June 13, 2019
Being a small fish in such a big pond is often quite a challenge and internally we seem to shift from one battle to the next, so it's good to remind ourselves of where we've come from and what we've achieved. We couldn’t do it without the ongoing support of our customers so to everyone who's backed us over the last few years, thanks.
If you’ve been following Airdrop for the last few years you probably know this already but incase you haven’t, here's the short version of how I ended up working at Airdrop Bikes.
Way back when, me and Ed were colleagues at a Rotherham (not Sheffield) based bike brand. It wasn’t a job either of us enjoyed too much and that spurred Ed on to start Airdrop and me to leave the country. I moved away and had 2 years sunning myself and riding bikes in NZ (it's a hard life), in the meantime Ed started Airdrop and we kept in touch.
After two years living & working in NZ it put a lot if things in perspective for me; I rode my bike every day, had a job I loved (biggup Vertigo Bikes) and life was good. So when returning to the motherland looked probable I wasn’t going to sacrifice the lifestyle I had and that meant first and foremost getting a job I loved. I knew Airdrop could be that job so after a bit of grovelling and one pretty short conversation the deal was done. If it wasn’t for the Airdrop job I'm not sure where I would be... Either miserable or in another country or both. I know for a lot of people a job is just a pay-cheque - a means to an end - but that doesn’t work for me. If I don’t enjoy what I'm doing I struggle to engage with it and if I'm not engaged with it I'm not doing it to the best of my ability. So for me it's crucial to enjoy my work and doing something to the best of your ability is where the real satisfaction comes from. We only get one shot at life so why waste it?
That was 2 years ago now and in that time a lot has changed. I've done some real adult grown up stuff. Got myself on the property ladder, traded in my small blue fast French car for a estate and bought a dog called Obi. He’s the office dog now.
I get asked a lot what my role at Airdrop is and its never a simple answer. The reality of a two-man brand is that we both do everything, whether that’s answering emails, emptying the bins, building bikes or developing new products. It all needs doing so we both just roll our sleeves up and get stuck in. I like it that way if I'm honest - it means every day is different. If you bought a bike from us in the last two years the chances are I built it.
My trusty Edit v2 (see the bike check from September 2017).
Two years ago when I started the Edit v2 was still relatively new and Airdrop was very much a one-bike (and one-man) brand. Not any more though; we now have 3 very different frames in production and Airdrop has taken the next step from start-up to what feels like an established brand.
Summer 2017 was spent riding the Bitmap hardtail prototypes and by May 2018 it was ready for release. Launching the Bitmap was a bit of a step in to the unknown. It was a very different proposition to the bike the business had been built on and although we were confident in the bike we couldn’t be sure customers would be as into it as we were. Luckily you were and before we knew it we were shipping Bitmaps all over the world. What the Bitmaps brought to the business though was continuity; prior to that, Edit stock had always been pretty turbulent and spikes in stock and sales created a real feast and famine situation with regard to cash flow and sales, that made planning and funding new projects pretty challenging. The Bitmap helped smooth things out between shipments of Edits and really has paved the way for both the Fade and the new Edit V3.
Next up was the Fade. A bike we had wanted to do since the beginning, a real heart-not-head project and one that others in the industry had told us would be commercial suicide... “No-one buys DJ bikes any more”. Well how wrong they were. Apparently you do and we have been bowled over by the reception the Fade has had. Putting the Fade into production was a real risk but luckily it's paid off - there are 50 in the wild now and we have another batch in production. The Fade is here to stay!
Our most recent launch was the Edit v3; The 3rd version of the bike that launched the brand and what we think is our best bike yet. It’s the bike I ride all the time and I love mine (bike check to follow). We launched in March 2019 and have already sold through 80% of the first shipment - the support has been unreal. The Edit v3 is real culmination of everything we’ve learnt so far and sets the tone for what's to come next... So if you like what you see, watch this space.
That’s not all though. As well as three new frames we brought to market a heap of Airdrop Merch: Marshguards, Organic T shirts and Jerseys as well as designing our very own CNC Seat Clamps and Axles. All the while we've been building relationships with some of our favourite brands; Burgtec and WTB to name a few so you can be sure our build kits are on point.
My guess is that from the outside it doesn’t look like too much has changed over the last couple of years. We are still a 100% independent, rider-run business, we haven’t sold our souls to an investor or buried ourselves under a mountain of debt. Growth is always going to be a little slower and the truth is we aren’t chasing rapid growth - we're just trying to grow Airdrop organically under its own steam.
Sometimes the organic growth can be a frustrating one. We have a tonne of ideas and projects but only limited capacity and even more limited resources. Overall though it’s an approach I'm grateful for and one that should mean Airdrop is around to stay (and so is my job). As a matter of principle we always aim to conduct business in what we hope is a responsible manner and that means sustainable growth. By going about things this way it means all our suppliers get paid in full and on time, we don’t make any promises we can't keep and our customers always get the same Airdrop service. It's something we all probably take for granted but having principles and sticking to them makes being a successful business an uphill struggle. I wouldn’t change that though and the silver lining is when we achieve something - be that new product launch or business milestone - we know we’ve really earned it and we didn’t shaft anyone to get there.
The headline news really is that we've just filed a set of accounts that show the business was profitable for 2018. That's 5 years after Ed quit his job, 3 years since Airdrop launched and 2 years since I joined. Not bad for a business started from scratch in a garage. It doesn’t mean we have a Porsche on the drive or that we're sitting on a beach in the Caribbean sipping cocktails from the shell of a coconut (we expect that to be 2021 haha). But in all seriousness it’s a big positive and is proof we are moving in the right direction.
If you’ve supported us over the last few years, thanks. Its cheesy but we couldn’t have done it without you. Anyhow that bike you're riding around is looking pretty tired and the company pump track won't fund itself so it's probably time you get another one bought...
We have a lot of new stuff in the pipeline but it’s a little too early to spill the beans just yet. Plenty of new products to come and a special project we are both pretty excited about. It’s a bike that I'm stoked on - a bike that makes no commercial sense but we all want to ride and probably should own - it's picking up from where the Fade left off and if we can make happen should be pretty special. If it doesn’t make it into production then at least I will have a sweet prototype to ride!
It seems as well that in the not so distant future two may become three and we will be hiring a new member of staff. More on that later.
Special thanks to Duncan Philpott for the NZ riding photography.
James grew up in Sheffield and Wharncliffe is his local. He spent a few years guiding in NZ but now he's back, helping with all things Airdrop.
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