What’s in a Pitchfest Entrepreneur? Meet the Finalists
— Zize Bikes —
Joan Denizot, founder of Zize Bikes, tells us about her bicycle company that supports riders up to 550 pounds, opening up the amazing and healthy world of cycling to the overweight and obese.
What was the inspiration for starting your company, and how has it evolved?
This company was birthed from the realization that bicycles for heavy people were not being made. Since biking is one of the easiest, non-weight bearing exercises AND since well over half the population is overweight or obese, I decided that there was a huge gap that needed to be filled.
Initially, the bikes were hand-built in the US, but the build time was terribly slow and customers were unhappy. We’re now having them manufactured by a Taiwanese builder, and the flow from order to delivery has improved dramatically (from 6+ months to 1 day!).
What is the mission and vision of your company? What does the future trajectory look like?
The mission of Zize Bikes is to make bicycles available to the over 1,000,000 people who don’t have access to a safe, comfortable bike because of their weight. It’s also to have fun because life is so much better if you embrace it playfully!
The future will include taking bikes out of the online-only selling venue and into quality bicycle shops. Additionally, with the advent of e-bikes and the dramatic improvements of these cycles, Zize Bikes is now able to offer e-bikes that can safely and comfortably transport riders up to 550 pounds. I believe that this avenue, which provides not only exercise but also help up big hills (a barrier for many heavy people), will open up the field even wider, creating more sales and interest than ever before.
Why did you apply for Pitchfest, and what are you hoping to get out of your experience?
I applied to Pitchfest because I really need to connect with people in the industry. Because my product is unique in that it doesn’t focus on the typical outdoorsy-type person, it’s been slow to be embraced by the outdoor industries. I feel like I have taken it about as far as I can take it, in terms of bike design and sales venue, but know that the growth potential of this market is huge. I’m hoping to attract knowledgeable people who understand the potential and want to work with me to help this market explode.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned, thus far, in founding your company?
- SO many mistakes. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try it another way.
- It is possible to do a lot of the company work yourself, but you will be much more effective if you get help.
- Make your product the very best you can, because it represents you.
- Customer service is everything. If you don’t love people, find someone who does and put her in charge.
- Networking events are life-changing. Seek them out, you will be amazed at the people you meet.
- Keep at it. If you believe in it, you can make it happen.
What did you not see coming, and how did you respond?
My age! I started this company when I was around 45, and now I’m 61 and am just starting to really see a profit. I’ve been so busy foreseeing all the business things that I didn’t expect to find myself older and have my priorities changing. In some ways it’s easier, because I have more time for myself and a lot fewer family responsibilities, but in some ways it’s more challenging, because I want to travel a lot to visit my family (which is spread all over the world). And sometimes I want to take a nap 🙂 It’s just a little physically harder for me to get out there and do everything that I want to have done.
What’s your superpower? The power of love
Outdoor adventure of choice for daily release? swimming
What book would you recommend? I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Your number one outdoor hack? E-bike to make all terrains do-able and fun
One word that you think of when we say outdoors? Sunshine
Pitchfest 2019 will commence on June 17 in Denver, CO. Register here.
Gloucester, MA……Joan Denizot, founder of Zize Bikes, The Rolls Royce of Big Bicycles, has sold hundreds of bikes to heavy people.
A large woman, Joan realized that nobody was making bikes that were safe for a person of her size. She decided that instead of just taking care of herself and having a bicycle custom built, she’d build a store where any person of size could find a strong bike.
Joan discovered, after extensive research, that people just don’t make bikes for those who weigh over 250 pounds. She also discovered that is really quite dangerous for a person who weighs more than the bike is intended for. A bike is a piece of machinery, and if too much weight or pressure is put on the parts, things can break. Hopefully most breaks won’t result in getting hurt, but the potential is definitely there for a catastrophic injury.
Denizot’s mission is to make bikes available to the 2/3 of the population that are overweight or obese. The non-weight bearing exercise from biking is ideal for those who need to put less pressure on their joints. Her online store www.ZizeBikes.com offers a variety of bikes categorized by weight and height, and financing is available.