Some might consider a global pandemic an inopportune time to open a new business. Where others saw risk, Wyatt Stoup and Jim Welsh saw opportunity, and Blacklist Bikes was founded. Serving their first customer in January of 2021, Blacklist Bikes aims to provide mobile bicycle repair services to the Centre County region. We rode along for a shop visit with Blacklist and caught up with Wyatt and Jim to get some details on their latest adventure.
Stan's NoTubes: Why did you decide to open a mobile bike shop now?
Wyatt Stoup: At this moment in time, the playing field is level. No shop can get parts and most shops are doing appointment based service. Not to mention we are as low contact as possible with our business model, so our shop is a safer option in these harrowing COVID times.
Jim Welsh: The low overhead gave us the ability to get up and running much faster than trying to secure a physical location and build it out.
SNT: What does a mobile bike shop offer that a brick and mortar location doesn't?
WS: A high customer engagement model. When you arrive in someone's driveway to perform a service, you are only focusing on their needs. A brick and mortar shop is typically a wide-open space that is trying to engage and provide a service to many customers at a time. This can be frustrating, especially when it's busy. When we show up, you are our only priority, and you'll have a better experience as a result.
JW: Convenience. You don't have to load bike(s) onto the car, drive to town, deal with parking, unload bike(s) and then repeat the cycle when the work is done.
SNT: What were the biggest barriers to getting this new business off the ground and running?
WS: Establishing our customer base. We both know a ton of people in town, but so do the owners of the other shops. Our challenge is demonstrating to them our mobile service is easier, cost-effective, and more customer-focused than a brick and mortar shop.
JW: Getting the word out, and also getting the people who hear the word to be open to a new way of doing things. People who call are like "Wait, what? You come to us?" Trying to manage inventory when the whole industry is in such a weird place with so little supply and so much demand.
SNT: #vanlife is pretty popular at the moment, after building out this van, do you have any advice for someone looking to tackle their first build?
WS: Do your research and make a plan. A van build-out takes weeks to months and has a lot of steps that are dependent on previous work. Not to mention the myriad of options for #vanlife accessories nowadays. Our focus was purely utility for the first iteration of our mobile service van. We needed to pack everything from a bike shop into a small space, while offering off the grid climate control, lighting, pneumatics, and easy access to tools. We feel we nailed the target, but we absolutely will be making improvements as our business takes off.
SNT: What's the #1 item you need as a mobile shop?
WS: A powerful electrical system. While servicing customers on the go for up to 8 hours a day, we need the appropriate juice to keep our workshop powered off the grind. We currently have two 100AH AGM batteries to keep us going, but we have left room to add more if we ever feel the need.
JW: I agree with Wyatt on this one. Power for light, heat and a compressor that is up to the task.
SNT: What's your favorite tool?
WS: Blind hole bearing puller with a slide hammer. This tool has saved my butt so many times while rebuilding bikes or motorcycles. It's paid for itself 20x over at this point.
JW: Park 4-5-6 3 way