I've started a couple businesses before, all of them successful enough to keep my family feed and the bills paid, but certainly nothing to brag about.
The first business I started at age 30. I had just walked away from the ministry at a small Christian sect, unhappy with the direction of my life and the narrowness of the church's views. My original aim, after moving my family back to Omaha, was to create a business cataloging people's possessions for insurance purposes. It was early in the days of personal computers and for multiple reasons, it never took off. Instead, my brother taught me how to clean windows and kindly gave me a couple of clients to start things off. The rest was up to me. Within a year, I had contracts with all the Village Inn and Perkins restaurants in the greater Omaha area, because I was prompt, professional, and maybe above all else, reliable. I also stayed pretty fit in the process.
I'd eventually sell the business after a part-time gig loading luggage and cleaning Continental Airlines DC-9s turned into a full-time job at their ticket counter. We got medical insurance and flight benefits, if not all that much money in return. But working that counter eventually led to a job offer with a direct marketing company as a copywriter working with clients as disparate as Consumer Reports and the Riviera Hotel and Casino.
During this period, I also wrote a handful of magazine articles that got published; one in Discover, another in Popular Science. I also wrote advertising copy and video scripts freelance. I even won a Addy for a brochure I helped create for the City of Council Bluffs, Iowa.
I would discover the Internet in 1993 and started my next business building web sites for Nebraska companies, including Ameritrade's first web site. (I should have taken stock instead of cash for that contract). The company founders would eventually retire billionaires and buy the Chicago Cubs. In 1998 I launched EV World and the rest, up to this point, is history.
Now, I am tackling my most ambitious start-up. All the others I built with minimal investment and a lot of sweat equity. ePEDALER is something entirely different, and shows considerably more promise. As part of the business plan development exercise, I have to make a lot of educated guesses and assumptions: one of them to predict what is its revenue potential. The numbers might surprise you. They certainly did me.
Let's assume that at some point, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, the market share of electric-assist bicycles in the USA equals the 10% they currently enjoy in Germany (2012). In 2011, Americans bought 15.7 million bicycles, so 10% of that would be 1.57 million e-bikes. By comparison, around 30 million e-bikes and e-mopeds are bought annually in China. E-bikes represent a nearly-invisible 0.002 % of current US bike sales. Still, one and half million e-bikes can be a nice business. The average sales price of an e-bike in Germany was $513, which suggests a lot of them are cheap Asian models, but the trend is towards higher-priced, better quality units. In the US that would be a $800M a year business.
For ePEDALER planning purposes, I set a modest goal of capturing just a 5% share of that future 1.57M sales. That's a $40M business right there… potentially; and that's just the retail side of the business model: the corporate commuter wellness side is even more promising, to the tune of nearly a billion dollars a year.
Of course, to get there, I need more than what's in my bank account or sweat equity. I need an angel or two on my shoulder, which is why I decided today, after reading Kira Newman's 100 bullet point synopsis of Kevin Johnson's 'The Entrepreneur Mind" to begin sharing the story of my journey of taking ePEDALER from an idea to the real world. So, watch this space as I log the financial and emotional highs and lows of a voyage so many others have sailed before me.
Next Episode: Not All Entrepreneurs are 20-Somethings.
Posted By: Bill Moore [31-Mar-2013]
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