Simon Cook is co-founder of smart bike firm Apex Rides, which has grown to an almost-£3 million turnover in its first year of business alone. Here he reveals what he learnt along the way and offers tips to entrepreneurs who are planning on launching their own fitness or sports start-up.
Go visit your makers: When it came to industrial manufacturing, producing our bikes in the Far East was pretty much our only option when starting out. This isn’t easy. Lingual, cultural and temporal differences don’t do anything to help build a strong and long-lasting working relationship. My best advice is to get out there, meet your new partners face to face and try to anticipate all eventualities from the get-go so you know how to handle them when they inevitably arise.
Do your own due diligence: As a start-up raising funds, you’ll go through various cycles of due diligence on you and your business. When you’re investing those hard-raised funds, it’s crucial that you do your own research on potential suppliers. Very early on, we engaged with a reputable software company who were going to build our minimum viable product app for a six-figure sum – and they went bust! Fortunately, we hadn’t paid them anything yet. We now request financial accounts from all businesses we’re considering engaging with. If they have nothing to hide this shouldn’t be a problem.
Take branding seriously: Branding might be seen as fluffy and unimportant by some, but if you’re in the game of consumer products, it’s vital to establish what you stand for. Aside from product features, why should a person buy from you? What is it about your offering that resonates with them and why? From day one, Apex has been about making home workouts more accessible – not just through pricing but by appealing to people who want to work out but can’t always muster up the energy to do so.
Work out who your customer is: What age are they? Where do they live? What do they do for a living? What newspaper do they read? (I heard the Evening Standard is good!) If you can work that out early on, it makes targeting and marketing so much easier.
Be agile: Listen to your customers and don’t be afraid to pivot. There needs to be demand for whatever you’re supplying. In our case, we were fortunate enough to have a highly engaged user base of early adopters and we were able to ask them what new app features they wanted to see next, for example. Feedback won’t always align with what you think the best route is and equally the feedback won’t always be the right way to go — but if it is, be open to changing tack.