True Story: How an Electric Bike Saved My Business
March 20, 2021
Hi, it's Steve here from Really Good Ebikes. I was recently contacted by a customer whose story was so moving to me, that I asked her if I could share it. Her name is Emily, and she tells how an ebike changed her life. I hope you are as touched as I was by her emotional and uplifting story. Enjoy.
Hi, my name is Emily, and I am a small store owner. Actually, let me rephrase that, I was a small store owner.
I owned a little store in the middle of town that supplied artisanal goods to the neighborhood and community. Homemade, steaming loaves of bread lined the windowsills every morning and were snapped up by 9am. Cheeses and butters were constant favorites in the fridge section, and in the back, natural balms and scrubs added that special touch the store needed.
I sourced only from small, local suppliers and my customers were regulars that simply became friends.
That was, until COVID-19 swept across the globe, wiping out small businesses like mine. Not only could I not pay rent and keep up the shop, I couldn’t afford to pay my suppliers. These were also small business owners, relying on shops like mine for survival. Lockdown and isolation kept my regulars trapped indoors and within months, my doors shut for the last time.
I figured, sitting, trapped at home, with a whole inventory of stock and suppliers desperate to get their goods out, that I had to pivot the way my business worked. And this is when I came up with my solution.
A last-mile delivery service, supplying all of my regular customers their usual goodies, right to their door.
My Adaptation was Key for Survival
At first, I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it.
I couldn’t afford a new car. With falling behind on rent, a bank would never grant me a loan to buy one.
I also had little eCommerce experience and had barely paid attention to my Facebook page, because the store-front usually attracted my customers. So, I needed to immediately start working on that, as well as figure out how last-mile delivery really worked!
But my priority was the issue of transport. And one day, it simply popped into my Facebook feed. An advertisement for electric cargo bikes popped up, and it hit me. Here was the solution I needed!
I wouldn’t need to take out a loan, I wouldn’t need to go through all of the hassle of buying a car, or scooter. I wouldn’t even need a license! It was perfect. The cargo bike option had large storage sections on the front as well as back. I could load up all the goodies in these, and cycle around town, dropping off the products to my customers.
I contacted all of my suppliers, especially the ones who were a little further out and organized central meeting places for me to pick up their products. I also organized a drop-store type agreement, where I could collect the goods in bulk and store them at home.
I then made an announcement on Facebook, letting my friends and followers know that I could deliver directly to them for a small fee.
It instantly took off! The months of being confined indoors had whetted the appetite of my regulars and the fresh loaves of bread, homemade pastries and artisan meats and cheeses were an absolute treat.
I Immediately Cut Down Operational Costs with an Electric Bike
The advantages of having an electric cargo bike were endless, especially when it came to the financial aspect, which was naturally one of my biggest concerns during lockdown.
Firstly, it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. It was cheaper than any of the scooters I saw, and as I mentioned, I didn’t need to spend money on acquiring a license to ride around town. I paid for my new G30 Electric Cargo Bike, after digging into some of my savings, and immediately got on the road.
In fact, I bought it just as it went on special, and saved even more.
Usually, the process of buying a new vehicle includes you having to sign for insurance and registration and licenses. But with an electric bike, this isn’t necessary. This saved me a bit of money at the beginning when I really couldn’t afford it.
It was only a few days into owning it that I also realized the other advantage of having an electric bike; you don’t need to pay for parking. I could easily park my bike outside shops and malls in the bike bay and never needed to pay for parking.
Lastly, and most importantly. I did not need to worry about the cost of fueling the bike. That had been one of my greatest concerns, apart from the actual cost of a car. How would I be able to keep up with the weekly fuel cost, and even the general maintenance of the vehicle?
With the electric cargo trike, fuel costs were eliminated, and getting around town simply costs a four-hour charge to get it up and running again. And, we all know that town driving is far more fuel heavy than long-distance, so it really was a blessing!
It Suited My Unique Lifestyle
One of the reasons why I actually started the shop in the first place was due to the fact that I am a huge promotor of natural healing products. I suffer terribly from arthritis which started when I was quite young and now impacts my knees as well as my hands. It can be quite crippling!
So, when I saw that cargo bikes were electric, it made even more sense to me. It wouldn’t be the same as a normal bicycle and would ease the amount of effort I would need to put into getting around town quite significantly.
