I recently had the opportunity to speak with with Jake Medwell and Jonathan Shriftman, the co-founders of Sole Bicycles.
Here is the full interview.
Jonathan Shriftman: A Miami, Florida native, and graduate from USC Marshall School of Business, Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies 2010, Jonathan grew up always operating a business. Working for six years in the music and film industry for NBC Universal, Interscope Records, William Morris Endeavor Talent Agency, Jonathan ultimately set his sights on creating his own company focusing on a passion, being green, active and extreme. Jonathan has been to China three times in the past two years and knew working with the superpower interests him. Jonathan was one of Entrepreneur Magazines top five college Entrepreneurs of 2009.
Jacob Medwell: Growing up in Seattle, Jacob was exposed to business at a young age. He worked in his mother’s restaurant from 6th grade until high-school graduation, learning from his mother about running a business. He also has developed an amazing work ethic from his father who is the leading Colon and Rectal surgeon in the Pacific North West.
At USC, Jacob was accepted to The Learning About International Commerce program at USC. Choosing to emphasize in China, Jacob traveled to Hong Kong during freshman year spring break. Following his love for China and business, Jacob co-founded Sole Bicycles with Jonathan Shriftman with a goal to be fully engaged in Chinese business.
Jacob has also spent extended amounts of time in Israel, Greece, and Kenya, as well as worked for Investec Private Bank in Johannesburg, South Africa.
How did you both meet each other and decide to go into business, what's the story behind that?
Jake and I met at University of Southern California where we were each studying entrepreneurship and were in the same fraternity. We each wanted bikes.
What is the story behind starting Sole Bicycle?
Sole Bicycles was started because we each wanted fixed gear bicycles. Three years ago, typically bikes had to have been built component by component and would cost 1000 USD+. We emailed factories all over the world to see if they could make us complete bikes.
We found a manufacturer that made us an awesome bike very affordably. We figured if we brought these bikes in and sole direct to stores and consumers, they could get a sweet bike at an awesome price
Why did you believe it is the right market to go into?
We felt the pain in the market and figured out a way to utilize the internet to positively disrupt the market.
How did you raise the finance to start?
We won a 15,000 grant from Inc Magazine and Alibaba that I helped obtain from being a winner in their newpreneur of the year contest, and Jake put in some of his own saved money. As we grew and sold out our first order, we took out a loan from our parents my brother in law and sister. We have paid back our family with interest in full and have no debt.
So I guess the manufacturing process is outsourced right?
Yes, we have an amazing manufacturer.
How many people are currently involved in the business?
Jake and I, our intern, and a team of reps all across the country.
What would you say has been your most difficult period since starting the business and how did come out of it?
Working capital - growing faster than we have cash for and manufacturing lead times.
How has the journey been so far?
Amazing! If you're not having fun it doesn’t count.
I also read that you currently donate portions of your profit to charities supporting the environment and urban youth, what made decide to give back to the community?
We are working to hopefully join 1% for the planet soon. at this time, we support the notion that our company keeps people healthy.
What has been your most effective marketing tactic or technique so far?
Word of mouth.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Make an awesome product, and generate press.
How have sales grown in the last few months? Is the business profitable?
We have taken loans from friends and family and paid all of them back. Now the business is ours 100% and profitable.
What has been your most memorable moment since you started your journey as an entrepreneur?
The kairos society summit in NYC.
Are you guys thinking of outside investment?
We’re always open to opportunities.
What plans do you have now to expand your business further?
We want to open pop up shops throughout the world.
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Success is measured by how much you give back; if you’re not having fun it doesn’t count. Execution, execution, execution