Chris was in the market for race wheels. He knew there were basically two categories of wheels. First, there were the expensive, wind tunnel tested, aerodynamically superior wheels and second, there were the more affordable deep section wheels, that lacked wind tunnel testing and design. In the end he chose the first option and paid more money for the faster wheels.
When the wheels arrived we immediately felt there was a more affordable way to produce them. Why did leading edge design and affordability have to be mutually exclusive? Why were the fastest wheels in the world only available to those who were willing or able to spend thousands of dollars? As mechanical engineers we were determined to answer these questions. We wanted well designed, fast wheels to be available to a much larger percentage of athletes.
We met with an investor who liked the idea. We put together a business plan and researched patents. We discovered that the toroidal patent was going to expire in three weeks.
We began to research how to bring the product to market. Our original plan was to make the fairings out of plastic. We researched injection molding and vacuum molding. Plastic fairings were not looking like a viable option. Additionally, production costs in the US were too high for us to accomplish our initial goal of bringing affordable aero wheels to market.
We asked the popular Slowtwitch forum if there would be a desire for affordable aero wheels. The response from the forum was overwhelmingly positive. Unfortunately, our investor had become involved with another project. We made a decision to part ways and go back to the drawing board on our own.
We drafted our initial shapes to get quotes for production and continued to look for plastic manufacturers in the US. We were unsuccessful. We then started contacting factories in Asia to source parts. Finding quality parts was like finding a needle in a haystack, but we found a great hub manufacturer and a potential rim manufacturer.
We randomly met someone who ended up being a global importer. We discussed our project, decided to hire the importer, and began looking for factories in Asia to produce plastic fairings. Our attempts were still unsuccessful.
We continued to look for factories to produce plastic fairings. We had contacted dozens of factories and all of them rejected our project. Out of curiosity, we had a factory quote carbon in late July. The prices were outrageously high. We started losing faith in wheels and looked into other business opportunities. We didn't forget about FLO Cycling, but is was definitely on the back burner.
August was the turning point. After a summer vacation it was time to make a change. Our other start-up ideas could have worked but we were more passionate about bringing our aero wheels to market. Plastic wasn't working so we considered other fairing materials. We were willing to start by offering only training wheels at a great price. On August 5th we were elated to receive our first affordable carbon fiber quote. This was the break we were waiting for.
With Interbike around the corner, our importer was working full time to set up meetings with as many factories as possible. We began designing our FLO DISC and finished the design of our FLO 60 and 90 fairings. FLO Cycling was really starting to take shape and it was time to start marketing.
We designed our initial logo, bought a fancy camera, took some pictures and built a teaser site and a blog. Three weeks before Interbike we launched the site and and posted the news on the Slowtwitch and Beginner Triathlete forums. There was a lot of interest.
Interbike brought good and bad news. Meetings with our carbon and hub factories went very well, but unfortunately our rim factory was not what it was made out to be. The rims were pinned, and the dimensions the were not accurate. We also got a rude awakening with the price of spokes. Overall, Interbike was a great experience.
The engineer in both of us kicked in. We wanted to develop some of the fastest wheels in the world, but we didn't have the budget to spend weeks on end in a wind tunnel at $400/hr. We were fortunate enough to meet a CFD engineer and we decided to hire him to test our fairing shapes. CFD allowed us to cut out a lot of wind tunnel time, by limiting the number of fairing shapes we had to test. This saved us an incredible amount of money and was another turning point. We tested a variety of fairing shapes at multiple wind speeds and yaw angles. Our goal was to find fairing shapes that would be the most aerodynamic over a broad range of yaw angles. In total, our computer ran for 28 straight days to complete our analysis. Our results were very exciting.
October also brought the redesign of our original logo which wasn't very popular. We were fortunate enough to have a follower who was a graphic designer send in an idea and we loved it. We made a few changes, and allowed our followers to vote on the new logo. It was a big hit!
Finally, October brought the first blog article written about FLO Cycling from an outside source. Cody Elder wrote an article titled "FLO Cycling: Fast Wheels, Cheap Price" which you can read here.
