News, business good for Steamboat-based bike maker Moots
March 24, 2012
Steamboat Springs — The crew at Moots had multiple reasons to celebrate this month. Not only had its new cyclocross bike, the Psychlo X RSL, been named the best hand-built bicycle in its class at the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show, but on Thursday, high-ranking officials from the governor's Office of Economic Development and Trade brought them a cake. The dessert was even baked with the Moots cartoon alligator logo in the frosting to put the finishing touches on the recognition of being named among Colorado's Top 50 Companies to Watch last summer.
Sam Bailey, of Colorado's Office of Economic Development, said the Top 50 Companies to Watch program was created to acknowledge that small companies like Moots have established themselves and moved well beyond the startup phase by contributing 8 percent of earnings in Colorado but 35 percent of employment.
"These really are the job creators in the state of Colorado," Bailey said.
Bailey is the relationship manager in the Office of Economic Development and said he was especially pleased by the recognition of Moots, which employs 25 people here including highly specialized welders and savvy marketers, because companies outside the Front Range are a relative rarity in the awards.
"Moots ships bicycles all over the world, and some of my role is to keep companies like Moots in Colorado. For us, it's a chance to say, 'Thank you for doing business in Colorado.'" The local company was selected from among 400 applications in 2011.
Bailey was joined at the Moots headquarters and manufacturing plant Thursday by his colleague in the Office of Economic Development and longtime Steamboat resident Darcy Owens-Trask.
Bob Kuusinen, chairman of the Steamboat Springs Economic Development Council, also came out to honor Moots this week. And Bailey said he would return to Steamboat in April to confer with Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Tom Kern about how the local business community can nourish companies like Moots.
Clarke Becker, of Colorado's Rural Workforce Consortium, and Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush also joined the visit to Moots.
Worth the price
Moots bicycles are expensive — a frame alone can cost upwards of $3,500 — but Moots President Rob Mitchell said he thinks the company's unwillingness to compromise on quality helped it to prosper through the national recession.
"We feel that when the economy hit the skids in late '08, many consumers realigned their personal values to be closer to the heart and what really matters," Mitchell wrote in an email last week. "They are less interested in purchasing expensive, possibly disposable products from offshore sources and more interested in purchasing high-quality, U.S.-made products. It's more than ever about value. They are still willing and many times wanting to pay more, but only if real value is there."
The result has been a "nice increase in demand" for Moots, he added.
Mitchell said his company's recent recognition is really attributable to his employees and Moots' fit within Steamboat Springs.
"We're very much a family-oriented company," Mitchell said. "We have an exceptionally talented and quality-committed team. At the end of the day, our recent success is mostly about all of them. Their commitment to quality and desire to constantly look to increase those levels is relentless. The values of Moots as a company are very reflective of the values of Steamboat. We've still got a ways to go and a good runway ahead of us."
Loyal to titanium
The runway to the future includes a growing international market for the uncompromising quality of Moots bikes, Mitchell said. About 35 percent of the company's market is outside the U.S. with notable growth in Asia.
"We have passionate customers all over the world," he said.
Moots is internationally renowned for its devotion to painstakingly crafted titanium alloy bikes that are intended to last a lifetime.
Mitchell said Moots has revamped its line of bicycles in the past four years while sticking with titanium alloy frames in the face of increasingly popular, but less durable, carbon frames — a move he thinks has paid off. At the same time, Moots has worked to build closer relationships with the bike shops in its dealer network and with existing customers.
"We have focused our sales and service efforts on partnering with fewer authorized Moots dealers but giving them increased support and educational tools to help them better present Moots to their customers. As a result of this deeper relationship building effort, we've seen significant increases in our partners' commitment to Moots and a corresponding increase in sales per dealer partner," Mitchell wrote.
Jon Cariveau, who presides over marketing and social media for Moots, said Thursday that the company still builds a significant number of bicycles that are customized to the build of the customer. That depends on a national network of trusted retailers, including Orange Peel Bicycle Service in Steamboat, to measure customers for the custom fit.
But Moots also builds a growing number of stock bicycle frames, in part to reduce the delivery time for the custom-built bikes. The company has found that stock titanium frames meet the needs of many of its customers.
The devotion of Moots to existing customers can be seen in the older bikes hanging in the manufacturing plant this week. Moots spokeswoman Cathy Wiedemer said the bikes were sent in by longstanding customers who want their well-used, unpainted titanium frames refurbished. The unpainted frames get nicks and scratches buffed out, and fresh decals are applied. Older bikes get new fittings to accommodate disc brakes.
"We've really focused on the post-purchase relationship we have with our Moots owners," Mitchell added. "We are a very small company and sell relatively few bikes per year. It affords us the luxury of really getting close to our end customers and maintaining a genuine and healthy family-like dynamic. And our owners tend to be extremely loyal and passionate about Moots."
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com