As a small business owner, you never get tired of the “pinch me” moment. The instant you take a step back and say to yourself, “Wow – this is really happening!” Personally, this moment happens for me most often when I walk into work in the morning. I founded and currently run The Pro’s Closet, the largest used cycling store on eBay. As I enter our 5,000 square feet warehouse in Boulder, CO, buzzing with activity and filled with top-to-bottom with cycling parts, I’m reminded of the journey that brought me to this point, and the mission that’s driven my venture since day one: to foster sustainable business practices for every touch point in the cycling industry, from manufacturer to seller to buyer.
Biking to Business
Almost a decade ago, I was out of college and racing mountain bikes professionally, living out of my VW van and traveling full time on the race circuit. I sold everything I owned – besides the van and the bike – to support my racing career. My teammates and I began to amass quite a collection of sponsored equipment. Our on-the-road lifestyle didn’t lend itself well to stockpiling extra gear, so I, as the team’s resident eBay expert (a self-professed “eBay junkie,” I’d already been using the site for years) began selling items for my teammates.
The whole operation gained momentum organically. Before I knew it, I was behind a computer selling cycling gear more than I was on a bike. I found that my motives had changed; I wanted to grow roots in the business.
Going Global – and Staying Green
It was always important to me that the business I run be sustainable. In this sense, it was natural to launch The Pro’s Closet on eBay because that’s where I already bought or sold most of my belongings. Running our shop on eBay not only met my green standards, it was also a smart business decision – by selling on a worldwide marketplace platform that guarantees safe and secure payment methods, our small business instantly had global reach.
Today, we help anyone in the US sell within and outside the US. The beauty of having access to international customers is that if it’s not cycling season in the US, it’s peak season somewhere else in the world. With a global online shop, you’re open 24-7, 365.
Trade UP – An Offline-to-Online Partnership
At the same time, the bike industry is very brick and mortar retail-centric, and we didn’t want to fight that. With more and more people their shopping online, we aimed to help the “offline” part of the bike industry evolve with changing consumer needs and behavior.
This set of circumstances was the inspiration behind our new mom and pop retailer partnership, called “Trade UP.” In a nutshell, customers trade in their bike at a local shop, the shop gives them a discount on a new bike, and we take the used bike and sell it online. It’s a win-win-win: the customers don't have to deal with the hassle of selling their bike on craigslist or eBay, the shop can focus their energy on what they do best – sell new bikes – and we manage the pre-owned side of their business so they the bike gets another life and resold to a worldwide market.
Trade Up is a great example of a creative solution that helps make business better for everyone. By partnering with local bike shops, we’re enabling them to unlock the value in their old inventory and giving them the capability to sell something that otherwise might not have been sold. And there’s no risk of competition – our customers are all over the world and the local shops are operating in a completely different marketplace.
Trade UP is currently a local operation but we see a big opportunity to grow the effort into other bike-centric communities across the US. We take pride in the fact that we’ve never spent a dollar on advertising, but that may change soon and it’s not a bad thing – it means business is expanding.
Our goal is to be the most successful used bike shop in the world, with the customer service of your local mom and pop – and given the success of our Trade UP partnerships so far, I like to think we’re well on our way.
Editor's Note: The post above appeared originally on the PayPal Forward blog.