November brought our first two interviews. We contacted Cody after he wrote his blog post and he decided to interview us. You can read the interview here. "We were also interviewed by Joel Strickland from Tri Madness here. The rest of the month we were busy working on our website, choosing factories, and negotiating pricing.
In December we opened the molds for our carbon fiber fairings and the waiting game began. It was going to take 60 days to receive our prototypes. With Christmas around the corner, we were happy to have some time to relax since the new year was going to be busy.
In February we saw pictures of our first prototypes. It was surreal to see our creation come to life. Unfortunately, a few factory delays forced us to postpone our pre-order. Informing our followers about the delay wasn't easy, but we wouldn't compromise quality since doing so would surely put us out of business in a hurry.
Our first prototype rims arrived and we built a set of climbing wheels (no fairings). It had taken nearly two years but we finally were able to ride our first set of FLO wheels. WOW, we really had something. We started asking everyone we knew to ride the wheels and the reviews were very positive.
We also received our first carbon fairing prototypes. There were some minor cosmetic issues but overall the carbon work was good. We discussed the cosmetic issues with our factory and they began correcting the issue. Our next task was punching spoke holes in the fairings. It's a LOT harder then it sounds. We were glad we ordered extra fairings!
After several 14 hour days we had our first prototype wheels completed. We geared up for our first test ride and we were blown away. We had come a long way from the idea of making plastic wheels. We were very pleased with what we had accomplished. With our carbon fiber issues being corrected, it would soon be time to put our wheels into full scale production!
It was finally time to make a trip to the A2 Wind Tunnel in North Carolina. We tested our FLO 60, FLO 90, FLO DISC, and FLO CLIMBER and the results were remarkable. Our CFD testing had really paid off. It was amazing to see how well the wind tunnel and CFD data correlated. Our FLO wheels were very aero and our FLO DISC was displaying negative drag from 12 to 24 degrees of yaw! We were very excited and so were our followers.
Additionally, we sent a FLO 60/90 wheelset to Nick Salazar from TriRig.com to be tested. We needed a professional third party review before our pre-order. We couldn't have been happier with Nick's review which you can find here.
By the end of the April we broke 1,000 followers on our sign up list, became an official company, and started discussing sponsorship ideas with our first pro athlete.
We received our "corrected" carbon fiber fairings and unfortunately there were still cosmetic issues. Something did not feel right. We spoke with our importer and decided to travel to China before our pre-order so we could be sure we were using the right factories. We scheduled our trip in June and our carbon factory assured us the cosmetic issues would be corrected upon our arrival.
Two weeks before our trip to China the truth came out. Our carbon factory told our importer that they did not know how to properly produce our carbon fiber fairings and our rim company/assembler told us they did not have the experience required to build our wheels. Saying we were stressed was an understatement. We had tens of thousands of dollars invested in five propriety FLO Cycling molds that were now useless. Additionally, we now had nearly 2,000 followers waiting for our pre-order scheduled at the end of the month. We needed a solution and we needed it fast!
We brought on a new importer who had plenty of connections in Taiwan. We decided to travel to Taiwan instead of China just days before our departure. It was risky, but given our situation it was the smartest thing to do. Our importer quickly scheduled meetings with nearly 20 factories and Chris was on his way. For a solid week he toured factories and negotiated with owners to find the best factory possible to produce our wheels. We were amazed with the superior quality that we found in Taiwan. The trip was a huge success and it was now time to finalize pricing. With the new factories and higher quality products, FLO Cycling was heading in the right direction once again!
July 1st to September 26th, may have been the longest 87 days of our lives. Starting from scratch with a new factory meant there were plenty of details to coordinate and negotiations went slower than planned. We stayed patient knowing we didn't want history to repeat itself.
In the end our hard work paid off. Using custom rims and hubs, we developed a new method for bonding carbon fiber and aluminum that was far superior to the method used by our previous factory. Additionally, the overall quality and aesthetics of our new wheels were going to be much better. Most importantly, we were able to keep our pricing on track. On September 26th we approved all final engineering drawings and signed our contract with the factory. Next up was the production of our new molds. We were officially back on track! You can read about the new factory and improvements here.
