Block Bikes

News from the World of Block

The History of Block Bikes (Part 2)

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Last week I talked about the creation of the Bike Shop. This time we’ll talk about the making of the brand. Racing BMX is a great experience but financially I wouldn’t recommend this as a career path to anyone. The value was in the travels, the people, and the culture outside of my own zip code. I traveled the world! I was a competitive pro, a main maker, but not a champion. I had some amazing results but I was not a title contender. I like to think more like a peoples champion. My biggest accomplishments on paper was ABA National #8 in 1985 and 8th at the World Championships in France in 1990.

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I traveled, hung out, and lived with legends. You become product of your environment and I surrounded myself with talent. I had sponsors that gave me clothing, parts, travel and occasionally a few dollars but in reality I had to work to make a living at this. This meant doing clinics – and a lot of them. I typically traveled with someone as most clinics were too much to attempt on your own. So that immediately cut my income in half. I did the scheduling, the logistics, the transportation, and absorbed the travel expenses (food, gas, lodging). So lets split the income in half again for that. Each kid paid $20 for an afternoon clinic and received a tee shirt and goodie bag. So simple math, a typical clinic was 20 kids @ 20 dollars – minus: shirt, food, gas, car payment, motel, and occasional medical expenses = <-$22 dollars>.

scan0083Somehow it worked itself out an I survived from 1983 – 1991 without becoming bankrupt. What I learned was economy and survival skills of how to live off minimal without taking advantage of others. In other words make something out of nothing. Of course there were people that were always there for me and took me in when the bottom fell out. I am still friends with each of these  people to this day. I will never be able to pay those individuals back personally so the pay it forward is in effect. That is really what made me into who I am today.

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The experiences that I was given access to are available to most everyone. You just need desire and drive, two traits that have become more rare each year. I give 100% to anyone who shows a glimmer of drive but am more often let down because they are looking for free stuff or recognition rather than the purity of sharing the experiences that come with paying your dues. We call it putting hay in the barn. The rewards have to be self satisfaction – first to be happy. Doing what you love because you love it! Cycling is one of the top sports for being underfunded. If you are doing it for the money, well, I’m sorry for you!

BlockFrameBut, I did end up with a career. It has been a long winding road and most of the time I feel like I am just getting going. I started Block in 1990 by having a BMX frame made by my sponsor Cycle Craft in Tennessee. We made about 100 Block frames and I had a difficult time with it as I was under capitalized and unable to satisfy demand. I only made a few dollars per frame and it went back into accessories. I couldn’t get enough bikes made to survive on the small margins I had to work with.

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I then ventured into the accessory market as the primary and made headbands, tee shirts, stickers, number plates and jerseys under the Block Racing and Block Alternatives name.

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I returned to the AV in the fall of 1991 after being on the road for 3 straight years. My cousin who is a Pasadena fireman funded the project and we went to work. We started in my 400 square foot garage and with our rapid growth found ourselves in 5000 square feet with 25 employees in 1995. What a blur…
I had met April when I first got back from tour. We hit it off right away, I knew she was the one. She was a paralegal with a big law firm in the valley and hated the commute. It wasn’t long before she quit her job and took over as sales and marketing for Block Alternatives. That is when things started heading in the right direction.

AprilandMeIt is not possible to run a small business solely. I worked 7 days a week at least 12 hours a day. I stopped racing, in fact I had stopped riding except for occasional clinics that I used to promote the brand. I couldn’t answer the phone, take orders, print shirts, deliver orders, collect payments and design stuff by myself. My cousin gave me every minute of his spare time and days off which was like 16 days a month but we were struggling. We landed a couple of huge orders. One to Pacific Sunwear and anther to Hot Topic. Thankfully that was the time that April came on board. I was not happy, I was at my limit, I couldn’t handle the pressure anymore. The local neighborhood (Trend) kids helped package, fold, stack and ship product. I hired a couple of friends as printers. I found a really good graffiti artist who took us to another level. We moved to a small warehouse and we were officially in business!!!

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3 thoughts on “The History of Block Bikes (Part 2)

  1. Quite a story. It should remind everyone that building a business means making incredible sacrifices and difficult decisions and many people find it to be too much and give up and join the 9-5 crowd working for someone else. I definitely understand having gone through some difficult times when I worked full time (and tons of overtime) while trying to run a small sideline business just to make ends meet. For all practical purposes it means a person has no social life.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story Rich. inspirational!

  3. Wow, love the brutal honesty that shines thru when you write. We have very similar life stories. Stoked for you that you got to keep cycling on all levels as part of your day to day life. People really don’t realize the personal sacrifices it takes to run a small to medium business. Eventually you question your sanity and wonder is it all really worth it. Rarely does it bring extreme wealth and heaps of spare time which is the delusion that most outsiders have of a ‘business owner’ we are more live slaves to our business and our staff but deep down there is something that makes us ok with that…

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