Never Slow Down with Stefan Schott from 8bar bikes
Meet the Berlin-based entrepreneur and fixed-gear cyclist that is at the forefront of urban biking trends.
What's your game plan?
Building your passion into a business is the dream of many but the reality of few. Stefan Schott is part of the latter group. His customised fixies rank high in the community for their design and outstanding quality. To build such a relevant and successful brand Stefan takes a simple approach – he never slows down – not with his bike and certainly not with his business.
This is Stefan Schott’s game plan.
What came first – the dream of having your own business or the passion for cycling?
I started competing in races when I was 12. My dad also owned a bike shop back then. So my love of bikes emerged really early on. It was much later that I came up with the idea of starting my own business.
How did you make that step?
I’ve always customised my own bikes. Then friends started asking if I could build them one like mine. That was a lightbulb moment, and I realised there was a gap in the market. Custom bikes were barely affordable in the bicycle business at the time, which led me to the idea for 8bar bikes. Customers can use an online configurator to put together a bike that exactly meets their personal requirements. Firstly, that means you get a bike that no-one else has and, secondly, that bike perfectly suits your personal tastes.
Fixed-gear bikes go against the trend for endless progress, instead heading right back to the roots of cycling. How come it is so trendy now?
Single-speed bikes – i.e. those with just one gear, either fixie or freewheel – are very useful when cycling in the city. The benefits simply outweigh any potential disadvantages. They are a lot lighter than bikes with multiple gears. They need a lot less maintenance, and they are more than adequate for biking around the city. In addition, many people just love the sleekness of the design.
Are the modular nature, simplification and high performance quality of your bikes reflected in your approach to your career?
Definitely. You should take the same approach to structuring your business and planning your career as you would when placing a product on the market. And much as you continually work to improve that product with each new version, I do the same thing with my business.
Fixies only have pedals but no brakes. Is that also how you go about your career?
Since you can’t freewheel on a fixie, you have to keep pedalling. It makes you feel like you’re one with the bike. As an entrepreneur, I’m at one with my career in my company and am constantly pedalling to get the maximum out of it.
I am passionate about bikes and about entrepreneurship. That enables me to be a good leader in my business.
With no brakes you need to be more aware of your surroundings and clearly aim at targets. Have you translated this mindset into the business world?
When you’re riding a fixie around the city, you have to be very proactive. I’m always asking myself what could happen on the road ahead. Will a car appear from the right, or not? I have to be able to assess these situations and since I can only brake very slowly, I avoid obstacles at full speed. I run my company in a similar way.
That helps me respond to difficulties and challenges in the right way, without losing sight of my goal.
I am also fascinated by entrepreneurs like Stefan who don’t just serve market needs to make some money, but are fully part of the community they work for and subsequently know best what excellent quality should look like. Don’t run a restaurant if you prefer the kitchen down the road. (I guess that was my subconscious speaking – always hungry…)
Keep pedaling, Jens