With our factory working diligently on our new molds, it was time for us to start getting products in the queue for our pre-order. We finalized hub, spoke, rim and faring designs and began placing orders. Our first order was bigger than we ever imagined. Do you have any idea what nearly 20,000 spokes looks like!
Once the designs were finalized and the orders placed, we had some down time and decided to improve upon our marketing strategy. We updated our blog as frequently as possible and added new social media features, joined Google+, read book after book for new ideas, and began looking for strategic industry partners. Our efforts started to pay off. Email sign ups and social media subscribers started coming in faster than ever, and we broke 3,000 followers.
To top it all off we were contacted by Aaron Hersh, the Technical Editor for Competitor Group. He asked to shoot our prototypes for an upcoming article highlighting wide aero wheels. We happily agreed and were proudly featured on Page 92 of the January 2012 edition of Triathlete Magazine. What a great way to end 2011 and bring in 2012!
Our Production Model Prototypes arrived! We began testing them to provide the factory with feedback. We sent them out to local cycling teams and 3rd party reviewers. Long story short, our new factory did not let us down, the new FLO wheels were perfect!
Next we completed a professional photo shoot of our wheels and shot a series of promotional and educational videos. Our final step was finalize our production schedule with the factory in preparation for our pre-order. Things were really getting exciting!
After two and a half years of development we finally offered our Pre-Order sale. The Pre-Order began with a ten day Launch detailing special offers and more. The response was incredible. Over 3,000 people signed up for our Pre-Order sale and our Facebook likes went from the mid 900's to over 1,200.
Our Pre-Order sale began at 10:00 am PST on February 23, 2012, and the outcome took us by surprise. It was a great day but there were a few bumps in the road. Here is a recap of our 30 minutes of mayhem!
In March and April we started to feel the struggles that most young companies experience, cash flow and production issues.
Our payment processor decided to hold the money we collected during the Pre-Order sales because we had not yet shipped our products. Even though our payment processor assured us the funds would be available, they changed their tune and our account was frozen. Let's just say we had a stressful couple of weeks. When all means to fund our pre-order came up dry and we thought we had to cancel all of the orders, our parents came through. They believed in us when nobody else would, and for that, we are truly grateful. Thanks Mom and Dad, we love you!
On the production front, we received word that our rims were behind schedule. We promised our customers a timeline and we had all intentions of keeping it. When over half of our 712 wheel order was delayed our only option to keep our promise was to fly the wheels to America instead of send them by boat. We'll tell you one thing, it's scary how much it costs to fly hundreds of cycling wheels around the world. In the end, it's something we needed to do to stick to our schedule and we are happy we did.
All problems aside we had a great couple of months. We were selling wheels and our customers were happy. That's something to celebrate. At the end of March Leadman 125 made it's way to Vegas and we got to hang out at the race and press events. It was a nice break from the pre-order madness.
The first shipment arrived! Do you have any idea how hard it is to fit 400 cycling wheels in a 2 bedroom apartment? Yeah, neither did we! It was time to start processing orders. If we've learned anything starting this business it's that when you estimate the amount of time it will take to complete a task, you should triple it. We had originally estimated it would take us about 40 hours to get through the first shipping group from Pre-Order 1. Well, we were WAY off. Once we settled into our roles things started to go smoothly. Jon became "the sticker guy" and Chris was "the boxer and inspector guy". The plan was, process orders until we boxed ourselves in, then ship them out the door. We gave U-Haul a lot of money that month.
Feed back from our first customers started coming in and they were really happy. What a GREAT feeling. The positive feed back let us know that our persistence for high quality paid off. May was a great month for us and our customers.
June was a very busy and productive month. After shipping the first half of the Pre-Order, we shifted into Bike for a Kid mode. We received our first 56 bikes and helmets and spent a couple days building bikes. We arranged a drop day with After School All-Stars and made our way to Robert Lunt Elementary School in Las Vegas with a U-Haul full of bikes. It was the last day of school and we had the privilege of rewarding 56 awesome first graders for being Outstanding Citizens of the community. It was an amazing experience to say the least, and we'll never forget the smiles on the faces of the kids.
