Touted as the 'Uber of bike mechanics', Pete Buhl's Beeline Bikes business has in recent months seen an explosion of interest. (And it's not the only one of its kind current making waves, Veloyo already operates in Europe, including central London)
"We've had 1,000 applicants across the US since June when we decided to franchise the business," says Buhl. "Though we've only seven (at the time of Interbike...) franchises currently on the road, those who have stumbled across us can see the sense in our model, especially at a time when direct sale brands are becoming so prominent. We're actually looking to tie up some 'last mile' deals with a number of labels to ensure their customers have a safe bike to ride out of the box."
Hailling from tech hub SIlicon Valley and financed largely by an investment from Backcountry.com, Buhl's model relies on a mobile application on which those who need repairs can schedule a driver within a certain radius to drop by their home or workplace to carry out the work.
"A franchise agreement covers a specific territory," explains Buhl. "It's a quite comprehensive service even for the franchisee, with our own training camps ensuring everyone's up to speed on the latest bike tech, as well as a link up with Ford to supply the fitted out European Transit van (24 feet long). We even handle the supply chain for spare and new parts, acting as a distributor in order to gain stronger trade prices for our network, spanning over 80 key labels."
The training supplied consists first of 30 hours of online tutoring, followed by a compulsory two weeks on site with Beeline's own tutors.
Successful franchisees will enjoy flexible working hours to some extent, with five day weeks based around flexible rotas, largely determined by the volume of business available.
Interestingly, Buhl doesn't want to take business away from bike shops, telling BikeBiz he's keen to work with businesses.
"Lots of customers have anything up to and sometimes above a fleet of five bikes in their homes. Those can be a paint to lug to the shop. We can help out here and are willing to work on a revenue share basis with local retailers. For us it's not about taking the market share, but growing the market and number of bikes on the ground as a whole."
So, what are the costs involved?
""It's simple enough, there's a $10,000 franchise fee upfront that covers training. The vehicle and fitting come in between $40/50,000. Once set up Beeline takes an eight per cent royalty on topline revenue, the rest is the franchisees. Applicants can apply at beelinebikes.com/franchise."
When probed on international expansion, Buhl said "we've enough to keep us busy in the US at present, but it's not out of the question down the line."