Small Business Q & A: Unicycle.com
Rock or roll, there is no coasting at pioneering international unicycle retailer, wholesaler, manufacturer, designer in Northeast Cobb.
The world headquarters of Unicycle.com is an unpretentious, multifunction space in an industrial park off of Shallowford Road in Northeast Cobb. A retail storefront welcomes shoppers to acquaint themselves with a variety of unicycles falling into three broad categories: street; free style; and ultimate wheel, a ride-able wheel without a seat or frame. Yes, there is video of an ultimate wheel in action.
Unicycle.com has ten franchises, each in a different country and a sister site in the United Kingdom. Unicycle.com CEO Amy Drummond said the principal partner in Britain is a computer assisted designer and is involved in design and manufacturing arms of their house brand, Nimbus.
Josh Torrance, general manager, is a unicyclist with an eye for innovation. Torrance is credited with seeing the ability to create a disc brake for the unicycle which he says is smoother and more reliable than the traditional brake that uses friction on the tire to slow down, the same as hand brakes found on a bicycle.
Drummond said all five employees ride unicycles and 'wear many hats' in the business which includes having the ability to assemble a unicycle or fulfill U.S. internet orders if needed. Drummond taught herself web design and is webmaster for the corporation.
"Riding a unicycle uses both the left and right sides of the brain," Drummond said. "The schools in Japan teach students how to ride unicycles. Washington state is the only place I know of in the U.S. that offers unicycle as a sport."
"Learning how to ride is also great for your self esteem. Coach Chuck Jones at Mount Bethel Elementary has a before-school unicycle club and there is a club at KSU."
Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. Nobody tells me what to do. (laugh.) Customers are my boss. Having our own brand is great because when we see a need for a product in the market we're able to make it.
Q. What is the best thing about Northeast Cobb?
A. It's good, as an internet company, to be closer to a major city for the access to shipping. Americans hate to wait.
Q. Why did you choose to open your business in Northeast Cobb?
A. We live here.
Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. My husband, John, has been riding a unicycle since he was 12 years-old and our three sons ride. We moved to Cobb when John was with IBM and the company offered a program to put up a website and they would process credit cards, so, we did that.
Q. What are some of the services you offer that people may not know about?
A. We do a lot of custom unicycles here. We can powder coat a rim or what ever you want. Everything we do is on the web site. Call us and let us know what you want.
Q. When did you start your business?
A. 1999. We went live and sold our first product and then we got a lot of calls asking for other products. John researched what was available on the internet before we put up the site. There was no good source for what unicyclists need.
Q. How did your business get started?
A. John has written a book about our story, "Reinventing The Wheel." It's available on Amazon.com. Once our site was up, and we got a lot of calls, we realized that there is a need for our service. I was a stay-at-home-mom, at the time, and I had some sales background. The business kind of picked us. John also started Banjos.com, which is what he runs now.
Q. Do you have advice for anyone who may want to start a small business in this area?
A. It is a lot of hard work. The first five years are going to be hard. Don't plan on making a lot of money because you have to put everything back into the company. The accounting part of the business has to get it set up in the beginning.
When someone tells me how lucky I am to have my own business, I tell them I'm OK as long as I get my 80 hours in. (laugh.)
Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
A. Unicycling is a great sport. You cannot freewheel on a unicycle because turning the wheel is all in your legs. You must keep pedalling to enable the unicycle to turn. You get a great core workout plus grow your self esteem when you learn to ride a unicycle.
The learning curve is sharper than a bicycle because that one wheel makes it more difficult to control. But, once you do put in the hour a day for about two or three weeks and you are riding, the rewards are tremendous. Because riding a unicycle is still a novelty, you get a lot of attention.
I would tell someone wanting to learn to go ahead and make the commitment. Get a unicycle and a beginner video, which gives them something they can refer back to if they do not already have support in learning to ride a unicycle. The cost of a unicycle is lower than you think and well worth the effort of learning to ride one.
We talk to so many people who tell us they always wanted to learn to ride a unicycle. We say," What are you waiting for?" We have the products and the tools to help you get started and to succeed.
Amy Drummond, CEO