Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Kyle Chittock, the owner of Bolton Ebikes. I sell electric bicycles and upgrade components for competing brands. Ebikes are a ton of fun. We’re putting people back on bicycles that haven’t ridden in years, sometimes decades! Yes, they can be used for commuting, saving money vs driving, but the fun is the number one reason people buy electric bikes. If you’re considering an ebike, I’d check this out, it has a lot of views, so that must be good:
I started the business for fun, but I literally can’t stop the growth. We’ve grown about 500% year over year, all without any paid advertising. (Youtube is awesome by the way.) It’s been a fun ride and isn’t done yet!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve always loved riding bikes. Mountain bikes, road bikes, doesn’t matter what kind! I also have always liked tinkering and making things. Radio-controlled cars, airplanes, working on bicycles, full-scale aircraft, cars - you name it. When I realized I could add an electric motor to a bicycle, it was just a combination of my hobbies. (If only they could fly, maybe that’s next.)
I needed my audience and customers to trust me. And so I jumped in with help wherever I could, answering questions, providing information, but never “selling”. Serve your customers first, and they will serve you.
This is me a couple of years ago taking my electric bike out of my electric car and loading it into an airplane. That’s one way to combine hobbies.
I went through a mechatronics program in school, which helped to solidify my experience in electronics, motors, batteries, and general tinkering fun. I didn’t expect Bolton Ebikes to be what it is today, but apparently, I just can’t help myself. (Did I mention it’s fun?)
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Everything didn’t start perfectly, there were many challenges along the way. I started with less than $200 out of pocket and learned as I went. Every decision was made carefully and calculated. Business to me is like a real-life game of Monopoly (or better yet, The Farming Game - it’s harder, try it.) The first product I wanted to make was a velomobile, which turns out is a VERY limited market. You probably don’t know what that is, and that’s ok. Electric Bicycle, however - ya, you get that.
Each bike was a progression, making things continually better, adding features people ask for. Every time I make a bike I want to make it better than the last, which means there’s no end! I can always make a better bike.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launch time. Or is it? I hear everyone talking about the “launch” of their product or business as if there’s a singular moment in time that gets things going. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t work that way! It’s a steady progression, one step at a time.
Perhaps my “launch” was the day I decided to get a business license and a web domain. My under $200 start-up costs. From there I put in the sweat and hard work to get things moving. I was involved in online forums, Facebook groups - wherever my target audience was, I was there! I started selling on day one - by serving. And yes, I tried the usual methods of crowdfunding, but they all failed (more than once). I needed my audience and customers to trust me. And so I jumped in with help wherever I could, answering questions, providing information, but never “selling”. Serve your customers first, and they will serve you.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Youtube is my #1 source of traffic and customers. Having a platform where people can hear what I have to say, learn and understand my products is amazing. I think people care less and less about advertising, and more and more about what’s real. Being a genuine person online and in real life will get you, customers! That doesn’t however mean you can’t make funny thumbnails - you should.
I’ve sent a single email that generated over $100k in revenue in one day. No fancy funnels, no upsells, just a simple email with about 2 sentences, a photo, and a link to buy. Build trust and you don’t need everything else!
Once people start coming to your business, don’t underestimate the power of an email list. There’s little you can control online, but an email list is vital! Not everyone uses Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, or whatever the latest social media platform is. But ALL of those use email. (See what’s front and center of my website?)
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Business is profitable. It HAS to be! When you bootstrap from day 1 with the smallest amount of money possible, each day must be profitable, with no exceptions. Start lean and you’ll build an efficient well-oiled machine, I mean business.
This is probably the part where people would break down their ad costs, return on ad spend, conversion rates, yada yada.
I DON’T PAY FOR ADVERTISING - I GET PAID TO SELL
Yes, that’s right. Youtube ad revenue now pays me what I used to make working a full-time job. So I have fun making videos, get paid to do it, and then sell more products because of it. It’s a win-win. Does that make my customer acquisition cost a negative number? Yes, I think it does.
When you sell online, you can sell anywhere! We ship ebikes all over North America, and small parts around the world. That being said, I have no plans of global expansion or domination. (At least not anytime soon.) I like building things. I can’t do that with a massive corporation and hundreds of employees. That doesn’t sound like fun. I’m not doing that. I’m keeping the company small, manageable, with a tight-knit crew of good people I get along with.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
If I had to share one thing that will make or break a business, it would be to find out who your customers are, and serve them what they want. If your product resonates with your customers you won’t do any selling, you won’t need to. They will come to you.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I use Shopify for my online store, and point of sale. It’s simple and is great for selling! I try to keep 3rd party services to a minimum to avoid clutter. Fancy email funnels, CRMs, and other software all sound great. But those are needed for selling to your customers. If you have a product they want, you don’t need to sell to them. I’ve sent a single email that generated over $100k in revenue in one day. No fancy funnels, no upsells, just a simple email with about 2 sentences, a photo, and a link to buy. Build trust and you don’t need everything else!
ReAmaze has been great lately for our customer service team to keep things tidy and organized, so no customers are forgotten. We tried several other platforms before ending up here, and I don’t have any plans to change soon. When something works, stick with it!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’ve always been a fan of Pat Flynn. If you do anything related to a small business look him up! He has a great podcast and is a genuine person who is helping thousands of entrepreneurs. I’m lucky to have spent some time with him and other like-minded people to mastermind business. He now has an awesome community online, which I highly recommend checking out.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
If you’re just starting or thinking about it. STOP! Quit starting, quit thinking, and just DO SOMETHING. I seriously think most businesses fail before they start because people think too much and do too little.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We keep a small crew and are growing, but carefully. I’d love to grow another 500% without hiring. Can we do it? Doubtful, but I’m going to try anyway.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.
- 4,818 founder case studies
- Access to our founder directory
- Live events, courses and recordings
- 8,628 business ideas
- $1M in software savings