We talked to Jerry Lawson of Frog Bikes about its high quality, lightweight bikes specifically designed for kid
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jerry Lawson: Our family has coped with the Covid pandemic – our kids have been superb at school and home, both being diligent and making sure they also carried out sporting activities. Our son, 16, ran a marathon on Christmas eve, with Shelley and I doing half each with him.
Our daughter started a new school in September and has made sure that she socialized with new friends as much as possible, all over Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom.
Our Frog Bikes teams have been superb. They have juggled kids at home with a busy working time. Our factory team has continued to build bikes all through the various challenges over the last year. We are really proud of all the team.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Frog Bikes.
Jerry Lawson: Shelley and I founded Frog Bikes in 2013. It was due to a fruitless bike hunt for our own two children that inspired us to leave their corporate careers behind and create bikes just for kids.
As we set about creating quality, lightweight & affordable kids’ bikes, Frog Bikes was born. Eight years down the line and Frog’s child-centered approach has earned us global accolade; industry awards for innovation and design, an award-winning factory, around 1,800 retailers worldwide, and thriving partnerships.
How does Frog Bikes innovate?
Jerry Lawson: Together with Brunel University & renowned bicycle engineer Dimitris Katsanis (of Team GB Olympic fame), we have reformed the thinking behind children’s bike design.
All of our bikes are designed with the child in mind. We continually modify our frames and components in collaboration with sports scientists at the Brunel University.
As our Head of R&D, Dr. Tom Korff, explains: “Our bikes are not scaled down adult bikes, as children are not miniature adults. At Frog, we put the child into the centre and design our bikes around the child’s unique anatomy and his/her unique needs”.
Everything from the bike geometry to the quality componentry has been expertly designed and selected to make a child’s journey as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Features such as adjustable brakes and our handlebar stem add-on provide room for growth, while the shorter cranks, scaled-down handlebars, and easy to reach brake levers assist comfort so they can travel further and faster.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Jerry Lawson: In March 2020, we were concerned that the year was going to be a tough sales year. We started working with the UK Bike Industry Body, the Bicycle Association, to lobby the government to allow cycling and allow bike shops to stay open. When the first UK lockdown happened, we were told Bike shops were essential, and people could exercise for 1 hour a day, and cycling was on the list. This allowed us to keep manufacturing bikes. Sales from late March 2020 have just continued to be strong for the global bike market. The issue has been the supply of components, raw materials, and shipping, both importing and exporting.
Lead times have steadily increased, resulting in the use of our finances earlier for deposits and for longer. We have some suppliers, Shimano, for example, who are now quoting 13 months for components. Our warehouse that used to hold 2.5 months finished available stock is down to no free stock.
So, even though demand has been strong, the lack of materials has meant sales are not as strong as they could be, and our finances are in a less favorable state to make sure we have materials for future production.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Jerry Lawson: As bike shops were allowed to stay open, we kept our factory manufacturing and kept the whole team working. The only difficulty came when there was a need for a team in the factory to Self-Isolate, so we lost some production over two weeks. Currently, we are recruiting to increase production; however, with the furlough scheme still supporting people, we are struggling to recruit new people in our Wales Factory.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Jerry Lawson: Our Customer Service team has kept talking to customers as before. Our Sales teams have moved from visiting stores to calling them our using video calls. Stores have been very busy not wanting too many sales visits, so this has been good for us all.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Jerry Lawson: We have not taken any grants except for the teams that have had to Self-Isolate.
Your final thoughts?
Jerry Lawson: The Pandemic has been life-changing globally. 2020 has been a remarkable year that has impacted the lives of all of us, and it is clear that it will continue to do so for some time yet. It has been a challenge with the difficulties the world has collectively had to face. We are delighted that more people have taken to sporting activity, particularly cycling, and delighted we can help our Trade Customers and their Consumers have Frog Bikes all through the last year. We will continue to support them over the coming year and are ramping up manufacturing in the factory by a further 50% to try to clear the backlog of orders and allow kids access to our bikes in time for this summer.
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