The day after the bike giveaway we hopped on a plane and were bound for Taiwan. It was time to visit our factories to inspect production, check molds, and talk about future plans. It was Jon's first trip to Taiwan. The trip was an awesome experience. Seeing our own molds and watching our own production was fascinating. The food took some getting used to but a trip to Costco came in handy on the nights when cuttlefish was the main course. The hotel employees got a good laugh when we pulled up with a cab full of groceries =].
After the trip we had a few days to rest and get prepared for the second shipment group of the Pre-Order. The end of the month was going to be busy.
The final shipment of the Pre-Order arrived in Long Beach California on the Friday of a long weekend. Since we were already behind schedule, we decided to drive to Long Beach from Vegas, rent a U-Haul truck, and bring the wheels back to Vegas in a day. Remember that lesson we learned in May, take the time you "think" it will take a triple it, well, we forgot that lesson. The round trip combined with hand loading and unloading 343 wheels took 20 hours.
The long trip paid off. After a few more long days, all of the wheels were in the mail. With our products officially "shipped", our payment processor finally released the funds we collected 5 months prior during our Pre-Order. Our cash flow and inventory worries were starting to clear up, and things were looking really good. We were able to relax for few days which was nice.
Near the end of July we began designing the FLO 30. We were never content with the original FLO CLIMBER and we started drafting shapes and coordinating with our factories.
August 2nd brought Pre-Order 2 and we opened the store at 10:00am PST. We had another awesome day and sold 431 wheels in a couple of hours! To date we had sold over 1,100 wheels in less then 6 months which blew all of our projections out of the water. Our company was doing well. We'd sold out of most of our inventory and sorted through the orders to get ready for the upcoming shipment.
At the end of the month we went to Canada for a vacation. It was nice to get away and spend some time with family and friends.
September brought a few enjoyable diversions. The 70.3 World Championships brought our athlete Josh Amberger to town. Josh stayed with us for a couple of weeks as he prepared for the race. Josh is an awesome guy and he finished 7th. This was only his 3rd 70.3 and he was 1st out of the water and 2nd off the bike. We couldn't have been happier. We also got a lesson in Aussie culture which was a treat.
Near the end of the month Interbike came to town. Interbike is always awesome. It's a great place to make connections, meet old friends and find plenty of reasons to empty your wallet =].
October started of with great news. We received the CFD results from the shapes we tested for the design of the FLO 30. We were seeing negative drag on a 30mm rim shape without the spokes and hub. We opened the mold for the FLO 30 with plans to start testing prototypes in the early new year.
The wheels from Pre-Order 2 showed up after being delayed because of a typhoon in Taiwan. We processed 431 wheels over eight long days. With the shipment officially complete, we now had 1,143 FLO wheels on the road, had shipped wheels to 27 countries and had brought our Bike for a Kid bike count to 83 bikes and helmets. This was well beyond anything we had imagined accomplishing in 2 years, let alone our first 8 months. Things were good and we couldn't have been happier.
In November we had Pre Order 3. After "thinking" we had fixed our server issues, we crashed again. This time it was really bad. Our site was down for nearly an hour and most of the people who came to the site for the sale left frustrated and disappointed. Sales as a result suffered and it took a few weeks to gain back the sales we had lost. We knew we had a big problem and we had to figure out how to fix it for our next Pre Order.
We also began testing our new FLO DISC prototypes that had just arrived. Some customers felt our original FLO DISC was too noisy and in an attempt to make as many people happy as possible, we redesigned the wheel. The first prototypes were not working so we had to go back to the drawing board. Finally, to end the month on a positive note, CD-adapco featured us in their magazine titled "Dynamics". You can see the article here.
Pre Order 3 wheels were scheduled to arrive just in time for Christmas deliveries until the Long Beach port decided to go on strike. Yes you heard that right... strike! Our entire container of wheels was just left to sit on the shore of California with no resolution date in sight. We did our best to keep our customers informed and thankfully everything was settled and released 10 long days later. The question was, could we still make Christmas deliveries? With several 18 hour days, we shipped the container of wheels in record time and got all of the wheels in the mail in time for Christmas! It was now time to relax and spend some time with family.
