I often have ideas for businesses.
So do a lot of people I suppose.
It’s not too hard to spot a gap in a market or recognise an emerging trend that could be exploited. What is hard is to go all the way with the idea: to invest not only money, but also time, effort, and emotion! A lot of people have ideas and some of them take them all the way (like Thomas the inventor of the Popins whom I interviewed for this blog), but not a lot of us follow through with our ideas. What is often lacking is either courage, belief or motivation… or a mixture of ‘the big three’.
And I’m no better than anyone else.
I have plenty of ideas for projects that could be commercialised.
For a long while now I’ve wanted to design and make miniature ‘Romany Gypsy’ style caravans that can be towed by a bicycle. But I’ve never gotten around to it. Other hobbyists have built their own (like this ‘travelling artist‘) but I don’t know of any that have gone into mass production. My vision would be as lightweight as possible. The top half (the collapsible part) would be decorated tarpaulin, which could be erected quickly with flexible poles much like a tent. When rolling however the caravan would convert into a more aerodynamic trailer. Here is my artist’s impression.
I would love to properly design and produce these in large quantities but I don’t seem to be able to muster-up enough belief in my own abilities, and it would take an extraordinary amount of motivation.
I did once start a little business. It was a simple buy-and-sell operation. I lived on the small island of Malta and decided to buy and sell sunglasses with the marketing gimmick that they were to wear while out clubbing. I bought a large batch of neon-framed sunglasses, which I got cheap by importing them from America.
Each night I would go out on the streets of the party district as the darkness descended. I’d wear the advertisement board that I’d painted, drink a can or two of larger and offload a backpack’s worth of my products.
After a couple of weeks, they’d almost all gone – just as demand was peaking – and on the last night me and my brother got chased down the street by customers who wanted to buy the last two pairs, the ones we were wearing but which we wanted to keep as souvenirs.
That is my idea of successful business. Get in. Get out.
Grab the money and run.
Dollar dollar bills y’all.
I had a lot of fun and made more money, while doing less hours, than when I’d worked in a bar.
I recall one night in particular:
A well dressed, well spoken man with a hint of grey in his hair stopped me and bought three pairs for his kids. He turned to his beautiful family and proclaimed “See this young man? He will be a millionaire in ten years.”
That was six years ago. I highly doubt I’ll prove him right. Nevertheless, I did learn that business can be fun. Money can be made quickly and that there’s no rule that says you have to build a business that will last. Especially if you have lots of other ideas, and more keep coming.
So onto my most recent idea… it is one that stems directly from my location. Bordeaux. I have thought it through and considered pursuing it but I want to try something new first. I’ve decided to briefly write-up the idea and how it came about in order to get some public opinion from you, the readers. From your feedback I’ll be able to get a better impression of whether or not it is worth it. Also you may have interesting thoughts on the subject or improvements to add. The only downside is that anybody reading this could steal my idea. But even that wouldn’t be so bad, actually I’d be flattered. It’s just an idea and I’ll have plenty more in the future.
So here it is:
VÉLO À VIN
The idea started as I began to notice more and more bikes around Bordeaux with wine boxes attached to their luggage racks.
What I especially liked where the designs of the Chateau logos that were burnt into the wood. There was a certain charm and class that was exaggerated by the practicality of these makeshift replacements for baskets.
With my adopted city being world-famous for its wine there is also something so Bordeaux about it. Something that exemplifies the locality.
…As well as this there is an unmistakable touch of pride (wine pride) given out by those who choose a wine box as a mobile storage unit.
Bordeaux is in itself a very strong brand that embodies everything viticulture.
This idea is essentially an exercise in branding and marketing, so piggybacking on strength of the Bordeaux brand is a given. Velo A Vin, at its core, would be a service. It would be a website that sells expertly chosen wine to ‘savvy’ cyclists – think one-off purchases or the ideal gift idea. The USP is the product – in addition to the wine you get a lightweight, pinewood case emblazoned with the stylish Velo A Vin logo and THE BESPOKE ATTACHMENTS REQUIRED TO FIX IT ONTO YOUR BIKE.
I had originally thought to attach the boxes to luggage racks and sell them like that. I was going to buy in bulk a simplistic contraption like this from the wholesale marketplace Alibaba.com
After thinking about it more I concluded that this was a flawed idea because the Velo A Vin style is vintage and most vintage bikes already have a rear luggage rack. So I contemplated some more… and when the idea of primarily selling wine came to me (with the box, attachments and attachment guides coming as bonus features), that’s when I knew it was a good idea. I would start by selling to UK cyclists, wine is not cheap in the UK and supermarket wine is not so special. So if I could buy wine cheap here and ship it across with a suitable mark-up I’m almost certain it would work. I haven’t run any figures but I imagine it would make lots of money. Here is how you could do it.
STEP 1. Market research
By all means do a S.W.O.T. analysis or whatever you want. But the real research here comes in getting to know what good red wine you can buy for cheap. This will involve a lot of tastings and meeting and befriending producers. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a one-off exercise. It will be ongoing. You’ll need to be drinking at least 6 glasses a day for the foreseeable future.
STEP 2. Product development
You’ll need to build a decent website. You’ll need to get somebody to build you a decent website. You’ll also need to develop a range of affixments to allow attachment to all bikes and for all box sizes. Plastic screw-on/off ties are my current favourite option, like the ones used on my bike lights.
STEP 3. Branding
We are talking luxury here… but affordable luxury. A matter of taste. A savoir-faire that comes from the practicality of the product, the selection of the wine and the quality of the service. What does the brand stand for? Its mission is to connect the world-wide cycling community with the world-class wines of Bordeaux.
A logo is required as well as further developed ethos etc.
I drew this one as an example. It should evoke the traditional wine bottle label while simultaneously depicting what the brand is all about.
STEP 4. Customer journey
Finally it is imperative to deliver a sleek and easily navigable customer experience from start to finish. A journey of discovery and self-affirmation.
It will all start with the marketing, which will be seemless with articles placed in hip magazines and on relevant websites, first documenting then popularising the trend.
The customer will then land on the Velo A Vin homepage and immediately understand the concept…
…They will, select the size of box and type of affixment (ranging from a one bottle wine box that could be fitted to the front handle-bars of a fixie, for example, to a 12 bottle box for the larger loads of say organic market traders) with numerous options available as well as video instructions for how to mount the box to the bike
…They will have wines chosen for them that are tailored to suit their personal preferences and price range
…They will make a secure payment and at the end of it all
…enjoy having just ordered the perfect gift for themselves, or for a loved one, who not only cycles but also appreciates a fine, fine bottle wine.
UPDATE 30/03/2015: Fellow Bordeaux based blogger Philip Ogley created and sent me a picture of his own, and perhaps the ultimate, wine box storage system for his bike.