"We are delighted to see that the support has helped Velo Atelier so much and that the company is really seeing the benefit of the help."
Keely Hancox, Operations Manager
An ongoing commitment by amateur cyclists to invest in their bikes has seen a Warwickshire business that designs, makes and fits them emerge as one of the success stories of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Velo Atelier, which was set up in 2015 and is run by bike designer Lee Prescott and his wife, Jo, has also been supported with digital skills training that has helped it to grow its market during the crisis.
Lee, 47, who studied product design at Coventry University, has a good pedigree in the bike industry, with a CV that includes working as head of design for the world-famous Stratford-upon-Avon-based Pashley Cycles.
After establishing his own full design and fit service Velo Atelier, which also stocks high-end brands Open and Bastion, he also created his own brand, Meteor Works — named after the factory in Coventry where J K Starley invented the modern bicycle.
Both are based at Hatton Technology Park and have a growing customer base, locally and nationally, which appears to be as keen as ever to spend their time and money on their bikes.
The business has also been boosted by government guidelines that has allowed bike shops to remain open for much of the pandemic.
But it was during last year that the couple also decided the next stage of the development of their business was to move their online presence up a gear.
They signed up to the Warwickshire County Council funded workshops and one-to-one support to improve their digital skills delivered by Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Stories Marketing, funded through the Council’s Warwickshire Towns Network programme.
A new round of workshops has just been announced for a wider range of businesses across Warwickshire, starting on February 23rd.
Jo, 48, said: “Lee has carved out quite a reputation for himself and is the mastermind of the business, but he had been doing all the social media as well as everything else. So, signing up to the programme was a catalyst to increase our own knowledge but specifically to upskill me.
“Purely looking at the metrics, the number of hits, the number of likes, the number of follows, the number of shares, all of it has gone up since we started to employ the tactics we took away from the workshops. The level of detail in them was incredible and we came out with a clear road map of how we’d be able to better use and improve our social media.
“A key learning is having the confidence to put a call to action on a post, so rather than just saying ‘hey look at these new wheels’, it’s simple things like adding an instruction ‘click here to buy’, ‘share our post’ or ‘leave us a review’. Helping people, by telling them what you want to do with the post makes a real difference.
“Lee has also been doing Facebook ‘lives’ to share his expertise on specific subjects, and to host store walks to show people around the new service centre.”
Jo added: “It’s fair to say that the bike industry has done fairly well during the pandemic.
“Riding a bike is one of the few things that people have been able to do, but you can’t get mainstream bikes for love nor money at the moment, so in that respect we’ve been really lucky.
“We were shut for two to three months from the outset of the full lockdown in March, but by the summer we were able to reopen.
“We’re not like a high street bike shop that you go into, where there are lots of bikes, our services are one-to-one, so it was quite easy for us to adapt to the COVID guidelines.
“But to have the opportunity to get fresh input on the digital side of our business was really, really good. I would say it’s been inspirational. I’m regularly dipping into my notes and still have a big list of things from the workshops that we’ll be having a go at.”
Councillor Izzi Seccombe, Leader of the County Council and Portfolio Holder for Economic Growth, stressed the importance of continuing to support local businesses across Warwickshire.
She said “We’re delighted to support with this. I would urge retailers to sign up for the workshops, to help improve their business resilience, as well as their town and trading environment. Many small businesses have reported benefits from this training, particularly as they have changed their marketing approach to adapt to the pandemic.
“Velo Atelier is a success story not only in its increased engagement with customers and potential customers but it also illustrates that people are looking to cycling as a future hobby and means of transport. The county has increased the profile of cycling with its involvement in major cycling events over recent years.
“The pandemic has put our involvement in these events on hold but it has not paused our commitment to cycling, which is a key factor in improving the health of our residents and in tackling climate change. We have invested in more cycling routes across the county as we seek to find more ways of reducing emissions from vehicles and to help us move towards being a carbon neutral county in the coming years.”
Keely Hancox, Operations Manager of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are delighted to see that the support has helped Velo Atelier so much and that the company is really seeing the benefit of the help.
“More businesses can now take advantage of the help as a new round of sessions are starting in February for independent retail, hospitality and tourism businesses in Warwickshire.”
The advice and training are being offered as part of a larger package of support from Warwickshire County Council to continue to support economic recovery within the county, which includes the Survive, Sustain and Grow programme, Adapt and Diversify Grants as well as the business start-up programme.
For more details on the digital skills support or to book a place on the taster session, go to towncentres.eventbrite.com
Photo caption: Lee and Jo Prescott from Velo Atelier.