Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Alan Chen. We founded ESKUTE electric bike in April 2021, when COVID-19 was prevailing. The idea of launching an ebike project appeared in 2019, so I registered the brand first. The company currently has a factory in Poland that can supply products to the warehouses in the UK and Poland and provides 5-8 days fast delivery within Europe. During this period, we prepared a lot. From website building to office rental and cooperation between the factory in Poland…
Our main products are Voyager Mountain Electric Bike and Wayfarer Electric Bike, and these two are with hub motors. Also, we have electric bikes with mid-drive motors like Voyager pro and Wayfarer pro.
Now our team is nearly 30 staff members in the office and more in the factory. From the very beginning, we sold scooters in America. It didn’t behave optimistically. So we changed our market to Europe and made some product categories changes from scooters to ebikes. Now our electric bikes are almost sold all over Europe.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I used to work in electric bike battery fields for years, but when COVID-19 is pervading, a vast market demands for electric bikes, people call for a safe and private way to commute and go out. The idea arose that maybe it’s the particular time for me to solve this problem for people in need and provide an ECO-friendly transportation method to help people pass the hard times, so I settled on planning for the whole project.
It’s different from an electric bike battery. Not only the technical issues and assembly process, but all the materials we have to prepare are also not only one accessory. We have to choose and examine all suppliers from sources. That’s the first colossal work we’re facing.
Luckily, years of ebike battery supplier experience resulted in some profit. Also, I’ve met many friends in the electric bike field who understood my situation and have supported me from the beginning.
Jack introduced a website building master to me, Lily and Ben postponed the accounting period for me, we have lots of friends to thank.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The prototype of voyager came into my head a long time ago, when I worked in the battery fields. I found there are lots of things to change and update the outlook of the electric bikes. I mean, how to make the battery “invisible” and make the ebike look like a regular bike. That’s what I like! I brought my idea into reality in 2020 with the help of a designer and engineer in a factory.
However, the prototype is not perfect. We chose unsuitable accessories and tires for it, which was found during our testing period. It was a terrible experience to ride on it. To fix the problem, we tried many different solutions. The prototype of a voyager is still stored in our company to encourage all of us.
From the start to all prototypes being well-prepared, it cost around $80000. We make a ten-person team to do that.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We launched an online store in the United Kingdom first, then spread to other European countries like France, Germany, Italy.
It takes almost one year to sell our first batch of products in the United Kingdom. The new brand showing up is not easy; we have to connect with news media and influencers to publish our products, which almost consumes our most funds. Also, we delivered many products to get reviews from customers, and it’s an excellent method to let more people know about our brand and test ride on our electric bikes.
Different payment methods need time to realize, and some customers stop paying when few payment methods are available. What a pity! Installment payment is essential for most customers because the price of an ebike is higher than most consumer goods.
Mistakes are inevitable; what matters is to stop loss in time.
So as an ebike manufacturer, we have to prepare plenty of funds by loan and financing. Thanks to my team, we solve all these problems now, and it’s tough for us to start during this particular epidemic time.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Sales in multi-channel are always better than in only one channel. Nowadays, the online store is a trend, but don’t forget to develop distributors in different cities. More people want to see and test ride before placing the order, which we’re also planning. There’re many channels for online marketing. No matter what platforms you choose to sell your products to, don’t forget to manage your website store.
- Social media: Mark your growth steps on them, share users’ reviews with videos or images, publish new products or campaigns, gives tips or suggestions.
- Ads/affiliates/campaigns: Research what your competitors do first, try to catch them first. Choosing the right product for different regions is crucial, and knowing when to cease campaigns.
- PR: Connect with the reputable press in your niche fields, and cooperate with PR with large traffics.
- SEO: Don’t forget this part; please be patient. It needs time to bring organic traffic and value. Optimize both on-page and off-page, put eyes on content marketing, don’t play black hat.
- Coupons: Bringing existing customers back is not easy. Our products are not cheap or daily consumables, a recommendation to friends is a better choice to develop more customers. You can give coupons to encourage that.
- Amazon Channel: Amazon is another excellent sales channel with high competition, but we don’t put too much effort into it.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Of course, we’re profitable now. Our gross margins cover all funds I invested from the start, the proportion for costs: goods 70%, ad 14%. Return on ad spend is almost 2-5 times than costs sometimes but nearly cannot meet ends for the first few months. Pageview reaches nearly 128000 last January, and email subscribers are around 80000.
We don’t have many social media followers right now, and it’ll be our next goal. As it expands, Eskute plans to open a second factory in Poland to ramp up production and offices in several cities in the UK and Germany. We’re going to publish four new products next month, and new stores in the Netherlands and Italy are just online.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Mistakes are inevitable; what matters is to stop loss in time. Especially for advertising, when you choose campaigns or keywords, all these can make mistakes. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. It’s also an opportunity to learn more and move forward. Decisions made by team discussion are easier to carry out; entrepreneurs don’t have to focus too much on little decisions, trust their teammates and pay attention to the result.
Are shopping trends totally out of control? No. Try to analyze the situation leading to more ebikes. The particular epidemic period calls for a safe and private transportation method. It inspired me and pushed me to accelerate my pace to make this whole business come true.
Every morning I wake up, I would read news related to the electric bike to see what happened about the rules or news in this field. I think it’s a helpful habit for all entrepreneurs to catch the topics.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We run Shopify's online store because it's easy to use and manage for those non-web designers. Whatsapp chat + cart tools, SyncTrack - Add Tracking Info, and PageFly Landing Page Builder - works well. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are excellent methods to develop.
Productized services complete all web-building; that's very smart for entrepreneurs to pay little to those experts to fulfill the task instead of hiring staff for short terms. Now we hire freelancers on UPWORK.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
There are many books I read that inspired me, but I suggest you learn more about your target products field in depth before starting. Mental guidance provided by books and podcasts is not scarce, but what makes you successful depends on your professional side. I recommend the entrepreneur's ultimate guide to Facebook advertising / Google ads at this stage.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Never set foot in unfamiliar fields; that’s my suggestion to all entrepreneurs. Don’t let the bright, beautiful industry prospect shades your eyes. If you want to do that, comprehensive research before starting is necessary. Prepare enough support, no matter technical or fiance. Or hire someone with expertise to help.
Once you start, don’t give up easily. That’s a mistake many people make, and insistence is a secret leading to success. If I told you that I’ve never thought of giving up, that must be a lie. When we’re in a dilemma when our materials delivery time can’t meet our product plan when we invest a lot but still cannot see revenues. All these moments could beat me, but we survived. So you can overcome it too.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We’re a complete team now, but we always want to grow stronger. So we want local British writers (paid, part-time), and interest in ebikes is preferred. If you’re interested, please send your profile to [email protected].
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.
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