Our working visas were due to expire in February (we're Canadian citizens) and we had to return home to Canada to petition for new ones. We hired an immigration attorney and flew to the US Consulate in Toronto Ontario to apply for E2 Treaty Investor Visas. Being granted a visa is never a certainty so we were very hopeful that we would get them. If we didn't, we had a lot to figure out fast! Fortunately, after a day of freezing in Toronto's -23 degree weather, and a lengthy interview process, we were granted the new E2 visas! We went home to Dartmouth Nova Scotia for about a week while the paperwork was finalized to spend time with family.
While relaxing at home Jon was hard at work on the FLO Cycling App. He had been studying iPhone development for years and was working on putting his knowledge to use for FLO fans. Chris began investigating our server issues in order to find a solution for our next Pre Order that was scheduled for the later part of February.
At the end of the month we finalized our new FLO DISC design, began testing our prototype 11 speed Shimano hubs, and were featured in an article on Digital Manufacturing's website.
Pre Order 4 was the first sale of 2013 and we needed to make a good impression after our major server crash in November 2012. Chris spent weeks working with the start up team at Rackspace learning how to configure and manage Ubuntu Linux web servers from the command line. During Pre Order 4 we had four load balanced 30GB web servers and one 8GB database server running the FLO site. The hard work paid off! Pre Order 4 (400 wheels) sold out in 12 minutes and the site didn't even flinch! The whole process was a great learning experience and Chris wrote an interesting blog article discussing the whole journey here.
While Chris was busy with the web servers, Jon was hard at work beta testing and releasing the FLO Cycling App! The free App aggregates cycling and triathlon's latest articles from the industries top publishers all in one convenient location. Jon did an amazing job with the app and after years of studying app development, it was a great success to finally release his first app. You can visit our official iPhone App page here.
The long awaited FLO 30 prototypes finally arrived and they were everything we expected and more! Ride quality and performance were excellent. Our factory had done an outstanding job. We quickly sent out sets to reviewers and racers and their feedback was also great! We had a winner and it was time to place an order for our first production run.
The rest of month we were popping up on websites and in reviews. AeroGeeks completed their final review of the FLO 60s, Road Bike Action posted their first look review of the FLO 60s, and the US Consulate in Toronto featured our E2 visa story in an article about Canadian Entrepreneurs in the US.
We knew that we were very happy with ride quality and construction of the FLO 30 but the final question that needed answering was "how aerodynamic was the wheel?". We took the FLO 30 to the A2 wind tunnel and put it through it's paces. It definitely did not disappoint! The wheel ended up being more aerodynamic than our CFD suggested. While at the wind tunnel we also studied a long list of tires to look for the most aerodynamic option. It turned out that the Continental GP 4000s tire was a clear winner. We also retested our FLO 60, 90 and DISC with the Continental GP 4000s tire and saw dramatic improvements in all of our aero data! You can see a recap of the whole day here.
Pre Order 5 took place in April and we had another "crash free" day thanks to Rackspace! We sold the entire container of 420 wheels again in 12 minutes! The next 5 days were spent processing and shipping. In an exciting end to the month, TriRig reviewed and loved our FLO 30s, and were named the official wheel sponsor of the IRONMAN Foundation-Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team for 2013!
May was a busy month for us at FLO and we began the process of expanding our Bike for a Kid prorgram. Jon met with Dave Deschenes (the Ironman Foundation CEO) and Thad Beaty (the lead guitar player for Sugarland) at the 70.3 US Championships in St. George Utah. We agreed to partner with the Ironman foundation for the coming year to see how we could help their cause.
Jon also traveled to St. Jude's Hospital - an amazing place to say the least - in Tennesse to learn more about the hospital and how we could help with our Bike for a Kid program. St. Jude's houses children with cancer during their treatment in what are known as "transition houses". The "transition houses" are in need of toys for the children, and we agreed to begin donating some of our Bike for a Kid bikes to these houses. We were very excited about this!
