Taking pride in the build of your bike and gear you sport on your rides is an important part of cycling as a sport. But it’s often a challenge to get your hands on the unique and quality components you need to make a statement. Traditionally in Sydney, bike store owners follow the natural progression of coming from a professional racing background, or becoming the president of a biking association, then starting a bike store and stocking the brands they love best.
However, Jing Li, the Business Director of CCache (a boutique online and retail bike store located in Surry Hills), is breaking the mould. He views his team outsiders – while they are all passionate about the sport, and knowledgeable about bike components and gear, they’re not from an ex-professional racing background. With experience in IT, product management and logistics, they’re bringing their love for the sport to consumers in an innovative way, offering unique products through a strong online store experience and a brick-and-mortar store.
We spoke to Jing about why he banded together with his team to start a bike store, why their offering is unique, and how they’ve grown without the traditional support and connections of the professional biking community.
How did CCache get started?
I’ve been running and cycling for the better part of 12-13 years – so my team and I are very involved in the sport, and very keen consumers. But we struggled to get some of the products we wanted to use on our bikes or accessories – we had to import them from Germany or Italy. Generally, the shopping experience was not great, because there were language barriers and shipping transit times.
We decided to start the business to make the shopping experience better for people, focusing on higher-end clientele. A lot of our customers build really expensive bikes, but we’ve since diversified to a broader range of consumers.
At CCache we always try and do something different. You can go into a bike shop, and they will most likely offer similar products from shop to shop. But we bring in a much wider variety of products to Australian consumers. We try to be brand agnostic, because a product that’s great for one cyclist or runner might not be suitable for another. We don’t try and steer them towards one brand in particular, we try and advise them of the pros and cons of each, so they can decide for themselves.
How do you go about sourcing the brands and components that you sell for your business?
It really just stems from the organic process of what we think is cool, and whether we’d use it ourselves. Often, we bring in products we love and end up buying it ourselves. We’re actually some of the highest spenders at CCache!
I think that’s important though, because it means we’re bringing in stock that is really nice and we’re intrigued by. But we also place an emphasis on products that aren’t represented in Australia, and Sydney in particular.
How do other people usually find out about your business? Are you involved much in the cycling community in Sydney?
It’s a good question, because even though we’ve been involved in the sport for a very long time, we still think of ourselves as outsiders. We love the sport, but we’re not known figures in the sport.
We literally came from nowhere, we didn’t work in bike shops prior – our prior experience was actually in IT, logistics and product management. We focused quite a bit on eCommerce, social media marketing, all the traits that you’d expect for a modern business. We’ve found that as we gain more customers and resources, we’re able to employ others that do have influence in the community. We’re getting more and more involved in the community – now we’re quite involved in the Sydney racing scene and have two of the best riders in Sydney as employees. We’re also about to sponsor a race team, which consistently wins races in in Sydney.
A big help in getting more customers was outsourcing our marketing to an agency, and they helped pull together some campaigns. The biking industry is still quite traditional, as it’s led by ex-professionals, and they generally push one or two brands. They don’t always have online stores because there’s a stigma attached to it, which is that you’re cost cutting and price cutting like everybody else. We purposely focused on eCommerce, and that has definitely helped.
How did you find Square, and what tools do you use?
We focus on stocking products that are quite unique. What that means is a lot of customers don’t actually know about the products. So, for us, it was quite important that we had a bricks and mortar store for customers to experience the products in real life, because that generally results in a much higher conversion rate.
We discovered Square because a lot of cafes are using Square, and cycling has a big cafe culture component to it. From seeing the iconic white Square Reader tile in cafes, it was in the back of my mind that Square helps businesses accept payments.
I had another business prior to CCache, and we went with a bank EFTPOS terminal originally. It was quite a process, and I thought, “There’s got to be a more modern way of doing things”.
Part of what we do at CCache is try to be as modern as possible. We use all the tools that we are afforded in today’s day and age to run our business, and thought we’d give Square a go. I was surprised by how easy it was to actually just get a payment terminal at all, it was very seamless.
At the start I thought it would be quite basic. As we scaled up our retail operations and numbers, I’ve realised there’s actually more to Square, and part of that was the Square Terminal that we recently upgraded to. It’s almost always on and instantaneous in terms of payment. But on top of that, I realised that it was a bit deeper – after talking about our business needs, I was pleasantly surprised that Square has the tools to support a growing business.
What are the biggest challenges of running your business?
Pretty much everything! It’s going through quite an organic growth phase at the moment. It’s really hard to manage everything, whether it be marketing or logistics. But Square’s been pretty good in that regard, I think it’s more than just the standard payment terminal. We can actually send invoices to customers. So that definitely helps.
At the end of the day, we’re trying to be as different to a traditional bicycle store as possible. And Square has given us more tools and the ability to chase that goal.
Do you have any other plans for 2021?
We are looking to open a second store in 2021. We’re not sure where it will be yet, but we’re looking at other cities that are quite strong for cycling. The challenge will be that we’re not going to be there to man it. But we’re super excited about it!