August is #NationalBlackBusinessMonth, created in 2004 by historian John William Templeton and engineer Frederick E. Jordan Sr. to bring attention to the diversity and successes of more than two million Black-owned businesses in the U.S. To celebrate the many accomplishments of our own CEO & Founder, we’re sharing a recent interview with Tora Harris about his remarkable journey founding and building one of the top e-bike brands in the country.
Do you remember the exact moment or experience you had when you thought: 'I'm going to start an e-bike company?
I don’t remember the exact moment, but I remember the overall environment back around 2010. Like other people, I was buying regular bikes and converting them into e-bikes in a garage. And after converting six or seven of them, I thought that this is kind of a lot of work – doing it yourself. It was very expensive because you couldn't get the components at a decent price. And there was a limited number of people doing the conversions. You could find a guy in the neighborhood who would convert your bicycle into an e-bike – that was a thing. And it sounds crazy now, but that was the whole business model
What was the biggest challenge getting from that initial idea to actually selling your first product?
The bottleneck from getting the components needed to mass-produce hundreds and thousands of e-bikes simultaneously. That was the biggest hurdle, but speaking the language helped, as I was able to go to China and Asia, to figure out how the process worked – from design to assembly to importing to selling.
What's your biggest challenge now that Juiced is an established, growing brand?
Logistics is a big one because these bikes are large, heavy and somewhat fragile when they're still in the box and not quite assembled. They’re easy to get damaged or scratched, so moving them around needs to be a careful process. Plus, the components come in from all over the world. Imagine managing all the movement of those parts. Assembly can also sometimes be challenging, and getting the quality right. And they require periodic maintenance, just like any vehicle – so that’s an additional challenge.
What do you think was the most transformational moment for Juiced?
When we overhauled our distribution strategy and became a direct-to-consumer brand. We’re not distributing to someone else who sells the bike for us, which is what many industries do. Basically, our sales team became our distribution channel. It eliminates communication gaps you’d find elsewhere where you don't necessarily know what the customer is doing with your product or how they’re interacting with it. So this way, we can react faster to what they want. That was a big change in the way we changed.
Another big moment for Juiced was when our Scorpion crowdfunding campaign generated over $1 million in revenue in less than 12 hours!
As the CEO of a growing company, with many employees, thousands of customers, and a fairly competitive environment, what are you most excited about when it comes to the future of Juiced?
Always trying to figure out what’s next is most exciting to me! I’m s working three to four years ahead. I like to make our products better and better – that's the most exciting thing to me. Mass-producing them, getting people to buy them, and then delivering them to customers. Then we can take that money and develop the next thing and then keep making it better and better – that's one of my more driving forces.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
You will experience a lot of difficulty and challenges, and you will be very exhausted pretty much every step of the way. You have to be obsessive about it – as if you’re trying to excel in a sport. My first job was cutting grass – at first, I was selling the service and didn’t even have a lawn mower. I learned some valuable lessons about getting things done, the importance of being on time and the pressure of having other people relying on you for a service or product. So, no matter what you’re doing… big or small. You have to knock on the door. You have to figure everything out. You have to be reliable. You have to work hard to earn the respect of your customers.
You spend a lot of time working in China, especially since COVID has made it difficult to travel back and forth. What do you miss most about the US when you're away for long periods of time?
The food, like a decent burger and a decent pizza. And of course in America, you’re much more free to do things. You can be yourself in America.). It's not like that in other places. Here (in China) you can't really be yourself – there are limits to what you can do. So you become molded within this limit. I miss being able to do things just because I like doing them.
If you could take 2 weeks off, no business disruptions and a guarantee everything will run perfectly while you're away, where would you go?My ultimate dream vacation would be to go to one quiet place and just stay there for a while, relax, and be in the moment with my family.