Late in the summer of 2008, we got a phone call from Joe Doebele in Portland. At the time we had just launched the Mundo v1 and had no accessories available. Joe’s vision was to offer quality cargo bikes at affordable prices to his community. Since that time, Yuba Bicycles and Joe Bike have been growing together, selling hundreds of Mundo Utility Bikes in Portland, Oregon. Now, at the start of 2012, Yuba offers two different Mundo models including an electric-assist version and over fifteen accessories. Joe Bike has grown too; this month, they will be tripling their floor space to accommodate the growth in the cargo bike market.
We caught up with Joe Doebele to find out what is the secret sauce behind the Joe Bike success.
Yuba Bikes: How many years have you been in business now?
Joe Doebele: A little over 3 years.
YB: I hear that you will be expanding in 2012, why is that?
JD: Cargo bikes are big. Our shop was small. It’s on probably the best shopping street in Portland, but it was only 600 sq ft and a lot of people could walk right past it without noticing. We needed more space for bikes, but we also wanted more space to hold events and classes, to host fundraisers, and most of all to give our employees and customers a little breathing room. Our staff were literally climbing under and over and around each other and the bikes. Whenever there were more than a few customers in the shop at once, none of them could really move.
YB: What is your most successful line?
JD: Yuba. Yuba was the first bike we sold, back in the fall of 2008, and we stuck with it, promoted it a lot, took it wherever we went. Now word of mouth has taken over. We’re the biggest Yuba dealer in the world. At schools, parents drop their kids off by bike, and it can be a Bakfiets, Big Dummy, XtraCycle, Mundo, Madsen, or whatever. There are a lot of impromptu test rides at schools. By the time people come into the store to buy one, they’ve already made up their mind. They already know the bike and how it rides and what the accessories are. So, starting a few months ago, people would just walk in and say they wanted a Mundo and didn’t need to test ride it. This means that the beginning is the hard part. Getting the bike in front of people is the hard part. It gets easier the more people see the bike in use in their own environment. It also helps that Yuba keeps improving the bike and has accessories that work well.
YB: What are the Mundo buyers like?
JD: Overwhelmingly, they’re young families. When we first started selling Mundos, we thought of it mostly for cargo, and in fact most people used it for that. But then parents took over. It’s mostly for transporting kids and their stuff, and groceries. Also surprising to us is that it’s the moms more than the dads who ride the Mundo, but that’s been true of all the cargo bikes we’ve sold.
YB: What is the average sales ticket?
YB: Selling that many Mundos, what is the secret to closing sales?
JD: Our ethos doesn’t include the concept of “closing” a sale. We don’t use sales people and we don’t give commissions or bonuses. All of our staff are mechanics, and all of our mechanics know and love the Mundo, even though they’re not the simplest bikes to assemble. Most own one; one owns three (a V1, a V2, and a V3). Instead of “selling”, they just tell it like it is, suggest that people try as many cargo bikes as they can, and answer people’s questions. And, as I said above, increasingly people know the bike beforehand from other parents at school, so they just come in and buy one.
YB: What would you tell bike dealers to do to achieve your success with the Mundo?
JD: If cargo bikes are still new in your town, it’s probably essential to create some awareness and momentum by working with schools and showing up at events like farmer’s markets, maybe creating your own events, and of course using the internet in conjunction before and after. Shops that focus on road or mountain bikes tend to have a harder time selling cargo bikes. Shops that make a commitment to this kind of bike and really get to know them will do better. But in any case it’s probably safe to say you can’t just stock the bikes and expect them to move. You have to become a bit of an activist.
Joe Doebele is the owner of Joe Bike in Portland joe-bike.com