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Bike riding has always been considered somewhat of a means to an end, a way to get from A to Z, or perhaps some movement, while getting some fresh air in your hair on the way to your close-ish destination. However, biking on a Bluejay electric bike is an exercise not in the traditional sense, but rather, a practice in exhilaration. For starters, the bikes are divine and are truly the ultimate 2-wheeled accessory. They offer impeccable styling plus a burst of zip and pizazz so you can be on your way in a speedy, efficient fashion. They are a serious upgrade to the standard cruiser and will have you traversing your town with much less huffing and puffing and way more panache.
MELISSA: With the ever-changing landscape – how have you shifted as a business and individual in this new normal? What are you doing differently?
JEN: There have been so many highs and so many lows. From a business perspective, COVID has impacted the bike industry worldwide in a positive way. I decided to launch this bike company last spring and I was a little nervous when shipments needed to be paid in February and it was clear that this was going down. However, I felt very confident about getting the bikes and always knew that it would be a useful product in this situation. My strategy changed because originally, I wanted to do a live outdoor pop-up because my thought was about ‘trial.’ Coming from the beauty industry, I knew the power of having in-person popups and that “brand love” you can create. These popups were a big piece of the strategy and obviously, this went right out of the window. I had built a direct to consumer website and I also started working with dealers to build an omnichannel strategy, which allowed for a strong digital strategy to ramp up. People were more willing to get the bikes shipped based on reading great reviews. The bike industry is not very easy to tap into, there are some huge players, but the e-bike space is a little different. Even though the marketing strategy shifted more digitally and direct early on. Later in the summer people were more willing to test ride in a safe way – we learned how to do that with a mask and social distancing. The dealer business took off as well, as bike shops were able to stay open and deemed an essential business in most states.
MELISSA: That is incredible! The bikes are absolutely gorgeous. Tell us the first time you were on an e-bike and how did you become an e-bike lover? Advocate? Manufacturer? Where did it all stem from?
JEN: I left my old job and took some time off because both of us were not working in the city, it allowed us to decide to move out of the city into the suburbs. I was looking around and noticed a ton of people riding up the hill with kids on the back of their bikes. People often ask me if I am a cyclist and I am not… which is why I started an e-bike company. I love the feeling of being outside, it is such a mood booster. I remember trying an e-bike that existed, but I had never heard of it and a lightbulb went off. I thought to myself how are these not as common? I was doing some research and felt really intrigued as a product marketer. I always wanted to do my own thing but was waiting for the right product to speak to me because it is such a big undertaking and endeavor. I started one step at a time, did a ton of research, checked out bikes in various stores, test rode a ton of them and what I discovered was that there was a huge disconnect with what the e-bike market offered, especially in terms of the aesthetic and what you would see as a traditional Dutch cruiser. I kept thinking that this is truly a relevant product and that it is a lifestyle. I started imagining it and started getting serious about getting into production.
MELISSA: Oh wow! How long does it take to from start-to-finish to make one of the bikes? There are so many parts and pieces.
JEN: That is a great point. A bike is actually over 200+ parts and if all the parts were sitting in the factory ready to go – we thought that we could assemble them in a couple of days. It is so fascinating to watch – from being a pile of parts then into a box – all in the same line. The issue is with ordering the parts as there are only so many suppliers that offer great, quality parts. However, the big problem right now, is that it is all up in the air as some parts are delivered on time, but others take a lot longer to ship or have a longer lead time. Due to the tremendous pressure on supply – it is all about how quickly I can get the parts. It is a constant struggle trying to get them in as soon as I can.
My surroundings dictated this product.
MELISSA: Do you design the bikes with any fashion direction in mind? Do you go off of any trends?
JEN: That is one of the things I thought I would uniquely bring to a bike. The color was my number one thing, as a marketer I know how important color is, and there really is a lack of color selection in the bike industry. I wanted to have a range of colors and my strategy on color is what we have always done in the beauty industry. You have core colors that can be expected every season. I underestimated the power of black as a staple. I also did not realize how powerful the mint green bike color would be, and this soon became one of our best-sellers next to the blue, which is our brand color. The white color bike was directly inspired by some of the Instagram influencers that I followed. I definitely draw my inspiration from both beauty and fashion
MELISSA: What is your favorite bike accessory that you have right now? Or even one that may come out in the future?
JEN: There are so many! When I have my kids with me, I love the Burley Bee which is like a super lightweight jogging buggy. I use it a lot for drop-off as it is a super-light method of transportation. I also use it when I do not feel like using a car. My second favorite is the Pannier Nantucke’ basket – I have formed such a good relationship with the creators of this basket. It is so seamless to use at markets or if you do not want to bike with a bag on your shoulder. I found the perfect Yeti cooler that you can strap on the back. We also have a side-car which is a partnership with one of our dealers and he handmakes these sidecars. We are going to have a white one coming out in the near future!
MELISSA: I love it! So innovative and versatile. How much did San Francisco influence your brand identity?
JEN: It did a lot. First of all, it lays within the concept of why it is a useful product and how it is designed based on the terrain of this area. San Francisco is very hilly, and you have to be pretty committed if you are riding a standard bike. The thing I like about San Francisco’s style is that there is a focus on aesthetics but there is also an outdoor nature aspect and more openness to that type of lifestyle. I am inspired by high-end fashion brands like Chanel but also inspired by brands that have more of a lifestyle feel like Patagonia and Yeti. My surroundings dictated this product.
MELISSA: Tell us about the community aspect of people on the bikes. Now more than ever people are outside trying to do things with family or getting active. Do people get together who have these bikes? Is there an organic community surrounding your brand?
JEN: The root of my strategy was hoping that this was going to be inherently viral from both a digital perspective but also being a “head turner” to start a conversation. It is interesting because I always look at my first customers as early supporters and they are such cheerleaders for the brand. I am getting referred by other dealers, and there are definitely certain neighborhoods that they are more popular in. There are a ton of ladies who buy these bikes together, so they can ride them together.
MELISSA: With fall here and holidays around the corner what is next for Bluejay?
JEN: We are launching a holiday gift bundle, it is called “brake for joy.” Unfortunately, with the rapid rate that the bikes sold back in October, I knew that they would not be here in time for the holidays. But I still wanted to create some fun content and started thinking about the influencers that I follow or have worked with. I wanted to put together a package of goodies and partner up with other brands I love. People will have that to put under their tree, knowing that their bike will be coming in March.
MELISSA: Sounds like the perfect idea. Enjoy these until you can enjoy your bike! A smart way to keep people engaged and top of mind.
JEN: Exactly, it is a good reminder that there is some positivity at the end of this road.