The North American Hand built bicycle show is a concept that teems with potential and opportunity for the small independent frame builder. Never before has there been a vehicle that affords the prospect of global awareness for hand built brands, creating prospective customers outside the normally regional appeal our industry tends to propagate.
During its tenure, the show has evolved from a small gathering of fabricators and key suppliers to an assemblage of creative companies, representing a broad view of the cycling industry. Though some have argued that the show has lost its focus on the hand built bicycle as it has grown, the key platform and interest for the individual fabricator has remained steadfast;
- - a venue that allows for direct interaction with potential customers, facilitating the start of a business relationship in areas outside the business’s normal geographic reach
- - Media exposure that bolsters builder recognition and broadens awareness of hand built bikes
- - Creates opportunities for builders and their vendors for face to face communication, development of product ideas, streamlining supply options
- - Integrates ancillary cycling products into the show, drawing cycling enthusiasts, increases potential reach and exposure for exhibitors.
- - Provides for an instructional medium within the seminar framework, encouraging mentorship.
- - Creates a physical sense of community amongst builders who typically labor in solitude.
It is with these benefits foremost in mind that I feel supporting the show by consistent attendance should be a priority in each builders business plan. Fabricators working at capacity will not realize a Return on Investment for participation that is tangible. However, their participation does keep the industry in the eye of the customer, provides a vehicle for new builders to find an audience, and invests in the industry that has provided a living wage throughout a career. The show benefits all who engage in the custom bicycle industry whether they attend or not, is there not a responsibility to give back?
Much debate has transpired within the small hand built community regarding the direction and administration of the show by its Director/Owner, Don Walker. As a business owner who is engaging in a relationship with Nahbs, I feel it is important to recognize that in this circumstance, I am not only a customer, but have an invested interest in the success and longevity of the show. To insure it’s opportunities continue to be available to industry members, it is my responsibility to give feedback to create an ever improving environment for positive change. For Nahbs to evolve as the leading marketing medium for the small fabricator, I would recommend;
- A renewed focus on Customer Service to builders that facilitates a sense of ownership/importance of Nahbs in their business plan.
- - Affordability – Nahbs needs to establish a financial model that enables attendance for its diverse range of exhibitors as well as to provide a fiscal foundation for future existence. Tiered pricing that supports the independent fabricator, as they are the focus of the show, facilitates annual attendance due to consistent cost expectations.
- - Focus on the hand built fabricator by centralizing their booth spaces to support each other. Surround the builders by their supply partners, offering consumers a direct visual correlation of the goods that go into the finished product. Ring the event by ancillary vendors that bring the fun and accessories of every day cycling to the marketing mix.
- - Professional development – many who attend the show have an interest in someday entering the industry, it should be a goal of this gathering to provide educational awareness and mentorship opportunities.
- - Equitable show location choices in top tier cities, throughout the United States, proportionally locating between the coasts and middle so no one has to travel across the country more than 2 years in a row. Travel and logistics are the largest portion of show participation costs, reduce the financial strain by insuring equality in location choices.
- - Discontinue the Awards structure…encourage builders to bring product that represents the typical work from their shop and allow the crowds to provide affirmation through their ultimate choice in who they wish to work with.
And as a personal note to Don…the strength of a man’s character is often defined by his ability to let go of past transgressions and accept people as they are, celebrating their strengths and supporting them when they are in need. You have assumed the mantel of an advocate for the custom bicycle fabricator, and subsequently, a responsibility to lead. Do so with honesty and respect for those you serve, and they will return it in kind.
In its short life, Nahbs has been responsible for launching many new careers, fortifying existing business success, and bringing a global awareness and recognition to the hand built industry. I have been pleased to be part of that success and choose to continue to support the opportunities it presents.
See ya all in Louisville.