Near the end of the month we travelled to Taiwan for meetings with our factories. Our goals were to inspect our current production, determine a plan for increasing future production, and to discuss future products we have been working on. The trip was excellent and all things went better than planned. We finished the week off with a little R&R in Kenting Taiwan, a beautiful tropical area on the southern shore.
June began with the release of the FLO 30. We nicknamed the FLO 30 the Swiss Army knife of cycling wheels because we designed it to be a performer in as many conditions as possible. Aero, lightweight, durable, a great build spec, and affordable. The FLO 30 does it all. Check out the FLO 30 Video.
We also visited our hosting company Rackspace in June. Rackspace as been instrumental in our success as a business. Any of you have followed our story know the problems we had with web servers early on. Rackspace flew us to San Antonio, Texas for a tour of their facility. It's an amazing place. Check out a recap of our visit.
Last but not least, the FLO 60s were reviewed in Road Bike Action Magazine, and the end of the month brought Pre Order 6. It was another huge success. We sold out 591 wheels in 12-15 minutes. We couldn't have been more thankful!
July was an exciting month. We finalized our Partnership with the Ironman Foundation. The Ironman Foundation believes in giving back to the communities where Ironman Events are held. When the Ironman Foundation heard about our Bike for a Kid program, they brought us on board. We began our "Road to Kona" with planned Bike for a Kid Bike drops in Las Vegas, Tahoe and Kona. Entire story here.
Pre Order 7 had us a little nervous. We offered Pre Order 7 only 5 weeks after Pre Order 6 - our closest Pre Orders to date - and we feared that we may have ordered too much inventory in a short period of time. Thankfully, it all worked out! We sold out 641 wheels in 12-15 minutes. We were blown away. In a 5 week period we had just about matched our entire 2012 sales numbers!
August began by shipping the wheels from Pre Order 7 sales, and it didn't come without of a few speed bumps! For Pre Order 7, we had decided to move all of our domestic shipping to UPS. In doing so, we created so many labels, that we "broke" the UPS site. Our order history on over 400 packages vanished, and we could not send tracking numbers to our customers! Thankfully, one of our customers was a UPS employee. When he heard about the issue, he had one of their specialist call us to sort out the problem. UPS has been very good to us, and this situation was another example of their service.
After getting alll of the Pre Order 7 wheels in the mail we were ready for a break. We flew home to Canada to visit family for about 10 days and had a great time recharging our batteries.
The month ended on a great note! Aaron Hersh interviewed us for an article in triathlete magazine detailing our story. The article was published in the August 2013 edition of triathlete magazine, and then on the Triathlete Magazine website. It named us one of Triathlon's fastest growing companies. Thanks Aaron for writing such a generous article!
September was a busy month! It started with the 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas. We had several customers racing and we had the opportunity to meet with some of them. During race day we were out on the course cheering on the athletes in the pouring rain. It was an exciting day especially since our good friend Josh Amberger - who was staying with Chris - led the race until mile 45!
Interbike also came to Las Vegas in September. Jon and I are always at Interbike to meet our factories and suppliers, and to drool over the newest the bike industry has to offer. As always it was a great show.
After all of the industry events were over, Jon and I made two stops on our Bike for a Kid "Road to Kona". Our first stop was at CT Sewell Elementary School in Las Vegas where we donated 81 bikes to 81 awesome kids. After that we flew to Lake Tahoe where we donated 50 bikes to 50 kids at the Boys and Girls Club. We also got to watch the inaugural IM Tahoe, which was amazing.
As if September wasn't busy enough, we had Pre Order 8. It was another amazing success. We sold 691 wheels in 12-15 minutes. Thanks to everyone who ordered. You guys are amazing!
The Ironman Foundation and the Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team appropriately ended their "Road to Kona" in Kona. We wanted to end our Bike for a Kid "Road to Kona" there as well, and we did just that! We shipped 50 Bike for a Kid bikes to Kona and boarded a plane to the Big Island. The Ironman Kona experience was truly amazing. The energy that surrounded race week and the actual event was something that simply has to be experienced to be believed. Following the race we partnered up with Path Hawaii and donated 50 bikes to 50 great kids.
