This is the second post in Bradley Saul’s series called “The business Life Cycle.”
The executive summary of our business plan began:
A June 20th Press Democrat article identified Sonoma County as a “New ‘Must Ride’ for Cyclists.” From the waves to the wine, western Sonoma County is a popular destination for cyclists from all over. Sebastopol is home to a large population of avid cyclists. However, in an area crawling with bicyclists, there is no bicycle shop in a 6-mile radius of Sebastopol nor is there a bike shop west of Highway 101 from Cotati to Healdsburg. The West County Revolution aims to fill that gap.
The West County Revolution will be a full-service bicycle store in Sebastopol, CA that embodies the friendly spirit, small town atmosphere, and progressive values that distinguish the west county region. With a diverse selection of road, commuter, and recreational bikes and accessories for all ages, our store aims to meet the needs of the community. We will have a full-service repair shop staffed by professional mechanics and friendly and knowledgeable sales staff.
In August 2007, we signed a 5-year lease. We opened with an initial $65,000 investment from the owners and about the same amount in lines of credit from vendors. Our main bike brand at the time was Trek. We occupied about 2000 square feet in a 3-business retail space on one of the main thoroughfares in town. A popular cycling trail ran through our parking lot. We had an ideal location for a bike shop.
Sebastopol is a small town of about 7,400 residents. Sebastopol serves as a commercial hub for the larger population of rural west Sonoma County. When we made plans to open a store in town, the town had not had a bike store in almost 2 years. We weren’t the only ones to see an opportunity. Another store opened a few months before we did, in which we had a great relationship with over the years that we were open.
Sonoma County is a popular cycling destination, and soon after we opened, the competition in our region increased dramatically. On top of the 8 or 9 existing Sonoma County bike stores in 2007, a couple of smaller speciality stores, a large concept store, and a national chain opened in Santa Rosa, a much larger city, within a 10 mile radius of our business.
Save for working in a pet store in high school, I had little retail experience. I did have business experience as an event organizer, marketer and nonprofit manager. My wife brought her project management and design skills, while our business partner had over 20 years of experience working in bike stores and was well known in the cycling community.
Knowing what I knew then, we had a good team. We had a good location. We had a solid, though increasingly competitive, market.
I would not call our starting position ideal, however. We were weak in retail ownership and management skills such as employee management, dealing with business finances, inventory planning and purchasing, and designing a sales floor plan.
We were not prepared for how quickly we had to learn as the business quickly exceeded our expectation.
In the next post, I will share our sales projections, as well as our total sales and profit over time.