Engineer Tazmin Lowen, founder of Tokoroa hybrid e-bike business Lowen Tech, talks bumper sales over the past year and how his firm is working around supply chain issues.
What does your business do?
We're a designer and importer of electric mopeds - 50CC e-bikes that are road legal. We've been designing and developing them as we go for the New Zealand market. The bikes are a hybrid, a mix between a mountain bike and a moped and only weigh 45kg.
I launched the business in 2018 and we have a compound in Tokoroa; it's got a race track and container with parts and we go out there and demonstrate the bikes and what they are capable of. Most of our sales happen online, but we demonstrate the bikes at motorbike and racing events as a way of marketing.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I was building my own bike in 2015 and got in touch with a manufacturer in China and they wanted to work together. There was nothing like it to my specifications on the market for my riding situation so I decided to make my own. I was an outcast, big into electric, and all of my friends were saying 'oh that won't work', then when I had the bike made it slowly convinced them to get their own, and now all my friends have got one. Our bikes costs $8000 for an entry version model up to $15,000 for a custom model.
How big is your team?
There are three of us at the moment, plus other retailers who sell our bikes in their shops.
At the moment I'm building another bike for the New Zealand market, because our current bikes are a little bit too compact for the average Kiwi person. My vision is to complete that then create more jobs through this innovation. When Covid hit it boosted sales, since then winter has come along and sales have started to slow down a little bit. Sales levels are now about the same as they were pre-Covid.
How are you managing international supply chain and freight issues?
We had to adapt to the situation. We were importing big container loads but have had to make those smaller, bringing in smaller shipments more often compared to massive orders as that proved a faster way of getting stock in from China. We've also started building our own parts as we were trying to import them but the prices skyrocketed and I knew that I could build them for cheaper than that so I started building them in-house.
Where do you see the business in three to five years' time?
My goal is to be a leader in electric technology. My vision is to also have electric racers. At the moment we're developing electric farm bikes and would love to get into that market as it is a big industry in New Zealand. We want to be at the forefront of the electric industry. We would like to expand to have our own shop or retail floor and expand into the South Island as that's a big opportunity for us to grow further. We were going to debut the farm bike at Fieldays, we were invited into the innovation tent, but the event was cancelled due to Covid.
The older generation seem to be interested in the road-legal bikes because of their low maintenance model and with our off-road versions we've had a lot of the motorbike industry jump on there. They are also very popular with women.
What advice do you give to others who wish to start their own business?
If you're really passionate about your idea, run with it. It's not going to be easy turning it into a business but your passion will get you through it if you really want it. Stay focused.