People started to have their doubts about Detroit Bikes last year when the bicycle startup issued temporary layoffs
at its production facility only a few months after starting to sell its first bikes.
Those doubts are gone this summer. The two-year-old company called back most of those workers this spring and is hiring new people this summer after debuting its second version of a classic, American-style bicycle.
"Sales are really strong," says Zak Pashak
, founder & president of Detroit Bikes
. "It's not exactly what I predicted, but we’re back-ordered right now. It's a good position to be in."
Pashak moved to Detroit from Calgary with the idea of building a simple, streamlined bicycle for riding in urban environments in the heart of America's manufacturing mecca. The result was the A-Type
, a bicycle with thinner/smoother tires on larger wheels, a frame made of chromoly steel, and only three speeds. The idea: keep it simple.
So far that idea is working. Detroit Bikes has sold nearly 1,000 of the A-Type model, prompting it to release the B-Type last week. The B-Type features a step-through frame that's easier to mount and dismount. It also has a glossy white finish (the A-Type only came in black, a la Henry Ford's Model T). "We use a powdered coat, which is more environmentally friendly," Pashak says.
It's all part of Pashak's plan to start with a good product and harness some word of mouth buzz to drive sales. That materialized slower than Pashak expected, but Detroit Bikes
has come out with a better marketing plan and expanded its distribution network across the continent.
"I think we have a shop in every state now," Pashak says.
And they are accepting product from Detroit Bikes’ 50,000-square-foot facility on Elmira Street near Schaefer Highway on the city's far west side. The company now employs 10 people at the facility and is looking to hire four more. Pashak expects to sell between 3,000 and 4,000 bikes by year’s end and 10,000 by the end of next year. He is also looking to add some international sales to the mix later this year.
"I want to sell bikes to anybody who will buy them," Pashak says. "I also like the idea of exporting them. Anything we can do to bring more money into the local economy."
Source: Zak Pashak, founder & president of Detroit Bikes
Writer: Jon Zemke
Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.