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Bike Shop Steers to Growth with Technology and Customer Service

December 14, 2017 | Small Business Loans

To say Papa Wheelie is a “very friendly” bicycle shop is the understatement of the decade in the world of small business. Owner Byron Von Korper is redefining customer service in ways even Nordstrom’s could aspire to.

To get a feel for the Papa Wheelie’s brand of service, look no further than customer Yelp comments. One customer writes that Byron once custom-cut her bike handlebars to better fit her arm span. Another customer wanted to ride his bike with his pet iguana so Byron built a special carrier for the scaly lizard. And one time, Byron didn’t have a part a customer needed, so he unselfishly sent the guy to a competitor’s shop. Really!

“We’re all about building relationships with people to the extent many of them become our friends,” said Byron. “When our customers are out there riding, having fun and laughing, it makes us happy!”

Tapping into a passion
Being small business owners is a second career for Byron. He spent many years in the grocery business before pursuing teaching. Disillusioned by the “realities of today’s education environment,” he turned his attention to his passion – bicycles. Initially, he tried to buy a couple existing bike shops, but hit roadblocks. So he opened his own shop in Garden Grove and became an entrepreneur.

After taking his lumps through the Great Recession (2008-2010) but enjoying 20% growth each of the next six years, Byron could no longer deny the trend toward internet-based retail and decided to embrace it. To cater to more customers, he needed to create a new website and online store. He also needed to lease a warehouse and fill it with enough bikes to quickly respond to new orders.

“CDC took a big-picture view of our business history and gave us points for our ability to persevere through some tough economic times.”

Byron Von Korper, Owner
Papa Wheelie Bicycles

Refusing to take NO for an answer
A small business loan seemed the best way to fund the expansion so he enlisted the help of the Long Beach Small Business Development Center to explore financing options. SBDC’s advisor Larry Johnson referred Byron to a couple of banks but his loan requests were promptly turned down. Larry then referred him to CDC Small Business Finance and loan officer Anna Marie Cruz, who listened to Byron’s story and ushered him through the loan approval process.

“Anna Marie and CDC took a big-picture view of our business history and gave us points for our ability to persevere through some tough economic times,” recalled Byron.

SBA financing opens the door to expansion
Byron confides that getting approved for a $150,000 SBA Community Advantage loan was one of the proudest moments of his entrepreneurial career.

“It really wasn’t about the money,” he said. “It was more that a legitimate financial organization believed in us and was willing to take a risk. It was our reward for all the hard, but fun work.”

Through the difficult and now promising times, Byron feels like he’s learned a few things that may be helpful to budding entrepreneurs.

“Maintain clean books; it will keep the door open to opportunity,” he said. “Second, invest in technology. And most importantly, be tenacious; failure can’t be an option.”

Learn more about CDC Small Business Finance and options for getting affordable capital to grow your small business. Want to talk with a loan expert directly? Contact us at loaninfo@cdcloans.com or call (800) 611-5170.


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