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Kulie makes Bike Bags for the whole family - Adults & Kiddos!
In late 2019 I encountered an opportunity to enter the Outdoors/Sporting goods industry with a new line of biking accessories – Bike Bags like Panniers, Saddle/Handlebar/Frame bags, that did more, and looked awesome compared to anything we have in the US today. Cycling in the US is primarily a sport: speed, thrill, and adventure rank higher in customer appeal compared to ROW where bicycles are also regular modes of commute and transportation. This is changing though, and urban campuses and increasing traffic throttles are beginning to make the case for easy wheels more imminent in American cities. Well before the Segways, snazzy scooters, or fancy unicycles & hoverboards become mainstream, the humble bicycle (likely now set up with a battery) has the potential to disrupt American commute and transportation if we allow it to. City re-planning, infrastructure investments, commuter incentives etc. I’ll leave to folks with more entrenched knowledge and deeper pockets…this felt like a challenging space to explore with what I could do – develop a new line of designer bags for bicycles, e-bikes and trikes that inspire you to do more with your bike. That’s how Kulie® was born.
After months of frantic designing and testing, I finally landed my first production prototypes. I sought out every bike commuter who was willing to chat and provide feedback, I met #bikepacking enthusiasts for the first time ever, and began to study the trends and revolution waiting to happen with #bikeshare and #ebikes. I walked into 11 Seattle area bike stores and cold called ~30 dedicated #ebike stores across the country looking for feedback and distribution opportunities, and wasn’t disappointed. I was hoping that just like backpacks have seen a metamorphosis in the last decade, bike bags can see such innovation too – heightened emphasis on function and utility, freshness through design and style, ease of access through value.
The product line spoke for itself, and in one week I had verbal confirmations from 2 Tier 1 and 4 Tier 2 retail launch partners in the Seattle area. At 45 days to launch over Easter, the pace of work was getting frenetic as I invested in product photography, website development, content creation, sourcing agents/partners to build out a distributor network, in addition to still actively selling through local retailers and a few national chains with specific customer relevance. This week I would have announced my upcoming launch with retail partners, released my website for pre-orders, and begun to engage in more direct customer interactions. Retail partners i.e. bike shops are crucial to this product and this brand for one critical reason: 52% of new bike sales (~15.5MM units annual in the US) are sold through independent retailers and bike purchase is the most likely point at which a customer buys a bike bag. Organic trust building through the word of the expert in this case the bike shop sales agent, felt like a necessary foundation for a new brand of performance reliant gear before I’d be comfortable undertaking any large scale online/national sales effort. After a great Tier 1 retailer meeting last Wednesday, we said goodbye with a Namaste but NOTHING has been the same since!
When #COVID19 and #coronavirus fears hit peak last Thursday and we entered National Emergency levels with mandated #socialdistancing, Kulie hit existential crisis before it launched. MEGA BUMMER. For a highly seasonal (or so I think) #newbusiness, #smallbusiness, losing the opportunity to make a big impact in one season reduces the ability #rideitout to the next season. But this, is #smallbusinesslife, this is #smallbusinesslove…the ability to truly define the future forward for this business (and for yourself) challenges notwithstanding. So Kulie will launch…just later, smaller, and scrappier, within the confines of what our situation allows us. Zero compromises on health and safety of course, but once life begins to get back to normal Kulie will be in a few Seattle area stores, we will be on Amazon, and we will still ship direct to customer. How quickly and how effectively is TBD :)
For the next 45 days, or until such time as we are sure we have #flattenthecurve I will obsess over my customers – not just my #biker end customer, but the bike stores who are my retail partners, the folks who are worst hit by the current situation. Not exactly sure how, but #innovation wins, we will #innovateforchange. Stay tuned!
Have you had to pause, slow down or defer launch because of the Corona virus? Did the national scale event you had paid for get cancelled and now you are on Plan B? How are you doing this...will you share?