Entrepreneur Spotlight: Robert Mayer ’10

Eller PDC Alumni Stories

Pedal Crawler

Robert Mayer is President of Pedal Crawler, LLC, a manufacturer of custom party bikes. He graduated from Eller in 2010 with a major in Marketing and minor in Global Business. You can reach him at robert@pedalcrawler.com, and visit the website at www.pedalcrawler.com.

Robert MayerWhat is Pedal Crawler?

My company manufactures the Pedal Crawler (www.pedalcrawler.com), a pedal-powered “party bike” with seating for 15 passengers. Appealing to bike riders, beer enthusiasts, university students, professionals and tourists, the Pedal Crawler provides a fun and eco-friendly alternative to party buses.

The Pedal Crawler is typically purchased by owner-operators looking to start a tour business, and is booked for everything from bachelorette parties to group tours to office team building exercises. It is also leased to large corporations like Microsoft for experiential marketing campaigns.

What inspired you to start this business?

Party bikes were first created by a Dutch company in the early 2000s and rapidly spread across Europe. They entered the United States just a few years ago and have started to spread rapidly here as well.

In 2011, two other UA students named Andrew Cole and Kai Kaapro were looking at starting a party bike tour business. This was very early on when just a few existed nationwide. They brought me on as one of the investors, and I also did the marketing for this tour business when it first began.  It is called the Trolley Pub (www.trolleypub.com) and is doing very well in Raleigh, North Carolina and Arlington, Virginia.

In any case, I recognized that due to the low start-up cost, low operating cost, and high revenue of these party bike tour businesses that many more people would want to start them. This is how I decided to begin both manufacturing these vehicles and offering a turn-key business model to my clients.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in starting your business, and how did you deal with them?

The first challenge is always financing. Your own money and money from friends and family is where you will need to start. If they don’t give you money, then you have to decide if you either have bad friends or a bad idea.

Second, finding the right partners in the design and manufacturing process was crucial. I was fortunate to find them. Always make sure you and your partners are clear about what you’re doing and are always open and honest. This can prevent major disasters and breakups down the road.

Third, cold calls. Nobody likes cold calls. Actually, everybody hates them with every fiber of their being! However, you’re dead in the water without making those calls. Our sales cycle is anywhere from three months to a year, so keeping motivation up to get through that sales cycle is always challenging. But it is also rewarding when you see someone’s new business come to life.

Lastly, keeping focus on the big picture and moving forward in that direction. It is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day, but you have to keep focus on your vision.

How long did it take from the conception of the Pedal Crawler to implementation?

About one year from the moment we started designing it to the completion of our first working vehicle. I had a very demanding day job during that time and spent a lot of very early mornings, late nights, and weekends working on getting everything completed and ready to launch.

What skills did you learn at Eller that have helped you build and grow your business?

Marketing was my major, so all of the skills that I learned for developing IMC plans, sales management structures and sales communications, and product management have helped me greatly.

Additionally, as part of the China Cohort and Global Business Program, I had the incredible experience of visiting and learning about manufacturing facilities in both China and Mexico, which helped give me a well-rounded idea of what is required when producing a complex product.

Where are you looking to go from here?

Retire in Costa Rica at age 30 and build a life-sized sand castle to live in…

Oh, you mean right now? In the near future, I am looking to continue building the manufacturing business by offering a couple of different-priced vehicle models while refining the turn-key business package that I offer my clients. Further, I’m aiming to expand my target market more aggressively pursue corporate clients and advertising agencies.

In the near future, I am also starting up a party bike tour business in Tucson called Pedal Crawler Tours which will serve as both an operations training ground for my clients as well as a general tour business that will hopefully expand.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

1. Read a lot of books from people who have been there and done that to save you the time and pain of figuring it out yourself. I recommend a book called The E-Myth, which you should read before your start your business, and again once you encounter your inevitable growing pains.

2. Always be honest with yourself and those you work with. Not doing so can have disastrous results. Also, choose your partners wisely.

3. Don’t quit your day job until you have to or can, and be prepared to work hard on your time off. There is nothing quite like trying to survive without an income while starting up a business that doesn’t have an income either, and potentially zero prospect of income. I don’t recommend it.

4. On that note, cut your expenses back as much as possible and save as much as you can, while you can. The vow of poverty applies to both priests and entrepreneurs, at least at first!

5. Let your setbacks toughen your skin and strengthen your stomach. Your initial setbacks can be so personal and terrible that it makes you feel ill. Use these setbacks as learning experiences as to what you can do better. Keep pushing through. Don’t give up.

6. Try to exercise, eat well, and get some sleep. It is tempting to simply eat a lot of pizza, drink a lot of Mountain Dew, stay inside all day and night and grow a crazy woodsman-like neck beard while working on your project till 5 A.M. For the sake of all of us, your significant other, your family, the world, and yourself, don’t do it. Your body and mind need to be in good shape in order to handle the stress, creativity, and hard work of being an entrepreneur.