It’s hard to believe that two tires connected by a piece of metal and equipped with an electric motor is redefining the meaning of fun, but in many ways it is. It’s called a Pedego electric bicycle and for baby boomers, it’s become the best thing since rock and roll.
“We are very happy today,” said Beth Black as she and Brian Ballard on Saturday celebrated both their dealership’s 5th anniversary and the overall success of the Pedego company.
More than 100 customers, most riding their bikes, showed up for the re-ribbon cutting ceremony sponsored by the Seal Beach Chamber. Pedego of Greater Long Beach welcomed the Seal Beach chamber, Mayor Michael Varipapa, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and many loyal customers as they finally cut the ribbon to rededicate the business. “We think Seal Beach is the perfect location,” says Black, although they named the business Greater Long Beach because of the sales territory awarded to them by Pedego.
Almost a decade ago, Ballard, a diabetic, suffered a seizure while he and Black were riding their conventional bikes. Not wanting to put themselves in such a situation again, they searched and bought two Pedegos.
Once they began to ride, it “sealed the deal for me,” said Black. She and Ballard contacted the company and five years ago became the company’s 4th authorized dealer.
Don DiCostanzo, the Pedego CEO, is the chief funmeister. “Every hour of every day somewhere on earth, someone is falling in love with a Pedego,” he says. Web visitors and business cards are emblazoned with “hello fun.” Owners tell “love stories” about their electric bikes and the company’s founder emphasizes his company’s bike owners don’t “like” their bikes, they “love them.” It’s a love fest on two wheels.
“Pedego Electric Bikes didn’t start off to be the biggest, just the best,” said DiCostanzo, but after a decade in business, “we’re both.”
After an automotive career, DiCostanzo in 2007 started a couple of businesses near Newport Beach. He lived on a hill and said he loved going to the beach. He then owned a regular bicycle. “Loved riding down the hill. Didn’t love riding back up.”
After hearing about an electric bike, he bought one. “It did the job” but DiCostanzo soon found shortcomings. Curious, he bought six more. He opened a retail store called ZClips and sold electric bikes, electric scooters, electric skateboards, and even electric cars.
DiCostanza knows how to have fun but also knows how to build a business. He has a degree in marketing from Cal State Fullerton. It took him little time to figure out that electric bikes were the ticket to success.
Terry Sherry, his co-founder, has not only been his business partner for years, but also happened to know a thing or two about bicycles. Sherry once fixed old bikes with his dad and together they brought old bikes back to life.
With Don’s vision and Terry’s technical expertise, they put the pedal to the metal, albeit in a different way.
DiCostanzo had “figured out what people wanted” but somehow, had to build it. Hiring a professional design engineer, they experimented until Pedego became a reality (the “PED” is for pedals, which all bikes have, the “E” is for energy, either personal or electric, and put them together and you “GO).” The company began selling Pedego Electric Bikes in 2008.
Although the Pedego had pedals like conventional bikes, the electric motors prompted many bike shops to reject them. Conventional cycle dealers somehow considered ebikes kind of like “cheating.”
Undeterred, DiCostanzo ventured on. For DiCostanzo, the immediate rejection from bike shops turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. His customer list grew slowly, but steady. Nearly failing, the company tried everything to sell electric bikes, even “home parties.”
“Then one day one of our Huntington Beach customers walked in and said ‘I want to open a shop and only sell your bikes,” said DiCostanzo. “I liked the sound of that.”
Thankfully, their first dealer was unconvinced customers would buy a Pedego, so he convinced the company to allow him to rent them as well. The practice has now become a hallmark of Pedego’s success.
Like Black and Ballard, as customers discovered how a Pedego opened up new worlds for them, they too began to open shops. The boomer love story with Pedego was finally underway.
From that point on, “the authorized dealer business model worked from the getgo,” he remembers. “We don’t have sales people. The Pedegos sell themselves.”
Pedego is still a relatively small company but has expansive plans. Sales now show rapid growth with $17 million in revenue from more than 120 authorized dealers.
The company sold 12,000 bikes last year and could sell as many as 18,000 this year.
What Starbucks is to coffee and FedEx is to shipping, DiCostanza’s goal is to make the Pedego name synonymous with electric bikes. The company has just unveiled a top of the line model with amazing features, and the company now offers a range of electric bikes from cargo to commuter models.
The electric motors and lightweight batteries” give riders ease and comfort for long distances, climbing hills and even traversing rough terrain. It opens up the world of nature for them.”
And, according to the DiCostanzo, “nothing hurts when you finish the ride.” He acknowledges adventure seeking baby boomers are propelling the company forward, but DiCostanzo wants more.
“We’re not just trying to build a company, we’re building a community; a culture,” said DiCostanzo. Pedego owners now even have their own POG (Pedego Owners Group). They have attracted big fans. Star Trek’s William Shatner (Captain Kirk) gladly gave the company a testimonial statement and video. Shatner has purchased 14 Pedegos for his family and they ride them often, says DiCostanzo.
The company’s success has been chronicled by Inc. Magazine, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, CBS, and many others.
The company has even gone so far as to host Pedego Palooza, a free for all fun event for all customers during the Huntington Beach air show. The company posts “love stories” of couples who enjoy biking together on its website, dealers do everything possible to make it “fun” to own a Pedego and often sponsor “group rides” or “tours.”
Good natured and fun loving, DiCostanzo rode his own electric bike from Newport to Seal Beach to the event and spent time with customers and dignitaries doing what he loves best, spreading the love about Pedego.
DiCostanzo good naturedly emceed the ‘pinning ceremony’, giving Pedego owners a lapel pin for every major riding milestone (100, 250, 500, 1,000 miles, 2,500 miles, etc.).
“Simply put I have two jobs,” says DiCostanzo, “delight the customers and make our dealers successful.”
Having finished his arduous tasks for the day, DiCostanzo mounted his Pedego, turned towards Newport Beach and rode off into another sunset; having had some fun and accomplished both his jobs for the day.