The Athlete365 Business Accelerator can challenge your understanding of what a business can be, as Eligio discovered with his bike store in Mexico.
Since participating in the programme, Eligio has learned that creating more social impact can be good for business, and he’s using his store to drive cultural change too.
Eligio’s cycling business is now thriving thanks to the support of the Athlete365 Business Accelerator, and you can sign up to start your own journey.
Cycling has been my passion ever since I rode my first bike after school as an eight-year-old, but it never really crossed my mind that I could continue to work in the sport after my athletic career. I worked in administration for a short time, before one of my sponsors insisted that I open my own bike shop.
So, in 2009, I took the leap and opened KINEIN3T in Tulancingo, Mexico. I thought it would be an exciting, open market with plentiful opportunities, but I soon found that there was a lot to overcome. I needed extra guidance, and it was when I joined the Athlete365 Business Accelerator that things really started taking off for me.
How it started
One of the major obstacles that my shop faced from the very beginning was the lack of bicycle culture and infrastructure in my city, Tulancingo. Cars were king on the road, which meant it was not only difficult to ride a bike in town, but also very dangerous. I realised that if my shop was to be a success, we would have to bring about a culture-shift. We first organised a triathlon team and took part in competitions to promote the use of bikes, though the numbers were too small to have a measurable impact.
The real change came when I visited Aguascalientes, which had an integrated bike culture with great infrastructure, and, significantly, a night-time riding group. When I returned to Tulancingo, I decided to organise our own event – and so Miércoles de Bici (Bike Wednesday) was born. Originally, around 40 or 50 people joined the 6-8km night-time ride through the city, but that number has grown to over 300 strong. There is now a dynamic, vibrant cycling culture, leading to more mechanics and repair shops, which is great for me and my business.
In gear for social change
Coming into 2020, my business was in a wonderful position, and that is in no small part down to the work I have been able to do with the support of the Athlete365 Business Accelerator. Since I signed up, I have gone through the initial online course, attended a workshop in New York, which fundamentally changed my understanding of what a business could be, and received six months of accelerated mentoring from business experts.
My main takeaway has been how much of a social impact we can have as Olympians running a business. Of course, most ventures aim to make money, but we are not limited to that. I now think of KINEIN3T as a platform through which I can really drive positive social change in my town and on a wider scale. For example, with my shop, the growing support has given us a strong, united voice in the public forum and we are pushing for bike rights, with the creation of more safe spaces for riders our top priority.
Using my athlete profile
In the past, I never presented myself as an Olympic athlete. If somebody knew I was an Olympic athlete, great, but I never went out of my way to highlight it. What the Athlete365 Business Accelerator workshop in New York really emphasised was this idea that as Olympians, we have the power to make a difference in society.
In not letting everyone know I was an Olympian, I was wasting perhaps my biggest unique selling point and slowing down the growth of my own business. I would encourage all athletes to embrace your athletic past and use it as a tool, especially when you are just starting your business and need the visibility. As one of my mentors Diego Martinez told me: “Your voice is very important as an Olympic athlete and, above all, your expertise and know-how as an Olympic athlete is essential to your business model”.
IN NOT LETTING EVERYONE KNOW I WAS AN OLYMPIAN, I WAS WASTING PERHAPS MY BIGGEST UNIQUE SELLING POINT AND SLOWING DOWN THE GROWTH OF MY OWN BUSINESS. I WOULD ENCOURAGE ALL ATHLETES TO EMBRACE YOUR ATHLETIC PAST AND USE IT AS A TOOL.
I HAVE BEEN FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO BE ABLE TO WORK WITH TWO MENTORS THROUGH THE ATHLETE365 BUSINESS ACCELERATOR, WHO BOTH OFFER DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES AND AREAS OF EXPERTISE. THEY HAVE PLAYED KEY ROLES IN PUSHING ME TO ENSURE MY COMPANY CONTINUES TO GROW.
Learning from different perspectives
I have been fortunate enough to be able to work with two mentors through the Athlete365 Business Accelerator, who both offer different perspectives and areas of expertise. They have played key roles in pushing me to ensure my company continues to grow and overcome the many challenges that we have had to face in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For instance, one of my tutors specialises in social media, which I didn’t have much experience in, especially with using it as a tool to develop brand recognition. Since speaking with him, I have tried to develop my skills in this area and now post tips on social media for those starting to learn how to cycle, as well as advice on bike safety and the importance of wearing a helmet for the wider public.
Adapting to an unexpected situation
2020 was a year of ups and downs, as it was for most people. At the beginning of the year, I had a firm plan in place for where I wanted to take my business, which included branching out into other areas while continuing to promote a positive cycling culture in my town. Things changed quickly and drastically – we had to wipe the slate clean and start all over again – but my two mentors, Carlos and Diego, helped guide me through and really highlighted how I could adapt to the situation.
The pandemic has seen the use of alternative modes of transport, including bicycles, skyrocket across the world. It has become one of the go-to ways to get around and, crucially, is a way to exercise while sports centres, gyms and other indoor facilities have been shut. With all this in mind, we had to think about what new objectives we could set to take advantage of this rapid surge in demand.
One key change that has long been discussed with my mentors has been moving the shop to a new location to allow us to cope with the rising demands of the sector and increase our exposure. Another development that was pushed through faster than expected to adapt to the pandemic was installing new software on our systems, which will help with shop management and sales to make the whole process more consistent throughout the business.
Risks that paid off
A few years ago, I had thought about the different ways I could make my business grow, or make it different, but I was still lacking that push. The Athlete365 Business Accelerator was that push.
When the pandemic hit and we started to run into problems, I was telling myself, “you won’t make it, you have invested too much, and you’re risking too much”. Today, I think how great it was that I took the risk to grow my business, and that I did so with the support of the Athlete365 Business Accelerator and my two mentors who have always been there for me. That inspiration to do things differently, to take risks and try to create something with a different structure is why my business is now thriving.
A FEW YEARS AHO, I HAD THOUGHT ABOUT THE DIFFERENT WAYS I COULD MAKE MY BUSINESS GROW, OR MAKE IT DIFFERENT, BUT I WAS STILL LACKING THAT PUSH. THE ATHLETE365 BUSINESS ACCELERATOR WAS THAT PUSH.