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Sunshine Bike Shop owner turns hobby into business

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Janet Scott initially took up bike riding because it was her husband's favorite sport. It wasn't too long, however, before cycling became her favorite hobby.

In 1996, the Scotts turned their interest in bicycling into an investment when they purchased Sunshine Bike Shop. Janet Scott runs the business while her husband, Dr. Robert W. Scott, works full-time at his practice.

A full-service store, Sunshine Bike Shop carries everything from name-brand bikes such as Bianchi, Mongoose, Fuji and Giant to helmets, locks, clothes and other accessories. The shop also offers customers free classes that teach them how to repair and service their bikes.

Sunshine Bike Shop does a lot of repair work for customers, particularly in the spring, when riders take their bikes out after a winter sabbatical. Other cyclists stop by the shop to air up their tires for free or get advice on a quick repair job.

Customers who don't find a replacement part or accessory they need can browse the shop's catalogs and place a special order. Still, anticipating customers' needs so they don't have to place an order is important. Scott, who worked at the shop for seven years before buying it, said she feels she has a good grasp of the market and can anticipate trends.

For example, most of the inventory consists of hybrid or mountain bikes because the majority of riders in the area frequent unpaved trails. Other trendy items, such as recumbent bikes and trailer bikes, were added to the shop's inventory this year, Scott said.

Scott estimated there are more than 2,000 avid cyclists in the area, many of whom don't have a bike shop in their town. As a result, Sunshine Bike Shop's customer base extends as far north as Fort Leonard Wood and as far south as Harrison, Ark.

"One big advantage in buying this business was that it came with an existing customer base," said Scott. "The shop has been around since 1971, and we have about 4,000 customers on our mailing list. We do some advertising, but actually any bike shop who advertises brings us business because it motivates people to get out there and do some comparison shopping."

While Sunshine Bike Shop appeals to serious cyclists, it also draws its share of novices. Inexperienced cyclists who come to the store can count on getting a lot of tips and guidance, Scott said.

Indeed, it's easy to get confused given the selection. Prices range from $179 for a recreational bike to several thousand dollars for a racing bike. The materials used to make a bike also affect the price.

"One of the first things we do is ask the customer where they will be riding and how much they're willing to spend," Scott said. "Once we've done that, we show them what's available in that price range and encourage them to take a test ride."

Another thing Scott encourages is safety. Scott said she feels everybody who rides a bike especially children should wear a helmet.

As a rider, Scott has plenty of sound advice and tips she's willing to share. But being a woman in a male-dominated sport can have its drawbacks. Scott has found that some customers feel more comfortable having the shop's manager, Greg Achtertman, or another male employee answer their questions.

But Scott said she takes these situations in stride. She prefers to focus on the real challenges the business faces, such as cash flow and inventory fluctuations.

According to Scott, business starts to taper off in October. Around that time, she must begin placing orders for spring. To even out the cash flow, Scott uses suppliers who will take her orders in the fall but stagger the payment date until spring.

Like many other working women, Scott also faces the challenge of functioning in many different roles. In the spring and summer, when the shop keeps extended hours, Scott finds herself juggling her responsibilities as a business owner with her desire to attend her daughter's after-school activities.

Still, for Scott, the positive aspects of running a business far outweigh the challenges. After all, how many people can turn the hobby they love into a career?[[In-content Ad]]

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