Brothers Racking up Online Sales
Utah brothers, Bryce and Blake Owen, have been adventuring together since they were kids. Born outdoorsmen, they enjoy biking, camping, backpacking, jeeping, and canyoneering.
In 2017, combining their professional skills and experience, they embarked on their greatest adventure yet—founding VelociRAX, a bike rack business that exceeded all expectations, with sales this quarter up 85% on last.
Fatherhood played an important role on the brothers’ road to success. Both dads to large families, they’re most proud of building a rack that allowed their young kids—also biking fanatics—to load and unload their bikes.
We spoke to Bryce Owen and discovered the story of VelociRAX’s wild ride:
How did VelociRAX start?
My brother and I are the founders and owners of VelociRAX. We’ve been enjoying the outdoors since we were kids. Living in Highland and Alpine, Utah, we did a lot of mountaineering, adventuring and camping. I got my first mountain bike when I was about 13 or 14. Since then we’ve spent hundreds of hours each year carting our kids' bikes to NICA races and MTBing in the Utah desert.
Blake’s dream as a kid was always to design and build his own products. He’s a mechanical engineer by trade. I am more of a businessman. I worked promoting businesses for a digital creative agency and have an MBA. That combination helped us fill in the holes for each other when building the company.
One night we went out for dinner and discussed what we could do to start our own business. It was a few months later when things really began to take shape. Blake accompanied his wife to a local self-reliance business class. He was meant to be there for moral support, but was told he needed a business idea to take part. So he started making pre-prototypes of bike racks and I said: “Let me help”.
We both had dreams about what our business could be, we’d built our own stuff and played with products, so we decided to solve our bike storage and transportation problems.
Over the years we realized that bike racks can be difficult to use and trust. There were features we liked on many of the racks out there–like the vertical hanging racks–but we wanted something easier to load, with higher capacity, and at a more competitive price.
We began cutting, bending, and welding to create our first prototypes–a 5-bike and a 7-bike rack–in our workshop. We were buying tools as we went and kept buying more metal for prototyping. Our early prototype racks didn’t hinge, but we realized that wouldn’t work. There were a lot of early iterations. We went through months of 3D modeling, stress and strain calculations and building prototypes, then we had to do off-road testing to confirm our engineering calculations. At the same time we were working in professional day jobs and raising our families, which meant lots of late nights.
But we were hopeful that we were onto something good. We got a lot of good feedback. Our buddies were saying: “Build me one!” And when you like doing something enough, you’re going to keep doing it.
What resulted is the strongest vertical bike rack on the market that can be taken off your vehicle and used for bike storage in the garage. Now this is our full-time business.
How did you launch VelociRAX?
In the beginning we were building, designing and testing our bike racks. I built the website while Blake continued to make iterations of the racks. We found that Wix gave us a better bang for our buck. It had the tools we needed and was just as functional as everything else on the market. We knew we had to have an online system or sales could never take off and WIX met our every need.
In October 2019 we launched our first product and six months later the pandemic started unfolding and shutting people down. We really didn’t know what it was going to do to us.
It turned out that the pandemic was actually going to be very good for us. We couldn’t keep up with orders. People were getting outdoors. Everybody was cycling. That really did boost the business and product sales were very strong last year. It’s more than a dream come true.
Pre-pandemic we had started doing stuff with NICA Cycling in Utah. NICA is the National Interscholastic Cycling Association and they’ve really helped us get launched in Utah and across the continental United States.
What makes your product unique?
Customers love our self-lowering (damper assisted) racks as they are much easier to use and all racks come with a garage mount to store bikes when not in use on your vehicle.
We stock a full range of rack sizes–six different models. Over the past year we’ve continued to work, design, build and test racks that are stronger and more functional than your average rack, while still keeping our prices affordable.
Our racks are constructed entirely of steel, making them tough and durable and suitable for all weather conditions. We put our racks to the limit when testing them, overloading them and seeking out the biggest dips and speed bumps on our city’s back roads and off road in extreme situations, to make sure our calculations stand up in real world scenarios.
