The entrepreneurial spirit never dies.
Brian De Groodt had found success. By spending his career in enterprise software sales, De Groodt says he was responsible for over $250 million in sales. He told Starter Story that he “traveled extensively, made good money, and was recognized for performance at some of the largest software companies in the world,” but felt that he remained unfulfilled.
The software he was selling felt lacking in concreteness. His products didn’t “stand the test of time,” so to speak, even though he was responsible for significant success in the arena of software.
Brian De Groodt recognized that his desire to create, sell, and manage wasn’t going to go away on its own. With the capital he had acquired during his first career, he was able to purchase a bicycle frame business in 2015. He had a good relationship with the previous owner, who had designed an excellent mountain bike frame for him in the past.
Success Not to Be Found In Custom Framework
Though the business concerned something he was invested in, cycling, and allowed De Groodt to apply creativity in his day-to-day business by designing custom frames, he wasn’t able to grow the company as he had hoped.
“Custom bicycle frames are a small niche of the bicycle market. Margins are ultimately very thin. Those margins introduce all sorts of ridiculous and unnecessary stress on the health of the business,” De Groodt explained to Starter Story.
“Depending on where you make your money in that industry segment, you’re almost always going to be a craftsperson doing what you (hopefully) love. Rarely are custom frame makers able to scale to a significant size.”
De Groodt wasn’t ready to give up after a couple of years of limited growth, though. He went back to the drawing board for creative ways to grow his company.
Playing Around With a Product
De Groodt had a few spare parts sitting around his custom frame shop, where all of the production took place, when he had a bright idea. He took a handful of parts to a local laser engraver to customize them and posted them for sale on his Instagram page.
Before De Groodt had time to order more, they had sold out. So he had more produced, and they sold out once again. De Groodt recognized a successful product when he saw it, and though he described the decision as “difficult,” he shut down the semi-stagnant bicycle frame business to focus on customized bicycle parts.
The Hero Product Remains a Hero
In 2018, Dispatch Custom Cycling Components was born. Produced and shipped from De Groodt’s shop from the very beginning, the founder bought a laser engraver to begin decorating bicycle headset caps, which cover the connection between the frame and handlebars of a bicycle.
He promptly lit the shop on fire.
The fire wasn’t the last challenge for Dispatch and Brian De Groodt. On day one, the business consisted of a laser printer and headset caps to be decorated. They shared space with a coffee roaster, which De Groodt described as “great” in the winter with fresh coffee across the workspace, but “literally sweat equity” in the “sweltering” summers.
De Groodt wasn’t fazed. His first sale went through in August 2017, and the next few hundred slowly built up, with the majority of sales going to friends, family, or other personal connections. The price of products took adjusting and a marketing plan worth $10,000 came down the pipe before the product hit the market for the larger cycling community, and the preparation was worth it.
By creating a product by cyclists for cyclists and tailoring the designs to customers’ wants, the business began to grow immediately. Though Dispatch operates in a relatively niche market, it has found a customer base that loves its product, and this is made obvious in a number of ways.
Dispatch Custom Cycling Components Finds Success
Every headset cap for sale on Dispatch’s website is reviewed five stars. Its secondary products have evolved over time — it now offers jerseys, pins, stickers, wallets, and bar end caps to go along with its text-decorated and artistically inclined headset caps.
All of those products are rated five stars as well.
“We don’t just sell headset caps. We sell inclusivity. We sell the opportunity to take a neglected bicycle and turn it into one of one,” De Groodt said to Practical Ecommerce. We’ll continue to roll out products that allow for that individualization, but we’re keeping it simple. We don’t want complex customization.”
The products comprise the whole of what makes a good excellent: they’re high-quality, easily customizable, priced reasonably, and shipped quickly and cheaply. De Groodt has been able to keep a handle on all of the factors affecting his product by continuing to produce in-house even as the business has grown.
Though the cons of the process include being “tied to an individual location” and an inability to work remotely, the pros seem to outweigh their costs. “Fulfillment begins and ends with us,” De Groodt said.
“If we make it available for sale, it’s going out the door in under 72 hours from the time the order is placed. This gives us a couple of strategic advantages, like limited editions, rapid prototyping, domestic fulfillment times, and the ability to limit the downside to any non-performers.”
De Groodt’s mission is to get more exciting, decorated bicycles on the road, and Dispatch works towards that goal with every sale. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart,” De Groodt admitted. “I haven’t found the right outlet for it, until now.”