After the race we spent another week on the big Island for a short vacation. Kona is an amazing place and we will do everything we can to be back there next year with the Ironman Foundation.
We were also featured as the cover story in Design Engineering Magazine and included in Lava Magazine's Kona Bike Count for the first time. We had 28 wheels in Kona, and were very happy with where we sat in the rankings.
In typical November tradition, we were again part of Movember, an organization focused on raising money for prostate cancer. Each November we donate a portion of our November sales to the Movember foundation.
We also had a fair amount of press coverage this month being featured in triathlete.com's Aero Wheels on a Budget article, and Road Bike Action Magazine's Aluminum Hoops that Prove their Merit.
On December 5th we had Pre Order Number 9. We sold a total of 614 wheels in under 10 minutes and spent the next week processing orders. We worked extra hard to get all of the wheels in the mail in time for Christmas, and actually set a new processing record. We processed 328 wheels in a single day. Considering we could only process about 50 in one day when we first started FLO, we were pretty proud of that accomplishment.
AppPicker also selected our free FLO Cycling App as one of the top apps for cycling and featured us on their website.
On January 30th, we had Order 10. We sold out again - a total of 606 wheels - in under 5 minutes. January has historically been one of our slower months, and this was a good start to the year considering we were planning on increasing production to roughly 5,000 wheel in 2014. We were hoping that this was a sign that sales for the rest of the year would stay on track.
ZenTriathlon.com interviewed us for their podcast, which you can listen to here.
After our involvement with the Ironman Foundation and the Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team in 2013, we knew we wanted to make it a priority to be part of the program again in 2014. We were elated when we got the call from Ironman Foundation CEO, Dave Deschenes, and were invited back for 2014. This allowed us to continue donating our Bike for a Kid bikes to the local communities where Ironman events take place.
On March 20th we had Order 11 which turned out to be our biggest sale to date, even surpassing the open ended Pre Order 1. We sold a total of 797 wheels in about 5 minutes. To be honest, we were pretty amazed. The order was so big it actually came on two containers. We spent a week in March shipping the first container and then two weeks later, we spent another week shipping the second container. It felt like we were shipping wheels for nearly a month straight!
We also ended up being mentioned in Triathlete Magazine in both March and April. In March we were featured in the article More Speed for Less Green, and in April we were featured in the annual Buyer's Guide.
On May 1st we had order 12. We sold a total of 427 wheels again selling out in about 5 minutes. This order was the 3rd container we had to process and ship in a 6 week period and we literally had no time for anything but shipping. The sales were clearly great, but spending all of our time shipping was getting in the way of running the rest of the business. We had many long talks about how we could start to hand off some of the shipping responsibilities and thought we'd be lucky if we could have a shipping staff in 2 years.
Our mother was able to visit us in Las Vegas during Mother's day. It was a great visit and the first time we were able to see our Mother on Mother's day in a long time.
At the end of the month we went to Taiwan to visit our factories. We discussed our current production and met with factories to discuss a new product. After the meetings were over, we visited Taiwan's famous Sun Moon Lake. It was a beautiful place to visit.
In June we really started trying to figure out how we could get help with shipping. Our original thought was that we needed to purchase a warehouse and hire employees for shipping. We travelled around Las Vegas with a real estate agent and looked at a variety of properties, but something just didn't feel right. Out of the blue one day Chris thought, there has to be someway we can outsource our shipping. That would eliminate the need for us to purchase a warehouse, on top of managing and training employees. After all, off loading the shipping was supposed to save time, not create more tasks.
We discovered a list of fulfillment companies that could potentially ship our products. After several interviews, one company seemed like the clear winner. We still had a few things to work out before we could officially hire them and have them take over our shipping, but things were looking good.
On June 12th we had order 13 and sold 727 wheels in about 5 minutes again selling out. We were back in the warehouse for the next two weeks processing and shipping the order.
