This week in our entrepreneur spotlight, we get to look at a brilliant woman-owned business. Bicycle Warehouse started from nothing and was turned into the number one bicycle retailer in Southern California. Now they sell bikes online nationwide, and continue to grow and gain market share in a very competitive industry.
The woman behind Bicycle Warehouse is Debbe Simmons, who started the business with her husband Mike. They’ve been able to grow their business by focusing on their passion to ride. It hasn’t always been easy over the last 25 years of entrepreneurship, however.
In fact, at one point they failed to properly manage their finances and ended up hurting supplier relationships. The Simmons owned up to their mistakes and built each relationship back, and then earned that trust back. They are a true entrepreneur success story in the fact that they weren’t grown overnight, and the fact that it hasn’t always been easy.
We were able to ask Debbe some questions about her journey, and here’s what she had to say:
Tell Us About Your Business
Debbe: Bicycle Warehouse is an online and offline retailer with seven physical locations that focuses on selling bikes, parts, and accessories to bicycle enthusiasts everywhere. We’re based in Southern California, where all of our physical stores are located.
How Many Employees Do You Have?
We currently have 35 employees.
What Was Your Motivation for Starting Your Business or Being an Entrepreneur?
My husband and I liked riding but didn’t like the customer service we received at the local bike shops whenever we had to go in for new parts. So we decided to open our own business. Our main goal was to treat everyone like a friend and provide an awesome experience. I never thought about being an entrepreneur when we started — we just did it.
How Did You Finance Your Business in the Beginning?
The only financing we got was my personal credit cards. We didn’t have any money so we designed on a dime, as cheap as we could. It’s funny to see the pictures of our first store compared to today, because we just didn’t have the capital to do many of the things we wanted to. We were just able to do the “needs” whereas now we can focus more on the “wants” for our customers.
How Many Hours Did You Work When You First Started?
We worked 7 days a week about 12-14 hours a day.
How Many Hours Do You Work Now?
25 years later, I still work 6 days a week and about 60-65 hours a week. I don’t consider it work though because I love our business and our team. It’s still exciting to go to work everyday.
What Challenges Did You Face That You Didn’t Expect?
Hiring and training was the hardest part. Not knowing how to track inventory, the accounting side of the business or seriously just the overall running of a business. It was all a massive learning curve, because we didn’t set out to own a business – we wanted to change something for the better.
What’s The Best Piece of Advice You’d Give a New Entrepreneur Starting Out Today?
Learn, learn Learn! Learn as much as you can, and never stop. Listen to audio books, talk to mentors, get advice from people who are successful in your industry. Don’t be shy to reach out and ask questions because people will help you. But mainly grind, hustle and get shit done.
How Long Did it Take For Your Business to be Successful (to you) and What Do You Attribute that Success to?
This is hard because I don’t think my business will ever be successful because after 25 years I feel like I’m still just getting started. We still have so much to do and learn that I always want to have the drive and push beyond where we are now. So, I think I don’t allow my self to think we’re successful I always want to be scrappy and driven.
Where Do You See Your Business in the Next Five Years?
More media driven and educational driven from you tube and FB, Instagram. We want to become a media company that happens to sell bicycles.
What is the Best Advice You’ve Been Given as an Entrepreneur?
This is funny – it’s probably opposite of what most people say – 19 years ago we went through a challenging year – one of our competitor wrote us a letter and told us to close our business that we would never survive!! I framed his letter, kept it on my desk and put across the top “Motivation to Succeed” that was the best advice I was ever given “Motivation to prove him wrong” and we did!!
Anything Else You’d Like to Share With Other Entrepreneurs About Your Story?
Wow, there is so much to say – we’ve been through so many ups and down good and bad but we’re still here – we’re still growing and learning. Every knock down is a lesson on how to do it differently – Our story is about passion, it’s about a young couple who just got married and started a business together 3 months later. It’s about a couple being business partners, husband and wife and friends and how to keep the balance for both – how to keep loving each other when you’re entangled with disagreements in the business.
It’s about love and friendship with our guys that have been with us for 21 years, 13 years, 16 years we’ve grown up together so the respect and hard work we’ve accomplished together that’s what keeps our story going and our determination for success. Our hope our story/legacy continues after Michael and I are not here – I think it will and I know the passion and love for our company and our guests will continue.
Where Do You Look for Business Motivation and/or Inspiration?
Darren Hardy, Tony Robbins, Gary Vee, – inside myself and tons of others.