SOUTHFIELD – You’ll work with people you never dreamed of working with, you’ll need people you never thought you’d need, and you’ll get help from completely unexpected sources.
That’s the journey of entrepreneurship, according to three business owners interviewed in the kickoff of the 2016-17 Leaders & Innovators series, “Unique Collaborations.” About 70 people attended the session, held on the campus of Lawrence Technological University in Southfield.
The panelists were Jennifer D. Kluge, president and CEO of the Michigan Business & Professional Association (MBPA), now known as MichBusiness.com; Mike McInerney, founder and president of Deliver My Ride, and Zak Pashak, president of Detroit Bikes.
Pashak said his niche in the bicycle industry emerged after the industry left the United States 10 years ago – and because no one was “interested in the intersection of quality and affordability in bikes. You can get a $150 bike that’ll fall apart in a couple weeks, or you can spend $4,000 on a bike you won’t know how to use.”
Detroit Bikes, by contrast, makes high-quality, basic bikes at prices ranging from $599 to $749. He calls them “the Honda Civic of bikes.”
His unusual partnership is with beverage companies – first, Colorado-based New Belgium Brewery, which makes the bicycle-themed Fat Tire Amber Ale, and later Detroit beverage legend Faygo. He now makes bikes in the color of Faygo beverages.
Kluge, meanwhile, took the dive from a business association into publishing, buying Corp! magazine in 2006. She’s led the magazine through a major redesign, an editorial makeover, a circulation re-invention, and the addition of a web edition. The MBPA also has sister organizations, the Michigan Food & Beverage Association (MFBA) and the National Association for Business Resources (NABR), and has launched major events like the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For, now a national event.
McInerney came from a family that owns car dealerships, and said he was “always getting questions like ‘What’s the best price on a Lincoln MKZ?’” He said he initially looked into establishing a car pricing site, and got answers from consultants like “this might be a bigger idea than you think. And then they said, ‘Don’t tell too many people about this, it’s a good idea.’”
With the help of Birmingham-based Mad Dog Technology, founded by former Compuware CEO Peter Karmanos, McInerney launched Deliver My Ride, an online car buying service that has relationships with dozens of auto dealers. The service eliminates the pain of spending hours at a dealership when it’s new car buying time, but preserves the dealers’ ability to sell financing and insurance. Despite his upsetting of the car buying the apple cart, McInerney said he hopes car dealers stick around, because of their crucial role in auto maintenance.
The panelists had several tips for entrepreneurs. Kluge said she used to think “there’s a finish line. When I hit this mark, I’m done. When I get to this point, things will get better. The thing is, you’re never done, there’s no finish line.”
And McInerney said he learned that when it comes to e-commerce, “you launch and learn. We haven’t had a ton of transactions, but we’ve had a ton of inquiries. People are filling out our forms and submitting them by the thousands.”
The Leaders & Innovators program is sponsored in part by AAA Michigan.
Future Leaders & Innovators events will include:
All events are held from 8 to 9 a.m. at the University Technology & Leadership Center Gallery, 21000 W. 10 Mile Road, Southfield.