Our designs are engineered to hold a wide range of bikes and even allow kids to load their bikes on the vehicle and in the garage. The garage rack is something that draws a lot of people.
One of the big selling points for our bike racks is that it stands out in the wild. We’ve integrated some red color, so when people see our racks on the back of a vehicle they recognize them. People see it and that helps growth.
VelociRAX use their Info page to answer FAQs, and any additional customer queries are answered through their Wix Dashboard’s integrated CRM tools.
How has the business evolved?
When we needed to scale up it was hard to find manufacturers who would give us the quality we wanted at an affordable price, after looking for local production we found the best answer to our needs overseas. We found great people to work with in China. I’ve lived in Hong Kong while on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, so I’m very comfortable with the culture, and speaking the language.
We did some custom coding to connect our online store to our fulfillment center which has really sped up processing. We also offer local pick up, so we do keep some racks on site, but most of our racks are housed and shipped from our fulfillment center.
We work hard to forecast in hopes to keep product in stock but this has been a challenge. As we haven’t been able to keep products in stock we’ve gone to pre-orders and typically deliver racks 4-6 weeks later. We hope to have all racks in stock in the near future.
Using Wix Analytics, VelociRAX can see that as COVID19 restrictions began to lift, their traffic began to rise. In mid-March 2021, traffic and sales peaked to their highest yet, even eclipsing Black Friday sales.
How do you attract customers?
In the early days, we didn’t focus too hard on marketing. We started going to NICA (high school) racing events in Utah where we could show our racks in the local area and have people see them. We were new so customers needed to see our rack to really understand the quality of our racks behind VelociRAX.
With high value items, customers want to be sure they are making a wise investment in a quality piece. VelociRAX’s customers spend more time on their video page than any other, with an average time of 4m 35 secs.
A few months after the pandemic began we started doing some Google Ads, PPC, a little bit of Facebook advertising and slowly building Instagram, to start our marketing efforts. We can see where our traffic has come from in our analytics, but what we’ve found is that, whether our visitors come from Google Ads, Facebook Ads or Instagram, different channels reach different people and there’s value in that.
We’ve recently started selling products that support our rack, like cables, and we’ve got some other things coming too. With WIX we can send out marketing emails to our subscribers and anybody that’s ordered. This has been very helpful for selling newly launched products. We can follow up and see the open rate, click through rate and purchase rate.
We’ve used coupon codes a little bit but we prefer to use them for short time periods –around 24/48 hours.
VelociRAX used a coupon code on Black Friday—or Rack Friday, as they called it—offering subscribers to their website $85 dollars off bike rack purchases, not only boosting sales figures but also new subscribers to their site.
We’ve found more value in affiliate codes. We use the Goaffpro Affiliate Marketing app and send invites to interested rack owners. Affiliates share links that will track if anyone that buys a rack through their introduction and then we give them a commission based on their sales.
Reviews and social proof help to create positive word-of-mouth marketing for the bike rack brand. Their social pages are filled with images of their racks in the wild, on all sorts of vehicles, and their reviews page features aggregated feedback from Google and Facebook with an impressive top rating of 5.0 from 396 reviews.
What’s it like working with family?
My brother and I can have different approaches to the company but we complement each other. When his point of view and mine differ we have to argue through the topic and the arguments usually lead to better decisions.
Beyond being bike rack fanatics, we are dads. We live in Alpine, Utah, which is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, close to dozens of trails which we love to ride with our kids.
We have hired some of our kids to help and we have hired others to join the VelociRAX family to help us to get things done!
What does the future hold for VelociRAX?
We are always trying to solve our problems and that solves a lot of other people’s problems too, so we’re working on new prototypes and we share glimpses of that on our social channels. We’ve just launched in Canada and now we’re looking at other markets like Australia and Europe. We are looking at global distribution!
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Marketing Writer, Wix eCommerce
Geraldine is a marketing writer for Wix eCommerce. She uses her broad experience in journalism, publishing, public relations and marketing to create compelling content and loves hearing user success stories.