Beercycle founder Nick Wilson, 26, talks about starting his unique business and how he's had "a lot of luck" getting the business off the ground.
What does your business do?
Beercycle is a party bike pub crawl where we go to three to five bars and we have drink specials at each bar that we stop off at.
As the bikes are quite huge and they're quite loud as they go down the street we always have people smiling and waving and taking photos, so we really enjoy doing it as we bring a lot of smiles to people's faces. I feel incredibly lucky to have started something that brings so many people so many smiles and so much happiness - I'm quite proud of it in that way actually.
What was the motivation for starting the business?
I was travelling the world after finishing law school and I was trying to find literally any excuse to not have to work in a law firm, and I saw these bikes on the side of the road in America and thought "these are so cool", they were booked out everywhere I went and I thought that was awesome and that I should bring some back to New Zealand.
At the start of 2016, I started the business with two bikes in Auckland which went quite well but I kept getting emails requesting to do it in other cities, so I went and bought two more bikes - one for Wellington and one for Christchurch.
Where are the bikes made and how did you get them to New Zealand?
The bikes are made about an hour outside of Amsterdam, imported from the Netherlands, and fully cycle-powered. Getting them shipped to New Zealand has been a difficulty as they are so huge. Two can fit in a container. The first time it took two months to get them shipped to New Zealand and the second time it took a little bit longer because the Kaikoura earthquake stopped operations in the Port of Wellington so we had to get them shipped somewhere else.
Christchurch is our biggest market and then Auckland, Wellington. When we started and went to new places people said "Don't do Christchurch, you're not going to make any money there" but I felt like it was going to work and now Christchurch makes more money than the other two markets combined, and we're going to get a new bike for Christchurch pretty soon.
How difficult was it to get your beer cycles road worthy?
I really lucked out. I was incredibly unprepared because I bought them when I was still travelling, so I literally had no idea what I was doing. I grew up in Hamilton and I think I've gone out and partied more in Sydney than I did in Auckland and so I didn't know the market very well at all, I just had faith that it was going to work and I kind of planned a route on Google Maps while I was travelling.
When I got back from overseas someone casually mentioned if they were road legal and I was like "Oh god, I don't know if they are" so I rang the council and they had no idea what I was talking about and told me to ring the police, and they didn't know either so I rang the New Zealand Transport Agency and I just happened to get the right person, it was so lucky. The lady told me that a few years ago someone wanted to start this business themselves and paid the agency lawyers to do all of the research into the road legality of them and that she had all that information for me if I wanted it. It was the luckiest moment of my life.
Every time I go above and beyond, it really pays dividends - the more I put in the more I get out.
She said: "I'm about to go away for a four-week vacation, you've caught me in my last 20 minutes of work, and I have all of that information for you - what's your email address?". The spreadsheet she sent through had the answer to every question I had, and they were perfectly road legal. When we first started we got pulled over by the cops a few times but I showed them this signed piece of paper and they were like "awesome". Now, the police always wave when they see us.
Which demographic is your target market?
At first I thought the people who would really want to come on would be students and tourists but students don't want to pay to come on, mostly because they can't afford to, and tourists are a hard market to crack because you have to advertise a lot. One guy said to me on my first day that my target market was stag dos, hens nights and office parties, that's where the money is, and then six months later I found out he was right. We pretty much do stag dos, hens nights, a lot of office parties around the Christmas season and then birthday parties. We get pretty booked out on Fridays and Saturdays. There's 15 people per bike and we do about four in each city per week.
How have you found being a first-time business owner?
There are definitely challenges but I really enjoy working for myself. When I used to work for other people I would do stuff for others but I couldn't see the benefit or I'd do extra work and still be on minimum wage. Every time I go above and beyond, it really pays dividends - the more I put in the more I get out and that's exciting.
What advice do you give to those thinking of starting their own business?
Just give it a go. My dad always gave me the advice that if you start a business at 25 and lose all of your money, it's a lot better than starting a business at 60 and losing all of your money. There's nothing negative about trying anything.