A bicycle delivery business can be founded relatively easily, and has advantages over conventional, automobile-based delivery. By recognizing these benefits (for both the client and the company) the business can become profitable relatively quickly. Christina Bikes’ Model P, equipped with a post box, available from Agency, is an ideal cargo bike for such a purpose because it offers all the benefits of bicycle travel and the ability to transport a lot of inventory.
In urban settings, bicycles offer distinct advantages over cars and trucks. Bikes are able to weave through slowed and stopped traffic, and are able to park anywhere, allowing bicycle couriers to transport a letter or package from door to door just as fast as, or faster than, motorized vehicle drivers. They also require less overhead. Bicycles are significantly cheaper to purchase and maintain than automobiles, and don’t require licensure, registration, or fuel costs. This means a bicycle delivery service can offer its clients the same (or better) service at the industry’s standard rate and keep a higher percentage of the fee as profits. Marketing the bike company as the more ecologically friendly option may be enough to convert many socially-conscious companies into clients.
Most bicycle delivery companies are started by a single entrepreneur and their bike. Dashed, a food delivery company based in Boston, was started this way by Phil Dumontet shortly after he graduated college. He noticed there was a need for quick food delivery after a large local delivery company shut down amid complaints of slow delivery times. His company has since spread to half a dozen cities and is worth $4.6 million. Even after significant expansion, Dashed still maintains 25% of it’s fleet on bikes and scooters because they are more nimble and easier to park.
By beginning as a one-person delivery company, you can keep the initial investment relatively low. All you really need is a bike and a cell phone so you can take orders. As demand grows you may eventually need multiple couriers, which will necessitate a centralized office with a dispatcher, and all of the phones and computers and other office equipment a small business requires, but that can wait until you have a roster of repeat customers and a reliable revenue stream.
An important first step is to find out if a courier license is required. If so, they are usually easy to procure, but not having one could result in hefty fines, or even having your business shut down. You’ll also want to consider forming the business as a separate legal entity and setting up business accounting through a separate business bank account. The idea is to separate the business’ revenue from your personal assets so if the company were to be sued your personal savings would be safe from seizure. If the business is just you, you may only need to register as a sole proprietorship. If you have partners an LLC may be better. Business insurance is also highly recommended, especially if you will be delivering anything of great value, and worker’s compensation insurance may be required if you hire employees.
Once your business is in order, you need to find clients. Of course you have a network of friends and family that can help spread the word, and social media makes it easier than ever to potentially reach a wide audience of potential clients, but nothing will ever come close to being as effective as reaching out to local businesses. There are several types of businesses that require frequent local delivers made quickly and reliably. One common category is food delivery. Some food vendors have their own delivery staff, and recent app-based delivery services have partnered with a lot of other restaurants to manage their outgoing orders, but it may still be possible to find local restaurants in your area that have so far avoided the headache of figuring out how to expand their sales beyond dine in and take out. Finding these eateries not only creates regular business for you, but can help the restaurant as well. Dashed found that some of the businesses they delivered for saw a 10 to 16 percent increase in sales.
Despite the proliferation of electronic mail, there are some companies that will always require physical goods or paperwork to be delivered. Law firms are a good prospect because they need signed documents delivered to other law firms, to clients, or filed with the court, often multiple times a day. Design and marketing firms, architects, and printing companies may also require the delivery of physical documents faster than national systems like the post office can offer. One service email will never be able to replace, of course, is the delivery of physical goods. Florists are a great potential client. You could also check with your local pharmacy about delivering prescriptions to it’s less mobile clients.
In order to maximize delivery efficiency, you’ll need to be able to carry a lot of letters and packages. The greater your carrying capacity, the less often you’ll need to travel back to reload. The Model P by Christiania Bikes is a great option. Available via Agency, the Model P can be equipped with either an event box or, more applicable to a delivery service, a post box. The post box can carry 322 Liters of cargo. The lid opens easily with the aid of 2 internally fitted gas springs for access to large packages, and also has a side flap for access to smaller letter and packages. The box is lockable, and the frame lock can be connected to other accessories to increase the safety of the bike and it’s packages while making a delivery. A 250 watt hub motor is available for pedal assistance if the weight of the cargo limits the mobility of the cyclist.
While growing in popularity, cargo bikes are still a rare sight in most cities. As such, the Model P itself can be an effective marketing tool. Putting your company logo and contact info on the sides of the Model P;s post box is sure to get attention. It would also be a good idea to invest in branded shirts, helmets, and rain gear.
Starting a bicycle delivery service doesn’t require a lot of initial investment and offers great potential for growth if you get the right equipment and are willing to put in the foot (and pedal) work.