Someone once said: “to be successful, the first thing to do is fall in love with your work.” For a team of three in Seattle, Washington, loving what they do is something that comes naturally to them every day.
Mike Radenbaugh, Ty Collins, and Marimar White-Espin, the founders of Rad Power Bikes, a direct to consumer Seattle electric bike company, started their business in 2007 out of what Collins describes as “necessity.”
Collins explains the inspiration for the company as starting back when he and Radenbaugh were teens and lived in a very rural area.”The school bus didn’t service many areas and at the time, Mike had a very unreliable car,” says Collins. “High school was just a bit too far to commute with a traditional pedal bike, so Mike began researching electric bikes, and quickly started ordering components direct from the manufacturer and began building.”
Because the idea of electric bikes was so new to people, the early models were noticed immediately, as people increasingly asked to have electric kits built on to their existing bikes. Once the two got to Humboldt State University the next year and met up with White-Espin, they knew their electric bike idea could be huge, and they used every possible class project as a way to build the company.
With their three degrees being so complimentary to each other—Radenbaugh was in the industrial technology program, while Collins and White-Espin were both in public relations and graphic design—the trio began learning design work, tech research, creating media packages, doing press outreach, and logo design to help launch their dream business.
How They Do Business
Their original business plan was actually created in college for a competition, and in 2014, the three made the decision to pivot from smaller scale custom ebike builds, and transform into a consumer direct production ebike brand. In March of 2015, they launched their first product, the RadRover Electric Fat Bike, via crowdfunding and in total raised about $350,000, which was enough capital to get the team up and running.
Being able to design, build, and maintain their own product has made Rad Power Bikes a contender in the electric bike industry. They use a consumer direct model—rather than a more traditional distribution channel—in order to keep prices low while still having a high quality product. “By selling direct, we are able to cut out the multiple levels of markups that are traditionally seen when purchasing bikes, allowing the end user to get a bike for $1,500 that compares to others that go for $3000+,” says Collins.
Producing a high-quality product is one of the reasons this company has been so successful. From the initial creation of each prototype, to the ordering of parts, the employees of this company are involved in each step of the process. And once a bike is assembled, it goes through four separate quality control checks before being packaged and shipped. “Since the bikes are shipped directly to the consumer, the team focuses a majority of their time and energy in the design and manufacturing stage to create products and a supply chain that creates beautiful and consistent ebikes, container after container,” explains Collins.
Why Electric Bikes
If you think electric bikes are all the rage right now, then you’re not alone. These motor-assisted, battery powered bikes are increasing in numbers on the streets, as people discover how fun this alternative form of transportation is.
The bikes serve a valuable purpose in our hectic lives by giving us the freedom of a bicycle, with the assistance of a powerful 750w motor and large 48v battery. “Electric bikes allow people to get out and do things that many wouldn’t have done before, says Collins. “The vast majority of the U.S. has a commute of less than 11 miles, and on a bike, that’s a commute you look forward to!”
Rad Power Bikes has four main models to choose from, with the most popular being the RadRover Electric Fat Bike ($1,499). The reason for these high sales numbers might have something to do with the fat tires this bike sports, as customers have found an added comfort and stability while using the RadRover. “Fat tires were originally created for more off-road terrains, but even for riders that never leave the pavement, there are tons of added benefits,” says Collins.
But just like any other company that produces more than one model of a particular product, the employees always have a favorite. And around the shop, the RadMini seems to be the most loved. The team describes this bike as being similar in how it feels and rides to the old school 70’s and 80’s trail dirt bikes, with the added benefit of being the only electric bike that can be folded up.
On Being Named One of Forbes’ 30 under 30
Not only has Rad Power Bikes become popular with consumers, they have also made quite an impression in the manufacturing world. Forbes recently named Mike Radenbaugh, Ty Collins, and Marimar White-Espin one of their 30 Under 30 in manufacturing and industry.
This prestigious award was quite an honor for the three of them. “Even though we have so much passion and love for what we do — and have never doubted ourselves in any way, the validation from peers and industry leaders really adds fuel to the fire and gives us a ton of motivation to keep barreling forward,” exclaims Collins.
And the love for what they do is obvious in the passion and drive they put forward each and every day. “We get to come to work every day and are surrounded by like minded people who are just as passionate about ebikes as we are,” says Collins. “Then we get to design, market, and share our passion with the world,” he added.