Tip Top Bike Shop, Oakland
Focused on helping “everyday riders,” Tip Top Bike Shop gently and helpfully encourages people to start and keep cycling as a mode of transportation and recreation. In addition to being extremely environmentally conscientious in every aspect of their business (from building renovation to daily operations), they regularly donate to local organizations as well as shop locally and encourage their customers to do so.
Tip Top Bike Shop carefully selects high value bicycles and accessories then merchandizes them to make it easy for customers to find just the right thing to perfect their riding experience. The shop also invested in a fully equipped service department in order to keep people riding.
When Richard and Charlotte Oelerich decided to move from London to California, they weren’t sure of their ultimate destination, but a coastal road trip sealed the deal - Oakland would be their new home. In finding a location for their bike store, they were looking for foot and bike traffic, an area without another bike shop, in a vibrant community. Challenges included differentiating their business in a crowded environment, gaining relevant experience, and finding the right location.
Before starting their business, Richard had worked in bike shops on-and-off for approximately 17 years, and had been managing another shop the year prior to the opening of Tip Top Bike Shop; gaining significant experience in all aspects of the business’ operation. They then worked with Rick Ohlrich, Alameda County SBDC Business Advisor, to develop their business plan and financial projections. They performed a detailed survey of competitors, validating their belief in an approach that offered value-added services to everyday riders. Further, they did extensive canvassing of potential retail locations and developed a “bottom-up” low-cost marketing plan that relied extensively on a strong merchants association, as well as exposure though community and biking events.
In addition, they used their well-written plan to secure trade financing from vendors that did not normally extend financing to new store owners.
Tip Top Bike Shop opened its doors in the spring of 2007. A Berkeley resident writes, “Because of them, I spend more time and more money in Oakland, and am more likely to recommend it as a destination when I have visitors from out of town.” Tip Top won the One California Foundation-Independent Oakland “Newbie Award” for the best new business in Oakland in May 2008. At the one year anniversary Tip Top had 5 employees, had done $350,000 in first year revenues, and was in the process of expanding their shop to nearly twice its original size.
"Rick helped us solidify and reaffirm our ideas and present them in a professional manner. This gave us the confidence and perspective to follow our plans to their current successful state."