I must be honest, I started becoming a bit of a nerd whilst choosing my bike, and eventually opted for the one that offered a high-torque 500 front hub motor. It has a long-range 48V/15.6Ah downtube battery with Samsung lithium-ion cells.
Essentially, what that means for me is that the trike, after being charged for four hours, has the capacity to drive around for about 40 miles, or almost 60 km, and reach speeds of around 20 mph or 32 km/h.
Which is fast! And helpful, because I found that most of my deliveries were done by midday!
The electronics of the trike are controlled by a pedal-assist system, which helps you pedal when you need a boost from the motor. There is also a thumb throttle, which allows me to move without any pedaling required. This means that when I have a slight elevation and need more power, I simply turn on pedal assist or push the throttle, and I get all the power I need to climb the hill.
The motor is located on the front of the bike, which provides a sense of balance to the bike. It also has enough torque so that when I gear down, with the throttle, it gives it enough power to be able to climb a hill easily, even with products in the baskets.
It has a little display on the handlebars, as well as a headlight for when I need it.
It was also very easy for me to store it at home. I don’t need a garage or carport, I could store it safely in my apartment.
But it does weigh around 90 lbs. So, I made a deal with my neighbor to store it with her motorbike, and I simply unclipped the battery every night to charge it upstairs in my home.
Oh, and as a bonus, for me, as a woman who often wears skirts, the bike is a step-through, so you don’t need to go swinging your legs over it unnecessarily. You simply step through it to get on, and can easily stand whilst stationary.
Re-Branding My Electric Cargo Bike Led to More Exposure
When I bought my second cargo bike, the Eunorau Max Cargo, I immediately started looking at how I could brand it. I wanted my store to be reflected on this new last mile-delivery endeavor and having a bike with a lot of surface area really allowed me to do so.
I branded both front and back baskets with my logo sticker, as well as the bucket trailer. I also made sure that even when I wasn’t carrying a full load to deliver, I had items sticking out of the baskets to really catch people’s eyes. Things like long french loaves and fresh flowers on a branded bike really stands out!
And the great thing about the bike is that it can carry the heavy load. It can carry up to 440 lbs, which is close to 200 kg! Sure, the more weight you are carrying, the less battery life you have, but loaves of bread and jams really don’t set you back too much.
This is where some of the neighborhood stores and retailers started taking interest. They had seen me whizzing around town and had asked me to partner with them to deliver their goods too, at a fee.
So, not only was I now delivering my fresh-baked goods and preserves, I was also delivering shampoos from the hairdresser, meat from the butcher and groceries from the corner shop. I had my branding up front, and then simply changed the basket at the back to something that included their branding.
Soon, I was so busy that I found that I had to invest in another bike, as well as more employees to help me with my new endeavor.
Now and then, I can even take the basket off and give someone a lift on it, but that is more for a friend than anything else.
The Electric Bikes Became Multi-Functional
The electric cargo bike is great for the town run around, and can really get up the hills, but the problem was, some of my customers lived a bit out of town in more rural settings.
This meant a lot more sandy and rocky areas, and a lot more stability was needed to carry my precious cargo out to the customers.
There are also two different people who are helping me and using the bike, so it needed to be a bit more adaptable.
It, too, has space at the back and front for baskets, which I branded. But it is also more stable on sandy surfaces and up more rocky elevations. The electric tricycle provides a lot more stability for the rider, and they are able to carry around a bit more weight than I was carrying initially.
Luckily, the electric tricycle that I chose allows the handle to be adjusted for the different heights and the bike is a step-through too, which means that he doesn’t need to put his back out to get on it. The saddle offers a comfort gel seat with spring support, so he could easily spend a few hours riding around doing deliveries.
She has helped me get out to some of the more remote clients and can fold the trike up and put it in her truck and then visit the homes from a central point there. It works like a charm.
These tricycle cargo bikes have a slightly shorter range than the electric bikes at around 25 miles (or 40 km) but it is more than enough for them to go out, and get back in time to charge it for five hours before the next long-distance run.
Essentially, I have found the perfect recipe for my business!
Although at some point during the initial stages of the pandemic, I felt like I had lost everything, things really turned around. I knew that I had to adapt to my new circumstances and had so many people relying on me, including myself, that I couldn’t afford to fail.
I will soon be investing in my third bike for a new employee and am tossing up whether to get an electric mountain bike or another electric cargo tricycle. This is certainly the new way of getting around town, and being able to carry on with your business, even during a very strange time!