This Celebrating Geauga Small Businesses post is from Matt Schieferstein at Mountain Road Cycles.
GCPL: When was Mountain Road Cycles founded?
Matthew Schieferstein: Our original Chagrin Falls location opened in 2004; the Chardon location opened in 2007.
GCPL: What is the story behind your business? How did it begin?
MS: Jacob English, the founder/owner of Mountain Road Cycles, has been involved in the bicycle industry since his early teenage years. After having paid his dues on the sales floor, as a master mechanic, and as a sales representative for various manufacturers, the opportunity arose to create his own shop. Hence, Mountain Road Cycles was born.
Jacob recruited some of the most experienced and knowledgeable industry veterans in the area to provide the quality service and sales acumen customers expect and deserve. It was imperative that Mountain Road Cycles be recognized as reliable, reputable, and respected in the cycling community. A focus on exceptional mechanical service paired with a friendly and learned staff was the foundation of, and is key to, the continued success of Mountain Road Cycles.
GCPL: What challenges did you face in getting started & how did you overcome them?
A primary challenge in any business is delineating your approach to customer service. Are we to focus more on service or sales? Are we to be the high-end racing shop or the go-to location for fitness and lifestyle riding? Mountain Road Cycles wanted to be the shop that could accommodate any type of cyclist regardless of fitness, experience, or budget. We accomplish this by providing a perfect blend of available products and services that meet and exceed the needs of any cyclist, as well as delivering our service in a way that is informative, friendly, and encouraging.
GCPL: What challenges do you face in your day-to-day operations, and how do you overcome them?
MS: The daily operational challenges we face are no different than any other business that specializes in providing goods and services. Ensuring our customers are provided consistent, exceptional service is something for which we strive every day. A primary challenge in the bicycle industry is keeping au courant with evolving bicycle technology and proprietary equipment developments. Fortunately, our manufacturers provide a plethora of educational resources regarding any new technology, products, and mechanical practices. Having a well-trained, loyal, and friendly sales and service staff with the aforementioned resources at hand is the best method for overcoming challenges, operational and otherwise.
There exists a stigma regarding independent bicycle dealers (IBDs): they only offer high-end bicycles and equipment, and carry an air of contempt for those who “don’t take it seriously”. This in itself is a challenge to which we rise every day by meeting and exceeding the expectations of our customers, regardless of budget, experience, or riding style.
Every industry is subject to external forces; the bicycle industry is no exception. Challenges come in the form of technological progress and/or limitations, economic trends, overall industry strength, etc. Online retail platforms, while initially thought to be a “death knell” for our industry, have been adopted by many bicycle manufacturers, which helps to avoid any potential circumvention of the independent bicycle dealer (IBD) as a primary consumer resource.
GCPL: What is your favorite part of owning a business?
MS: One word: variety.
GCPL: Why did you decide to start your business? What inspired it?
MS: The impetus for Mountain Road Cycles was the culmination of over two decades of industry experience accumulated by Jacob English, and his desire to share this knowledge with the Cleveland-area cycling community. With this particular set of skills and abilities, as well as that of his workforce, he could provide his customers with a singularly exceptional experience that would foster their life-long affinity for cycling.
GCPL: What kinds of training and education did starting your business require (College, trade shows, seminars/conferences, etc.)? Have you ever used the library to help with this?
MS: In addition to the depth of industry and technical knowledge required to run a successful bicycle shop, an understanding of finance, law, and general business practices are imperative. National and regional trade shows provide insight into industry trends as well as resources for optimizing your business performance. The local library is an obvious and invaluable resource for researching information related to opening a business.
GCPL: What resources did/do you find most useful in helping you to start, grow, and maintain your business (Books, software, training materials, databases, etc.)?
MS: At the time Mountain Road Cycles started, there was far less dependency on computers. There was far more information transferred via mail and phone calls. Almost everything today is digital, from our databases and point-of-sale system to our advertising and marketing resources (i.e. social media). These developments have allowed us to be far more expedient in our processes, which is an imperative when customer service and satisfaction is paramount.
GCPL: What advice do you have for people who want to start a business?
MS: Be prepared to work well more than 40 hours a week, and to have your work follow you everywhere you go. That said, if you are doing something you love, what follows you is far from “work”.
GCPL: What are you reading these days?
MS: John Sandford novels are fantastic. I also highly recommend Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger.