Starting a New Cycle
Updated: Oct 24, 2022
One Day I will try to edit this post to have a visual story go along with it. Before we go into more, let's have a brief Three Sixty Bike Shop history lesson. Three Sixty Bike Shop was started in May of 2010 and had it's grand opening in June of the same year.
Looking back I was always sure the bike shop was going to make it, however thinking about it today, 12 years later, I realize how hard it was to start a business. In 2010 the internet had already supposedly taken over sales and retail stores were on their way out. Facebook, was established, but it wasn't a fraction of what it would become. And Downtown Zanesville was branded dead. In spite of this I had a feeling that starting a bike shop was what I wanted to do. I had been working in a bike shop and riding bicycles, so there was a lot I was confident about, but I didn't know one thing about business. I did some studying and put together a rather impressive business plan by my own standards. I did some cost projections and market study's and went into a bank to try and secure a business loan. I was promptly told they did not handle loans under fifty thousand dollars and didn't seem interested. However, my wife and I were able to qualify for a modest unsecured loan and I applied for a couple of credit cards the same day. For me, I thought I had enough funds, so I went for it. I saw a for rent sign in the Freight Shops in Zanesville, called the number and told them I wanted to rent a spot. After arriving and talking to me, they didn't seem to want to rent me the more premium spot and so I took a smaller, cheaper spot and went to town. The main owner of the property came in a few days later and was very displeased that walls were missing and drastic changes were being made, but his wife, an artist, smoothed everything over and there I was transforming the space. While transforming the space I had to get hooked up with supply distributors which led to learning I was required to have documents from the state, insurance and some other things. I remember being confused that I didn't get to pick my phone number when setting up the phone service. I got done what needed done, ordered the parts and had done everything I could to get the word out that I had started a business, which was joined the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber effectively helped the situation and eventually I was able to market the business without on my own. During the first couple of years of opening I was becoming famous, I was on TV, I was in Newspaper articles, I was on News Radio, I had run television ads, news paper ads, Radio Ads and more. Eventually I became frustrated by the cost of doing this and the creative restrictions I faced. To a degree I was just young and dumb, I didn't need a nice advertisement that fit all the parameters, I needed to stand out. For some reason I had this unrealistic view of what I wanted, I wanted to not just be a bike shop, but be the best bike shop.I wanted to grow and grow and grow, and to do this I couldn't have people weighing in on how I got attention. So I focused all my effort on building the Bike Shops presence on facebook and the internet in general. I continued to use myself to promote the bike shop and cycling in general everyway that I could and by 2015 I was certain that we had hit another level. However with that new level came a new set of problems and realization being the big time business person wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. From the start, I had always wanted to make bicycles, but I had not clue how to do that and the space I was in wasn't really adequate for it. We had picked up the worlds best bike brand and I feel like we did well with it for many years. We had reached a point where another major brand wanted to do business with us and things were really going well. From May of 2010 to March of 2020 we made a lot of friends while being at the freight shops and had a great reputation. Success realized. However maybe around 2019 or slightly before things started to get hard. Why did things get hard? At the time, I didn't realize how abnormal it was for the phone to be ringing off the hook without a person on the line, or a person calling for "research". I didn't realize that bogus people had been coming in just to try and waste our time. I didn't realize that my internet success had open me up to a part of the world that I genuinely do not understand. I experienced a lot and it all culminated when word came that our website had a virus planted on it's server and that somehow this was spreading through out the server and it was going to be expensive to fix it or we could just delete it. In a scramble I backed the website up and gave the ok to delete it, only to find I hadn't downloaded the back up. This was very disappointing. By my own standards our website was fantastic and realistically we had a lot of time invested into it. It was detailed and was growing to be able to compete on a global stage. I tried to stay positive during this time but found it very difficult to recreate what was just lost, so I didn't. Also at the end of 2020 it was time for us to move. After talking to people the last 2 years, I realize some people have the wrong impression about why we moved. We had always wanted to be buying a building rather than renting and so for us, this was an exciting moment. The building we purchased wasn't in the best condition, but it wasn't the worst, and honestly, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. During this time we came to a difficult decision, to stop using facebook as a way to promote our business. This decision was difficult because for us, facebook had always been great. We had lots of followers, we were well reviewed, and over all our content was seemingly well liked. It got to the point though where as the marketer I was now competing against myself. It's going to sound arrogant, but I think it's accurate. I played a large role in making biking popular online, and a larger role enabling people to bike in mass. And so given this, the facebook scene became so competitive that I decided I'd be damned if I was going to bake anyone else a pie. At one point, some random being had a company called six three zero, was advertising specifically to people in Zanesville, selling bikes and telling the person to come to us to handle any loose ends. While I was compared to market with the best of them and build our store's website into a new modern standard, I was really prepared to engage in a fierce competition for people attention and I was really saddened by what had become. Also, from having a personal account on facebook I had come to notice that facebook in general had changed and that it just no longer felt appropriate to interject bicycles into everything that had gone on. So all at once, our great website was gone, we had moved, and we no longer had a presence in the attention market. Rumors spread and none of it mattered. We had been in business so long that people still came in on a regular basis, people still rode bikes and needed them fixed and people still wanted to buy bikes. Another challenging moment started in the middle of 2020 and went late into 2021. It's a full novel explaining how the last to years have been but let me try and sum it up, suppliers had zero supply from mid 2020 to late 2021. Maybe "zero" isn't perfectly accurate but it's close and fair. Projections were made by major suppliers of when things would arrive and commonly the dates weren't adding up. You would be told one thing and see another. You would be told that one thing was the problem and then evidence would come that you were being manipulated. And so thinking of myself and what I wanted to do with my life so I cut ties with the best bike brands in the world. Again, the goal was always to make our own bikes anyway. In the fall of 2021 I was looking at getting a particular model back into stock and it's projected arrival year was 2025. I'm sure I could have "played the game" harder, but given what I already was seeing and dealing with trying to work with these brands it was time to pull the plug. Leaving major brands does suck like getting rid of your childhood blanket but there comes a point where it's simply embarrassing to have it anymore and for me always being a bike rider first I had reached that point. I've now witnessed 3 different bike categories where every bike has become the same. And as a bike rider that's just lame. There's a term called carrying a brand, it's common for people to say what brand do you carry? For me, it felt too much like I was actually, literally carrying it. For me, it felt too much like I worked for someone else without a fair shake. As a business owner the last 12 years I've been kicked in the mouth metaphorically more than once, people have told me I'd never make it because the freight shops weren't a great location, and by the time I left people were questioning why I was leaving a great location. People will find a way to try and belittle you, haggle you, degrade you, all for no reason. All because they want a bike or have some set idea on how their supposed to acquire a purchase and how you the worker is supposed to be treated. It's not all people. Most people can logically function, but the weirdos are out there. I only typed that because now that people are finding out I've cut ties with major brands they're telling me they think I cannot make it without them, which is funny considering I already have been making it without them, and it's just what they think. They just think I can't make it when they have no real idea about the business. And with the fierce competition going on in the bike industry right now it would be dumb to try and involve myself with it. Again the idea always has been to make bikes and so I'm pursuing it. Our shop has been here the whole time fixing bikes, we sold a lot of bikes, we still have a store front, we still have some bikes from time to time, but right now we're focused on making bikes. One day we'll sell bikes that we made. While we're still setting up how we want to make bikes we've already messed around with a couple of custom frames just to gather information.