We continued meetings with the fulfillment company who were located in Traverse City, Michigan and things really started to take shape. With the minor assembly and inspection required to ship our products, Jon and I decided it would be best to fly to Traverse City Michigan to help the staff better understand the scope of our project. The meetings were a huge success and we decided to hire eFulfillment Service (EFS) to be our shipper. Our original thought in May was that it would be great if we could offload our shipping in two years. Luckily for us, the process only took two months.
We decided that eFulfillment Service would ship our next order, and we had our container of wheels sent to Traverse City instead of Las Vegas. Order 14 took place on the last day of the month and we were fortunate enough to have it sell out again. We sold a total of 500 wheels in roughly 5 minutes.
Jon and I flew back to Traverse City, Michigan to teach our shipping company - eFulfillment Service - how to process an order. In all honesty, they were shipping experts and after the first few hours of instruction, they were off to a flying start. This gave Jon and I the opportunity to explore Traverse City, which is a beautiful place. Seeing Sleeping Bear Dunes was definitely a hit. After the week of shipping was complete, we realized that we picked an incredible team of people to partner with. Jon and I would finally have the time we needed to run FLO now that the task of shipping was off of our shoulders. We wrote a blog article titled "Managing our Time" which detailed the entire process of converting our shipping to a fulfillment center and explained the reasoning behind our decision.
Also in August our eBook, How to Build a Road Bike, was downloaded for the 10,000th time. We thought this was pretty cool!
September 4th brought Order 15 and we sold out again in about 5 minutes, selling a total of 695 wheels. With Interbike right around the corner, we were happy that EFS was now shipping our wheels.
Interbike was a fun time as always. It gave us an opportunity to say hello to friends and meet with our manufacturers. One of the highlights of the week was meeting Andy Ording. For those who don't know, Andy started Zipp and eventually sold it to SRAM. His stories were simply amazing and the picture in this section caught some of the amazement on our faces during our discussion. You can thank Nick Salazar from TriRig for the awesome shot.
At the end of the month we did a Bike for a Kid giveaway at West Prep Academy in Las Vegas. We were able to donate 200 bikes at the event!
October brought Kona and we headed back to The Big Island. The first week was filled with industry parties, meet and greets, and of course swimming, biking, running, and spending time on the beach. We might have also gone cliff jumping a few times too ;). The Kona parties are always a blast and the race at the end of the week was simply awesome.
The following week our girlfriends flew to the island and we vacationed. We had a very busy year up until this point and the break was nice. We worked a little, but "little" is the key word in that sentence. It was nice for a change.
On October 2nd we had Order 16 and for the first time in a couple of years, we did not sell out within the first 5 minutes. In all honesty it was nice. It felt like our stock was finally catching up with demand. The stock lasted for a few weeks but eventually sold out well in advance of our next container.
In November we took a road trip to Ironman Arizona. It was great to watch the race and catch up with some of the Ironman Foundation athletes who we support. We also had some friends racing and it was a blast to watch the event.
We also met with Chris Lieto and Bill Ng from More than Sport. We agreed to start a partnership with them. Chris and Bill have a lot of connections in the industry and they agreed to help us facilitate our bike give aways. We were very excited about this partnership.
Our final sale for 2014 was on December 4th. Our goal at the beginning of the year was to sell through our 8 scheduled orders and by the end of the year we had done just that. Order 17, again didn't sell out right away which gave customers a little more time to buy. This again was a welcomed change. We wrote a "Year in Review" blog article which highlighted our growth for the year.
At the end of the month, Jon and I flew to Venice, Florida to visit our parents for the holidays. Venice is a beautiful place and the short break for a few days was nice. We rang in the New Year overlooking the ocean while eating dinner with our parents, and then headed back the following day to get 2015 started.
While Chris was busy building a new website, Jon was hard at work building a data logger for a bicycle. The data logger was designed to gather wind data on a bike. We purchased a number of highly accurate sensors and built a custom bike mount to start gathering data. The whole system was rather large and we were looking forward to the odd looks we'd be getting on the road. We were also interviewed by IdeaMensch, a blog known for interviewing Entrepreneurs.