How to start a business in Brooklyn
“I never was, nor do I profess to be, a bike enthusiast.”
Oh, but how things change when you move to Brooklyn! That’s straight from the mouth of Ryan Zagata, president of Brooklyn Bicycle Co., which sells, of course, bikes. Enthusiasms change, and perhaps transform even quicker in a new environment. Zagata was working in the finance and tech worlds in Manhattan until 2008. But one move over the river later and “the neighborhood very quickly threw its arms around us,” he says. To explore beyond his immediate radius in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, he and his wife set off on their bikes, but it wasn’t until a 2011 trip to Vietnam that the seed for a business was born.
“We saw everyone riding these upright, very utilitarian bikes, the kind of bike I had always been dreaming of but wasn’t able to find,” he says. “I don’t want to pretend that we invented or we were the first to market that type of bike, because we certainly weren’t, but it wasn’t in my wheelhouse,” he says. Before they even returned from Vietnam, he got on the phone with Worksman Cycles, based in Queens, to talk prototypes. (They designed the originals; now the bikes are designed in Brooklyn and manufactured in China and Taiwan.) Zagata stuck around his day job in software sales before going all in on the bike business in March 2012.
Sold in 12 shops in the first year, they’re now available in 150 locations in the U.S. and globally, with distributors in Argentina, France, and hopefully soon, Mexico. Every one of the 10 models is named for Brooklyn streets (Lorimer, Calyer, and so on), with prices starting at $299, with the average riding in around $599. This spring marks the five-year anniversary of the business and, as they say, business is good.
Zagata shared more of his journey and lessons with me over on The Bridge.