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 lives in Athens and enjoys roaming the world as much as she can. She is a multi-passionate entrepreneur with big dreams and a big mission; to empower you to live a life you truly enjoy living.
Click on the About Eleni tab to read her full story.