This bike shop maintains its balance to emerge from a crisis
Tan Jiayu discovered a booming bicycle industry in Perth during a college exchange program, which inspired him to start his own business.
When Tan Jiayu first set his sights on a university exchange program in Perth, Australia, in 2016, he wanted more than a chance to have an overseas experience. He was also aiming to be selected as a triathlete for the SEA Games 2017.
During his six months there, he trained five days a week while attending school. Although he was not selected for the SEA Games squad, Jiayu’s efforts in Perth were not in vain. His time there opened his eyes to a booming bicycle industry in the city. It was a light bulb moment that set the gears in motion for Jiayu’s bicycle business.
The enterprising sports science and management (SSM) student started Bike Mart SG in 2017, when he was in his third year at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). He started selling used bikes on platforms like Facebook and the Carousell online marketplace. It was also a way for his friends to own bikes without having to shell out exorbitant sums.
Jiayu’s ambition was to be a national triathlete, but even though that didn’t materialize, he decided to start a bicycle business.
Interest in his small online business exploded and Jiayu gained the confidence to run it as a full-fledged operation with the opening of his first store in Geylang. Many of his customers prefer to test bikes before deciding to make a purchase of such value, and having a physical store allows them to do so.
However, this year its flourishing business was hit hard with the outbreak of COVID-19. The circuit breaker measures effectively held back walk-in customers, resulting in an estimated 40% loss in sales. Jiayu knew he was going to have to adapt his business model so as not to be burdened by rental costs, which amount to a few thousand dollars a month.
Knowing that digital marketing would be crucial during this time when most people are at home, Jiayu focused on driving online sales on his current website by buying more ads on Facebook, Instagram and Google. He is also investing in other digital marketing tools to expand his company’s digital presence and retain customers.
For example, Jiayu creates videos and posts relevant content for the cycling community on Instagram and Facebook, such as tips for buying bike parts. He hopes to build relationships with existing and potential customers and get customers to patronize his store when businesses gradually open over the next few months.
To help his business get through tough times due to the lack of walk-in customers, Jiayu has invested more in digital marketing and will also be launching a new website to sell bicycle components.
To further boost online sales, Jiayu is also expanding its product line. To complement his current bicycle-focused website, he is developing a sister site that will be an e-commerce platform selling bicycle components. As bicycle components cost less than bicycles, his customers would be more comfortable making such purchases online without having to visit his store.
Compared to the existing site, the new platform will have more advanced features, including background functions that help Jiayu to track company costs more effectively. By leveraging the Go Digital SME program offered by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Jiayu managed to save 80% of the website development cost, which would have been around $ 10,000 in total. It aims to launch its new platform in the third quarter of this year.
Recognizing that digitization is the key to a company’s survival, Jiayu plans to expand Bike Mart SG’s digital presence using the grant offered by the SME Go Digital program.
“I am in a privileged position because my business is relatively new and small. So I am able to make changes to my operations to react quickly to the situation without too much additional cost, ”says Jiayu.
Sharing his own experience exploring new business models that would work in today’s climate, he advises other small business owners not to be afraid to ask for help. Organizations like Enterprise Singapore provide support to help businesses identify potential areas that could be changed or expanded. “Today more than ever, it is important that companies turn to digital transformation. It is no longer possible to stick to the old ways and practices.
He adds that he now feels the pressure of being an employer, not just a business owner. “I am responsible for our employees regardless of the economic situation because they have to provide for their families during this difficult time. The stress is much higher than when I started. Fortunately, there are various avenues of support from the government so that we can retain all of our staff. ”
Jiayu also acknowledges that unlike him, most of his peers would be looking for a job right after graduation, which is particularly difficult. To facilitate the transition of his peers to the world of work, the former NTU student has teamed up with his alma mater to offer internship opportunities in his company.
Currently, he has two student interns who assist him in photography, video editing, and online marketing, and he hopes to provide more opportunities for students and new graduates who can offer new perspectives on improving performance. ‘business.
Two NTU interns are currently helping Jiayu with his digital marketing plans, and he hopes to hire more student interns and provide them with practical opportunities that would be helpful in their job search.
“I think it’s important for students to gain real-world work experience and hone their soft skills before entering the world of work. Hopefully I may be able to convert some of them into full time employees to help me with my business! ”
The government has set aside more than $ 500 million to help businesses go digital and thrive in the post-COVID-19 economy, so they can keep workers employed and create new jobs.
Businesses will receive a digital resilience bonus of $ 5,000 for adopting core digital solutions such as e-payment, electronic invoicing and e-commerce solutions. Those with basic digital capabilities will receive an additional $ 5,000 to integrate advanced digital tools into their business.
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