Luuk | From engineer to bike entrepreneur
By Eleni Meraki
I studied engineering at university and after graduating, I was excited to finally put theory to practice. After a few years working as an engineer I started to see that the job, the company and the industry itself did not match my principles and ambition. I enjoyed the technical part of my work but was spending the majority of my time in an uninspiring place doing work I didn't believe in.
5 THINGS ABOUT
STUDIED ENGINEERING FOR 8 YEARS | BUSINESS PLAN ON A BEER COASTER | NO WEBSITE | MORNING RITUAL | QUIT HIS JOB WITHOUT A PROPER PLAN
LEAP OF FAITH
I was on a road trip through Italy with a good friend of mine, he asked me to explain what a day in my work life looked like. Hearing myself describe my job to him, I realised that nothing about my work suited me as a person. I came back from Italy and quit my job the next day. I had so many plans, things that because of my 40 hour workweek I had never been able to explore before.
I had bought a house shortly before and some family and friends questioned my radical decision. But what is the worst that could happen?
I went back to myself and thought about what I really enjoy in life. I wanted to be surrounded by different people everyday and hear different stories. I had worked as a bike repair man for 10 years part-time - during my studies. I knew I could do that but wanted to offer more than just bike repairs in my own store.
My friend is a hairdresser (BubbleKid) and was looking for a new location, we found a great spot and our third partner (LOT61) who had an amazing coffee house and was looking to expand. And that was the beginning of De Fietskantine; a bike shop come coffee house come hairdresser.
De Fietskantine is small shop with a unique mix of customers and a unique business approach; a lifestyle bicycle shop. We represent smaller, niche brands that have no real offline presence outside of our store. The brand VELORETTI for example, I am now their first offline selling point.
The guys I had worked with during my student days as a bike repair man helped me with all my practical questions; the right tools, contact information of suppliers, different bike brands. That was very helpful. I definitely underestimated the amount of work and time that goes into owning your own shop. I started this shop because I love it but I don't know how to do everything, like the finances and administration. Luckily I have people helping me to do that.
THE TOUGH TIMES
Doing everything yourself is hard. All of a sudden I am Luuk the marketeer, Luuk the financial expert, Luuk the bicycle repair man. Knowledge I don't have I try to acquire from people who are smarter and more experienced than me.
I can’t be in two places at the same time, which would be great. If I'm out running an errand, there's no one in my shop and that means no business.
There's no blueprint for setting up your own business. You just have to dive in and make the rules up as you go along
I started De Fietskantine with a loan from 3 friends, a total of only 5000 euro. The first 4 months all my earnings went back into the business; bicycles, gear, tools and of course the rent.
The rent of the store is 700 euro a month which doesn't seem like a lot but I have to fix a hell lot of bikes to get that together. I still can’t live from De Fietskantine alone, I have quite a few side projects running. For example I organise parties and festivals with friends (PLAKK events).
5 INSIDER TIPS
Start doing work that makes you happy. What’s the worst that can happen, really?
I am always honest to my customers. If I don’t know something I am honest about it and that’s how I build trust.
Be nice. I put my heart into my business and people feel that. It's about more than just bikes.
Show 2 or 3 people your business plan and ask them to give you critical feedback. Not just friends but perhaps a former colleague and someone from your target audience. Your own enthusiasm can blind you.
Find someone who has gone before to give you advice.
Written by Eleni Meraki
Eleni is the founder of Guts & Tales. She is a hypnotherapist, mind-trainer, coach and creator of the women’s coaching program Be Your Own Muse. She helps women become clear, confident and courageous to be and live true to themselves.