How I Turned My Love For Bikes Into A $12M/Year Electric Cargo Bike Business

Ben Sarrazin
Founder, Yuba Cargo Bikes
$1M
revenue/mo
1
Founders
30
Employees
Yuba Cargo Bikes
from San Juan Capistrano, CA, USA
started January 2007
$1,000,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
30
Employees
433K
alexa rank
18
followers
4.22K
followers
market size
$29.2B
avg revenue (monthly)
$1M
starting costs
$30.1K
gross margin
30%
time to build
720 days
growth channels
SEO
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
ActiveCampaign, Odoo, Freshdesk
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
44 Pros & Cons
tips
1 Tips
Discover what tools Ben reccommends to grow your business!
customer service
productivity
crm
Discover what books Ben reccommends to grow your business!
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Become A Bicycle Manufacturer

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Ben Sarrazin, Founder, and CEO of the Yuba Group, designer, creator, distributor of load-carrying bicycles (bikes to carry things, passengers, sports equipment, tools, pets).

We have been offering what we call longtail cargo bikes such as the Yuba Mundo, Spicy Curry, or Boda Boda. Yuba started a storage container about 15 years ago, and in addition to becoming a $15M company, we have also pioneered the field of an entirely new segment in the industry.

Over the past 15 years, Yuba has put over 50,000 cargo bicycles on the road. That is a lot of happy families.

how-i-turned-my-love-for-bikes-into-a-12m-year-electric-cargo-bike-business

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I grew up on two wheels in Strasbourg, France. Since those first rides, I’ve been in love with bikes and what they can do. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of adventures. I traveled in East Africa where I saw merchants transporting their goods on two wheels. I spent time in Latin America were dirt roads and broken trucks made bikes the best way to get around.

Sometimes what I saw while traveling upset me: waste, environmental damage, or social inequality. For a lot of small businesses or families living in remote areas, I saw that bikes could enable people and make their lives better.

Eventually, I grew up(ish) and translated my passion for bikes and observations of the world into Yuba Bicycles, named after the California river where I love to kayak and connect with the natural world.

At the time, I had very little money, nor experience in the bicycle industry or any industry for that matter. To me this concept felt so right, it was at the intersection of all my interests and passions, doing something to prevent environmental degradation, the outdoors, bicycles, and social change.

Being around 25 years at the time, I had little money, but I decided to invest every penny and ounce of energy I had. The difficulties I had to face were the lack of relationships in the industry and more than anything the lack of financial capital.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Making bicycles is usually made by contract factories in Taiwan, these factories specialized in the assembly of bicycles. However, to be in business one needs to finance a full container of bikes (between 200 and 350 units) for a cost of $100K-$350K.

To get started since I had no money, while at a bike show we targeted a factory we thought could be manufacturing our bikes in Europe. We drafted an agreement with them where they would make the bikes without any money upfront, where they would get paid once the bikes sold would ship.

Now we have a team of engineers and designers that work on new products. The prototyping and the design are done at our headquarters and production is most often done in Asia. Our customers range from young families to bicycle entrepreneurs (think Taco truck but on a bike!), to urbanites who do not want to own a car.

how-i-turned-my-love-for-bikes-into-a-12m-year-electric-cargo-bike-business

Describe the process of launching the business.

I started Yuba with a simple website that I designed and coded a basic sell sheet in PDF format and a potential customer list. I emailed those potential customers and created some Press Releases to send out to specialized media. This is how we sold the first production of bikes - the Mundo! We built a wordpress website and used consultants to customize the layout and the functionality.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Yuba bikes have existed for over 15 years. We sell products internationally to distributors, large chains such as REI, small bike shops, and we do 20% online direct to consumers.

Since launching, what I’ve noticed works the most of all to attract customers is simply a well-functioning website. Good photography, good copy, supporting stories featuring the way people use our products.

Additionally, we use search engine optimization - using keywords and sentences that people search for in Google to direct them to the website. To find keywords, we used online tools including google ads to test keywords and demographics.

Physical events such as bicycle fairs are also very important for our customers - face-to-face consumer events where people can see the physical product is key to understanding product features and characteristics.

how-i-turned-my-love-for-bikes-into-a-12m-year-electric-cargo-bike-business

We do a lot of press promotion - endemic bike media is always updated with our latest news. Even non-endemic media - we present a new way of using a bicycle and a lifestyle story (outside magazine, people, popular mechanics, etc.).

A business is not a hobby - a business is for making money. If it’s not for making money it won't work. If you want a hobby, go sailing.

We spend advertising money on google pay-per-click - Ad words or shopping ads.

We DO NOT sell on Amazon - we tried to sell one product on Amazon, and we found that the vendor portal was hard to use, and we were not happy with the domination of their system. You have to play by their rules.

how-i-turned-my-love-for-bikes-into-a-12m-year-electric-cargo-bike-business

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Our team is about 12 people in the US, handling Sales and Operations, and Customer Service, and we use a third-party warehouse to fulfill our orders.

In the future, we will always be improving our products, adding Add-Ons and Accessories to meet the specific needs of our customers (i.e. surfboard, ski rack).

We are also constantly adding new dealers/retailers in the US and EU to grow our network, and we are investing more into pay-per-click advertising and digital acquisition.

how-i-turned-my-love-for-bikes-into-a-12m-year-electric-cargo-bike-business

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The most important thing I’ve learned is to be patient and persistent. Whatever success looks like to you, you will always have to be persistent to get there and be open to evolving and changing course rapidly.

Additionally, it is important to create enough mental space outside of the daily tasks to keep mental clarity.

Being able to focus on one task at a time without the distraction of people or your phone is a key element to getting stuff done.

The best and the worst decisions I made in the business are around people - you need to pick and invest in the right people, that makes all the difference.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Book - Growing a Business by Paul Hawken

Book - 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey

Podcast - How I Built This with Guy Raz

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

A business is not a hobby - a business is for making money. If it’s not for making money it won't work. If you want a hobby, go sailing.

The least helpful thing when you start a business is having too much money. A business that is cash poor makes the founder much more creative about finding solutions on making products and financing products and how to pay people - you can stretch your dollar. It’s really hard to earn money, so when you have a lot of it, you burn it fast.

Starting a business is not about spending money. Keep your business as lean as possible for as long as you can. This is the recipe for long-term success in your business.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are looking for Customer Service, Sales, and Admin Staff in our Southern California Office!

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Ben Sarrazin, Founder of Yuba Cargo Bikes
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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