E-BIKE LICENSEES CHARGING AHEAD
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The first four electrify.nz licensees have hit the road and are already up to high speed
Experienced business people generally say that the first year is hard yakka, but the new Tauranga outlet of electrify.nz has proved it doesn’t have to be that way. Since opening in October last year, licensees Keith Silkstone and Lauren Te Pairi have exceeded their projected first-year sales in just five months.
Electrify.nz specialises in importing and selling e-bikes. Founded in Auckland’s Freemans Bay in 2014, the company has quickly become the leading NZ supplier of top international brands such as Gepida, Kreidler, Stromer, Bottecchia, Magnum and KTM, and already has five outlets with opportunities for more nationwide.
Keith and Lauren’s first few months have been boosted by a high-profile sale to Tauranga City Council. With the council keen to encourage fewer single-occupant cars in the city centre every day, Lauren pitched a proposal to help council staff lead the charge.
‘We set up some demonstration days for council staff, giving test rides and helping them learn about e-bike options,’ Keith explains. ‘Lauren is in finance so she worked with the council’s procurement team to put together packages for staff. I must admit I privately hoped for about 20 sales, but in the end we had an order for over 60 – including 7 for the council’s own vehicle fleet.
‘Needless to say, this filled our sails and got us off to a great start. Tauranga has major traffic and parking issues, and by demonstrating their commitment to solving part of that problem the council has set a clear precedent that we think other large employers will follow.’
Apart from making parking easier, what is it about e-bikes that makes them so attractive? ‘For cyclists, hills and headwinds suck,’ says Keith with passion. ‘Unless you are super-fit or a regular rider, the average hill is an obstacle for cyclists. Surveys have shown that one of the chief reasons people won’t ride to work is that they don’t want to arrive at the office hot and sweaty. With an e-bike, however, you can sail over the hills, avoid the traffic jams and arrive as cool as a cucumber.’
Keith and Lauren didn’t exactly have a background in e-bike retailing before they bought the franchise. Keith, who runs the day-to-day business, is a former funeral director and motor parts salesman, while Lauren has kept her full-time banking job. Together, though, the couple have the contacts and the local knowledge that, combined with electrify.nz’s expertise and exclusive range, have made the business a real winner.
The three founders of electrify.nz, Michael Tritt, Ron Minkhorst and James Munro, are all passionate about the future for e-bikes in New Zealand, and their considerable commercial experience has created a genuine business opportunity. Outlets which opened in Tauranga, Dunedin, Hamilton and on Auckland’s North Shore last year are now flying, proving that e-bike leisure and commuting are attractive everywhere – and people are clamouring for more.
‘We have opportunities for another six or more licensees,’ says James. ‘Of course we are targetting the main population centres, but if the right people turn up for any area, we’d love to give them the opportunity and support to build their own business in this massively-growing market.’
James says New Zealand is a bit behind the times when it comes to e-bike usage. ‘E-bikes are already mainstream in Europe, so we’ve got a bit of catching up to do – which of course represents a great opportunity for licensees. New Zealand has a pretty good climate with access to fantastic outdoor lifestyles, and attitudes towards sustainability are changing – people are willing to consider the practicality of e-bikes more openly.
‘In addition, New Zealand is ideally placed to use electric bikes because 95 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources. That’s true for cars, too, but they’re so much more expensive, and we’ve found that when people own an electric bike they start making excuses to leave their car in the garage. After all, e-bikes are easy to ride and park, enable you to go much further with less effort, climb hills with ease – and they’re fun too!’
In Dunedin, Mike and Tania Willis opened their electrify.nz store about the same time as Keith and Lauren were starting out in Tauranga. You might think the odds were not exactly in their favour: neither of them had ever owned a business before; Mike had been a technician in the Air Force for most of his working life; and their new venture was in the same street as many other cycle shops.
‘Tania and I had been seeking a business we could run together when I left the Air Force,’ says Mike. ‘We considered many things, from franchises to start-ups to motels, but when we saw the electrify.nz advert and talked to James and Michael we both felt all the boxes had been ticked at last. I’ve been cycling, either commuting or competing, for years, and e-bikes are clearly the coming thing. On top of that, electrify.nz has all the brands, the contacts, the experience and the systems we needed – not to mention a growing reputation.
‘Even though Tania has retail experience, everyone we spoke to said the first year would be hard and we would have been pleased just to break even as we got established,’ Mike admits, ‘But we actually achieved our first year’s sales target inside four months. We’re very pleased, not just with the results but with the support and help we’ve had along the way.’
‘The great thing about this business is that we’ve got our name out there so widely, so quickly,’ Tania says. ‘Advertising in local newspapers and word-of-mouth have been very effective, and we’ve found people from as far away as Invercargill and Tekapo seeking us out. ‘People in the other shops have been friendly – we seem to have healthy competition here and more than one offered to help us in the early days. Of course, we have the world-famous Otago Rail Trail just up the road, so e-bikes help expand the market for recreational cycling. And after having their first experience of an e-bike on the trail, many people come straight to us with a big smile on their face wanting to buy one.’
‘We are having a lot of fun with the business,’ Mike adds. ‘I’m arranging demo rides and we all have a coffee afterwards. It’s relaxed and effective as long as you have empathy and patience. Of course, we know Dunedin will be more seasonal than other outlets, but we have plenty of hills for those batteries to push people over,’ he grins.
Keith and Lauren, and Mike and Tania, all speak highly of the training and support provided by electrify.nz, as well as the relatively low set-up costs – a fee of just $25,000 plus shop fit-out and set-up costs which vary according to location.
‘Right from the start, we designed the system to minimise up-front capital requirements and directly link our licensees’ success to our own,’ James Munro explains. ‘Our priority was to appoint the right people in the right locations to take advantage of a rapidly growing market. Given that we only plan a maximum of about twelve outlets, we feel able to train and support each one to the best of our ability without taking huge sums of money off them for the privilege.’
‘We want people with business experience and the drive to become masters of their own destiny,’ says founder Michael Tritt. ‘They should have broad career and life experience, understand retail and customers, and have the empathy to understand people’s different situations and meet their needs. We will provide the systems and sales tools, marketing material and full support in setting up and establishing a new electrify.nz outlet, but it’s up to them to provide the sort of service that will have delighted customers telling everyone they know.
As for the new licensees in Tauranga and Dunedin, both still slightly reeling at their rocket starts, what would they say to prospective business licensees? ‘Go for it,’ says Tania, without hesitation. ‘This is a fantastic opportunity right at the beginning of the market with huge prospects on every level.’
‘Put in the work, and you really can’t go wrong,’ says Keith. ‘The support network is already superb and will only grow as the electrify.nz guys get more passionate e-cyclists on board. E-bikes are developing fast and we’re at the forefront. The great thing is that we’ve seen steady incremental improvements in the technology as each model has come out: battery life and weight, and motor advances are all adding up to better and better packages.
‘If you show the dedication and really work the system, then your business can take off amazingly, as we’ve seen. Our expectations have been well and truly exceeded.’
James Munro invites anyone with the power and passion to establish their own electrify.nz store to contact him fast. ‘We need a number of great licensees to meet and expand this fast-growing market, so if the proposition attracts you, give us a call. All but five of our regions are available, so be first off the starting block and electrify your own community.’
See this advertorial on page 46 of Franchise New Zealand Year 27 Issue 01
Contact details for Electrify NZ
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