Trevor Tuck, Dylan Decker, Colton Cheney and Shelby Miller may well be the picture of the next generation of entrepreneurs.
With persistence, help from family, friends and wherever they can get it, a thirst for education, well-managed expectations and an ability to adapt, the Okanagan College students and alumni are involved in creating an online company that caters to a niche market in the two-wheeled world.
Tuck is in the college’s Business Administration degree program. Decker and Cheney graduated in January from the same program, and Cheney is now a financial services representative with TD Canada Trust. Miller is in the college’s Civil Engineering Technology diploma program. They comprise TBS Bike Parts (tbsbikeparts.com), a company that retails mountain bike parts in North America, without extensive investment in sales people or bricks-and-mortar storefront.
“Our goal is to eliminate the middleman and save consumers between 30 and 40 per cent, even with shipping costs,” explained Tuck. The company’s short history starts in 2011, while the four partners were still in secondary school, as part of a Young Entrepreneurs program.
That program is organized by School District 23 in concert with the Central Okanagan Regional District’s Economic Development Commission and Enactus Okanagan College, a student-run organization celebrating 10 years of social entrepreneurship activities in the region.
The four were in a Grade 12 Entrepreneurship class when they came up with the idea of a company selling “tramp bikes” – bicycles that are used on trampolines for tricks. They built two prototypes, painted them fluorescent colours, and wowed the judges with their business plan. The foursome, though, quickly realized the limited size of the market and tramp bikes morphed into TBS Bicycle Parts.
Today, they have a warehouse with boxes of parts, an online site capable of digital commerce, a contract with Canada Post for shipping, and an abundance of enthusiasm and drive. Each day they collate their online orders, pack the requisite parts, label them and then truck them to Canada Post.
Tuck says his business education at the college has been supplemented by the sage advice and guidance of strong mentors who have helped him and his partners.
Tuck balances his dedication to the business with his studies at OC, and acknowledges that the business is benefitting from what he learns. “I found a lot of what I’ve been learning here applies to the business and, similarly, I’ve found that what I’m learning in business is helping me appreciate and better understand what I’m being taught.”
One of the classes he highlights as particularly advantageous is a course in internet marketing, taught by OC professor Robert Wright. “I’ve asked for and had some feedback from Robert on our site and approach. It’s been valuable.”
Tuck hasn’t always been an Okanagan College student. After graduating from OKM, he left for the University of Victoria, but returned in the fall of 2014 to the Okanagan when business for TBS started to pick up. It’s a move he is glad he made.
“I can’t say enough about the quality of the education here,” he noted. “Class sizes are smaller and you get to know your profs, and there’s a lot of very interesting group work that’s associated with the degree program. At UVic I had classes of 200 or 300 people – here there are 20 or 30 students. And I’m interested in business. At OC, you can jump right into business classes – at UVic, it was a matter of two years of other programs before you even found out if you were going to be admitted to business.”