By Chris Meehan | Jul 14, 2015
4 full time, 2 part time
Employees: 4 full time, 2 part time.
Volagi is building a strong foundation on its comfortable, customized bicycles built for endurance riders. At this point, the company is selling around 700 complete long-distance road and gravel bikes a year and is looking to expand sales as it moves beyond road and gravel bikes.
Volagi bikes are in about 30 bike stores across the U.S. Most of its business comes from personal testimonials and Google, according to Choi, because company has a relatively well-defined customer profile. "Most participants who do long-distance rides aren't 26-year-old racers. The average age of our customer is closer to 50," he says. "They have the means to buy an expensive bike and want the best."
And this market isn't flinching over the premium price. "Our bicycles are averaging about $4,000," Choi says.
It follows that Volagi offers perks that customers won't get from many other bike companies, like a free night at an Ogden hotel, and it even offers a discount based on the cost of the trip and the cost of the bike.
Since the company uses frames welded in Asia in six different sizes, it bases the bike on a customer's size and can pre-assemble it before a customer comes out. Once the customer is at Volagi, Choi does a professional fitting and consults on any additional component choices. Then he personally rides with the customer and Volagi performs additional customizations based on the experience.
"We try to give them the best experience we can both from the purchasing side, getting fitted, getting customized and then having a ride like no other bicycle," Choi says.
Choi is a four-time California Triple Crown winner and co-founder Barley Forsman and his wife, Susan, have set course records in the Furnace Creek 508. They previously worked with Specialized before starting Volagi.
The young company is pioneering new technologies. It has a patented frame design allowing the seat tube to move independently of the back tire's stays. Choi says this allows the seat tube to act as more of a vibration and shock absorber while the rider is seated but it still provides a solid drive chain for the bike. "The bicycle itself is a very high-performance. It's kind of like riding a Porsche or BMW. You have all the luxuries."
Volagi got its start in California but was enticed to move to Ogden in 2013. "We loved Northern California, but when we did the numbers it was a lot less expensive to do business here," Choi says.
Choi explains that the city has a lot to offer, including the shuttered Army base turned Ogden Business Depot, which many companies are using as a distribution center. "They were building a business center here and gave a lot of incentives," he says. The city also has a technical group can help with companies with research and development and local manufacturing with a lot of suppliers nearby.
In addition to that the region is ideal for its recreation activities, including road and mountain biking. "Ogden has attracted events like that National Masters Road Race Championship and had the snow bike national championship last winter," Choi says. "It's becoming a destination place for recreational sports and becoming a nice place to be in."
Challenges: Working with overseas suppliers. "It would be awesome if we could do everything here," Choi says. "Distribution is our other challenge." The majority of specialty bike stores in the U.S. are financed by Trek and Specialized, he says. "It's hard to get our bikes on the floor for people to see."
Opportunities: "To actually take this and market the customization program to whole other step and turn our facility into more of a destination," Choi says.
Needs: "In order for use to jump to the next level of growth, we need more financing," Choi says. "Right now, the next step would be to look for private-equity investors."