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Boyd Cycling hits the road in Europe

By August 24, 2018February 18th, 2020No Comments

Will Crooks/Upstate Business Journal

By Neil Cotiaux

When Nicole and Boyd Johnson flew to Europe this summer to discuss plans for their first business office there, they were all-in about growing Boyd Cycling’s presence on the continent.

Being all-in, though, didn’t mean all at once.

After nearly a decade in business, the Johnsons — both competitive racers — felt the time was right to capitalize on the positive reception that their performance-based bicycle wheels have received in Europe, where enthusiasm for cycling remains at fever pitch.

For 10 days in July, the Johnsons hopped around the Netherlands, meeting with a logistics expert at the U.S. embassy in The Hague and then driving to Amsterdam to meet with an attorney experienced in tax and other offshore issues. The couple also participated in a German trade show, Eurobike, their fourth appearance there.

But Boyd Cycling is taking a cautious approach to establishing a permanent presence in Europe, deciding to use a third-party logistics firm before creating a wholly owned subsidiary in Maastricht, a gateway to German and Belgian markets.

“We’re going to get to a certain revenue level before we actually have a physical Boyd headquarters office,” Nicole Johnson said, by taking European orders on their website while the logistics firm shepherds their product through customs and delivers it to customers.

Rather than overloading the European market with product, the Johnsons will at first “put 10 there, sell 10; put 20 there, sell 20” as a way to limit both risk and debt, according to Nicole, who serves as Boyd Cycling’s sales director.

The Taiwan connection

While Boyd Cycling focuses on design and assembly work in Greenville, the Johnsons will continue to use a factory in Taiwan for manufacturing due to a scarcity of bike-part manufacturers in the U.S., Nicole said.

“We will ship directly from Taiwan; we’ll have to. … For us to import everything here and then export it out (to Europe), we’ll be killed” as a result of transit time and tariff and nontariff issues, she said. For future Europe-bound bikes, assembly will now occur in either Taiwan or on the continent.

Boyd Johnson still travels to Taiwan about five times a year to monitor production quality.

Ramping up

Before the Johnsons could sell overseas, they needed to get on firm ground domestically, so they sought assistance from a variety of Upstate resources.

Beth Smith, area manager of the Spartanburg Area Small Business Development Center, said the “deliberate, incremental” approach the couple is taking in pursuit of export sales reflects their overall approach to growth.

Smith, who has counseled the Johnsons on everything from intellectual property to funding to international markets, also helped them regroup as they pruned the number of bike-related products they offered in their early years in order to focus on high-quality, brand-recognizable wheels.

“Once we did that, things started coming together and we doubled in size,” Nicole Johnson said.

By selling to individual cyclists on the internet without undercutting the bike shops they sold to, Boyd Cycling developed two revenue streams that gave it the financial stability needed to explore overseas markets.

Last year, Nicole said, Boyd Cycling grew 25 percent in a down market by continuing to supply nearly 300 U.S. bike shops while many of its competitors pedaled away from them.

Along the way, the company, which employs seven to nine full-time employees depending on the season, has tapped into a variety of funding and technical resources such as the Michelin Development program, Appalachian Development Group, South Carolina Research Authority, and NEXT.

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