Innovation, energy, fun, memorable experiences… what’s not to like? Our passion for best-in-class products and customer experiences led us to one of the fastest growing global markets; Electric Bicycles. According to Statista, the global sales of e-bikes are forecast to reach approximately 40 million units.
With such exciting growth opportunities ahead for a product solely focused on bringing joy and productivity to its customers, we hoped to learn more about the Electric Bike industry and its key success drivers. Lucky for us, we have an industry titan right here in our backyard. After opening the first store in Huntington Beach, Pedego Electric Bikes has evolved into the biggest and best e-bike brand in America. We were fortunate to connect with the Co-Founder and CEO of Pedego Electric Bikes for our May 2018 Thought Leader Spotlight; Don DiCostanzo.
What life experience(s) do you feel best prepared you for a leadership role?
For over 20 years, I worked my way up in an entrepreneurial focused company. I had my eye on the corner office from the start and achieved it after 20 years of working in various positions in different divisions. This experience provided me most of the tools I needed to ultimately run a global company.
Who had the biggest impact on you throughout your professional development?
From a very young age, my Uncle Jim, who was very successful entrepreneur, was my role model. To this day, with Uncle Jim in his eighties, we still have dialogue about various business opportunities and challenges.
Have you always felt the entrepreneurial spirit, or is this something that surfaced and grew over time?
When I was just 9 years old, I began selling seeds door to door. They cost me 15 cents and the market price was 25 cents a package. It was a tough sell because so few folks garden. I switched to light bulbs that cost me $.50 a pack and sold for $1.00 (pack of 4). Everyone needed light bulbs (if not at that moment, spares) margins were higher and so were the dollars. I discovered that I loved selling which plotted my life’s course. I’ve sold everything from vacuum cleaners to car washes but electric bicycles, by far, has been the most fun!
After spending the majority of your career in the automotive industry, what inspired your transition to electric bikes?
The idea of electric motor propulsion always intrigued me and once it became apparent to me that the internal combustion was not the best way to power transportation in the future, I began a quest to understand the alternatives. In 2007, I opened a electric vehicle dealership in Newport Beach, CA and offered electric cars, electric golf carts, electric skateboards and electric bicycles. It became apparent real quick that electric bicycles had the most potential for mass adoption.
You opened your first electric bike store in 2007 (Newport Beach, CA) and now Pedegos are available in over 40 countries on 6 continents. From an operational standpoint, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced during that expansion? How did you overcome these challenges?
Our single biggest challenge was distribution. Bicycle shops expressed a disdain at the idea (still true today for most of them) so we struggled to find a way to get awareness and provide a way for people to try them out. We knew that getting anybody to just try one was the key ingredient to build a market. In 2011, a customer who had purchased 2 Pedegos asked to meet with me with an idea. That idea was to open a store in Huntington Beach, CA with the sole purpose of offering Pedego Electric Bikes for sale and rent. We went along with the idea and it was an instant success. The goal was to get people on the bikes which we did by renting them. So many of the folks that rented them, ended up buying them that we decided to expand to more stores. We opened 9 more in the next 12 months and it was working. Even more interesting, the evolution of someone who rents one – goes to buying one – then desiring to open a store. Over 90% of our Pedego Store owners start out as customers. They become so passionate about their Pedego that they want to share them with everyone!
As mentioned on the Pedego website (found here), bike style, color and design have become an important part of the brand’s success. How do you and your team stay on top of evolving trends and consumer preferences?
First and foremost, we listen to what the customer wants. Visiting stores, talking to customers, listening to our dealers drives our product decisions in colors, styles and sizes. While we started as an electric beach cruiser company, we now offer 14 different classes, various sizes within those classes and of course, lot of colors to suit customer desires.
Providing best-in-class customer experiences is at the core of Pedego’s business model and brand identity. In what ways does your team go the extra mile to ensure customers are “delighted” rather than merely satisfied?
Company and dealer-wide, everyone knows that they are empowered to do whatever it takes to delight our customers and we have countless programs and events to engage Pedego customers. Key to this is the culture at the company level and our Pedego branded stores – Everyone is excited about all the fun, which is part of the Pedego ownership experience. Every conversation I have with our dealers contains one very important question – What can WE do to help YOU? We listen and try every practical idea.
Do you have any advice for someone who is currently working on bringing a new, creative business idea to life?
I believe there are 3 steps to launching any business idea – CONCEPT – PROOF OF CONCEPT – SCALING. Almost everyone wants to be in business for themselves and almost everyone has ideas BUT those that take it to the next step (beyond concept) at least have a chance. Have an idea? Great? Prove it! Will people buy it? Prove it! If you can sell 10 or 100 and have proved it, then the scaling is the fun and rewarding part. Most importantly, passion for whatever it is is the single most important ingredient. I LOVE what I do so it’s more like a hobby than work.
What is your favorite quote?
“Trust but verify” – Ronald Reagan