As part of a series highlighting the 11 businesses entered in this year's Westpac Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, Sophie Preece talks to Cassandra Smith about Bikefit Marlborough.
Brent Ackroyd is fast on his bike, and set the same pace when he set up Bikefit Marlborough.
The Blenheim cycle store opened in March 2012, but only after weeks of hard slog from Mr Ackroyd, his partner and marketing manager Cassandra Smith, and business partner Graham Henderson.
"One day we were talking about the opportunities in the region and three weeks later we were opening the doors," said Ms Smith.
"We really pushed to get open before the Graperide and that was a mission - pretty much 20 hour days, with two children. We had them sleeping in the changing rooms."
Mr Ackroyd and Mr Henderson wanted to provide Marlborough cyclists with excellent customer service and a better product range, and saw a gap in the market, she said.
Bikefit has two qualified mechanics, and their Shimano certified service centre is a major part of the business. "It is our bread and butter. It is the survival key of any cycle shop. It's what ticks away in the background."
They also set out to court the attention of non-elite cyclists, including commuters, beginners and kids.
Between 60 and 70 per cent of their business is now entry level or commuter clientele, with the remainder shared between children's gear, and competitive road and mountain bikers.
They have also tapped in to the increasingly popular sport of cyclocross, sponsoring the CX Marlborough Series, selling the bikes and helping customers join in.
"We are definitely involved in the community and determined to sponsor, and be out at, local events," Ms Smith said.
The cycle market is competitive, with online sales a constant threat, but Bikefit uses bulk orders of accessories and loyalty club discounts to keep prices down, weekly spin classes to attract customers, and an ethos of high quality service to retain them.
To ensure they walk the talk of their service promise, they follow up with customers, and email an online survey to their mailing list every six months.
"We want to make sure we have always done what we can to make their experience as good as possible."
The couple had no business experience prior to opening, and building Bikefit has been a steep learning curve.
It is still in growth phase, and they have had to juggle life with a young child and a young business.
A typical working day is more than 12 hours, 7 days a week, with one of them always on at weekends, "but we know that's what it takes", said Ms Smith.
"The relationships we've built and established have made it all worthwhile. We've met some amazing people and heard some great stories."
The winners of the Westpac Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Business Awards will be announced at the Gala Dinner on November 15.
- The Marlborough Express