike shop has built its business around a simple philosophy in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.
What the Business Does
Sells bicycles and more.
Co-owner Diane Cutler told Small Business Trends, “Bryson City Bicycles is a full service bike shop that rents bikes, sells bicycles, parts, accessories, maps, info, apparel, and provides service and repair.”
Creating a friendly atmosphere.
Cutler says, “Our location near the world-class mountain biking destination of Tsali in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains certainly helps, but we believe our unbridled enthusiasm is what sets us apart from the competition. Eighty-five percent of our customers are from somewhere else. They’re on vacation and expect everyone to be in the same happy place they are. We provide customers with more than just a rental, repair or product; we provide them with a great experience. That’s what keeps them coming back.”
How the Business Got Started
Cutler explains, “Tired of the status quo, my co-owner Andy [Zivinsky] and I decided to leave corporate America and suburbia to strike out on a life that was more meaningful to us—one rich in natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities, like fly-fishing. We discovered the small mountain town of Bryson City, and decided it was the place. But jobs were scarce in the secluded tourist town, so to make a go of it we needed to create our own jobs. With world-class mountain biking just miles away in the Great Smoky Mountains and no local bike shop, we wrote a business plan and here we are eight years later.”
Winning an award for helping the community.
Cutler says, “Our greatest moment and biggest win was being selected as one of five grand prize winners of Synchrony Financial’s Working Forward Small Business Awards, which recognizes the positive impact small businesses have in their communities. While we’ve won national industry awards over the years, Synchrony Financial’s program for helping small businesses who help their community is a perfect fit for our business model, which is built on giving back.
“Because our customer base depends predominantly on vacationers, our revenue stream plateaued after only a few years in business and resources became tight. This $20,000 award not only made it possible for us to take the next step, but also provided us with credibility and validated our efforts. Using half the award money, we added an e-commerce platform to our brick-and-mortar operation to increase our customer base and even out the skewed revenue stream inherent to a vacation destination. The other half of the award money, earmarked for a charitable cause, was used to donate bikes to the local high school to help kids get active and enjoy the nearby trails they previously could not due to lack of resources or proper equipment and training.”
Going into business during a recession.
Cutler says, “Our biggest risk was starting a niche business in a vacation town during a crippling recession (2009). We gave up secure jobs with benefits, moved across the state and sold our house to help finance the business and relocation. Had it failed, we would have been starting at ground zero.”
Create a destination.
Cutler says, “If we could do it all over again, we would open shop in a larger storefront. With a larger location, we would add a smoothie counter, sandwich shop or tap room to create a cool, fun destination that appeals to bikers and non-bikers alike. With enough space, we would even offer spin classes in the off-season, creating a much needed source of winter revenue and attracting a new type of customer.”
How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000
Make that dream into a reality.
Cutler says, “We would relocate to a storefront that substantially exceeds our current 1,000-square-foot location. This would enable us to carry additional product lines, offer a wider selection to our customers and add one or more of our dream amenities to the shop.”
Bike riding, of course.
Cutler says, “Each year on our business anniversary (which is incidentally the summer solstice, our favorite day) we celebrate with friends and customers by taking a 26-mile bike ride on a remote gravel road in the Smoky Mountains. What makes it especially fun is that it’s 13 miles of uphill, followed by a picnic and recovery, then 13 miles of blissful downhill.”
“The harder you work the luckier you are.” -Tori Murden, first woman to row solo across the Atlantic.
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Images: Bryson City Bicycles; Top Image: Diane Cutler and Andy Zivinsky, Second Image: Andy Zivinsky