Mountain Trike has struck a niche part of the market and has successfully been getting more disabled people back out into the countryside since 2011. As a six-person company that serves an expanding UK and international distributor network it is punching well above its weight but it already has a strong foothold in the market. After just signing its latest partner in New Zealand, managing director Tim Morgan explains how the company is evolving its growth strategy and what role dealers will play in its climb to the top.
Off-road mobility solutions are nothing new to the market. But when Mountain Trike launched six years ago it brought to the field a new piece of kit which would for the first time allow end-users an affordable solution to tackle tough outdoor terrain. Since entering the market as a small start-up, the Cheshire-based outfit has traversed from strength to strength and has even landed itself on the international stage — a feat some other much older and more established suppliers have not achieved yet.
Most recently, Mountain Trike struck a deal with New Zealand-based Total Rehab Plus, which is the company’s latest international stockist. And for managing director Tim Morgan, who has high hopes for the global market, countries like New Zealand present the firm with some of the strongest opportunities.
“The Mountain Trike is an all-terrain wheelchair that is more akin to a mountain bike rather than a traditional wheelchair. It’s all about getting people out into the countryside, giving them more freedom and independence to get out and explore and get to places that they couldn’t in a standard wheelchair. The countries that we found are most suited to that are the ones with amazing countryside like Canada, the US and of course New Zealand.”
The company already has dealers in a number of countries, albeit a thin network. It has two in the US — one in Chicago and one in Colorado — which are responsible for a number of different states. Ideally, Morgan says he would want a dealer in every state in the US but as a small business admits it is quite challenging to set up that kind of network and says growth will have to come more gradually and organically.
Any business serving dealers abroad places themselves at risk of vulnerable and stretched supply lines. And for a six-person start-up assembling each product by hand, observers might think managing logistics would be a painfully complex task. But Morgan insists the prototyping, testing and build quality has meant that warranty claims have been few and far between. Because the firm begun trading on a small scale it has been able to tweak designs and re-source parts flexibly over the years, meaning potential problems have been gradually ironed out.
Morgan adds: “The great thing about the Mountain Trike is because it’s all made from mountain bike parts it can be serviced in any bike shop. So someone can go to any bike shop and have it serviced and if it’s something a bit unusual for the bike shop then they can contact me directly and I can send instructions over. Even though the dealers can be quite far away it’s not a case of ‘we have a problem with this specific thing so it’s got to be shipped half way across the world’. It’s definitely much more of a practical solution.”
While Mountain Trike continues to ship its products across the world, it knows that the UK is packed with countryside which people want to access. The persistent demand for its products prove this. And to keep up with this demand it has evolved how it reaches out to end-users, culminating in its first UK distribution deal in June last year with Exeter Disability Centre.
Morgan explains that when the company launched in 2011 it made the decision to sell directly to the end-user. That allowed the firm first-hand contact with customers who could provide feedback and help to make improvements along the way.
“Selling direct at the start was a really good decision and it also meant that we could make the Trike a bit more affordable by cutting out some of the mark-up that you’d traditionally see between manufacturer, distributor and dealer. The end-user can end up paying over the odds sometimes so we were keen to make the most of the modern ways that people find products, for example online,” says Morgan.
Gradually, as the products have become more established, Mountain Trike discovered that it needed to find more ways of reaching people across the country. It was also fast becoming too stretched having to drive up and down the country every week to provide product demos to users. To solve this it started by setting up experience centres, which were bike hire centres or outdoor activity centres that had contact with people of different abilities, Morgan says.
“We’ve got a small network of around four or five of those that have a fleet of Trikes where people can go and try.
And then anyone who goes on to order we pay a small commission to the centre. But as we started to expand our range with new models we found that getting on board with more established mobility dealers would help us access a wider network of potential customers.”
Mountain Trike’s dealer strategy made a strong start and in addition to its partner in Exeter it now has a deal with Northern Ireland’s John Preston Healthcare, which is able to act as a portal to some of the UK’s harder-to-reach areas. For Morgan, well-established and experienced companies are particularly well-suited to selling Mountain Trike products and he is looking to develop his current network this year.
“We’re always keen to expand into other areas of the country where we don’t have good coverage, just because it makes it so much easier for people and allows us to make use of all the expertise that’s out there and the dealers that are pioneering innovative or active mobility products.
“The great thing about the Mountain Trike is because it’s all made from mountain bike parts it can be serviced in any bike shop”
“Internationally, there’s such huge potential. The US is such a vast market and although there’s quite a division of wealth, there are a lot of people who do have disposable income. We’re really keen to sign up more global and UK dealers and just expand further. There are only six of us in the UK and we’re serving dealers around the world so we’re definitely punching above our weight with what we’ve achieved so far.”
Still hungry for growth, Morgan hopes to reach as many people as possible with Mountain Trike products and scale the business up. He says: “The ultimate aim would be to build the company to a good level where maybe a larger or more established mobility business could take it on and we could make the most of their existing network and infrastructure to take it onto the next level. Our manufacturing partner has been fantastic and they’ve been able to ramp up and cope with the volume. But I’d definitely be interested to speak to any partners that would want to work together.”
In a relatively small amount of time Mountain Trike has managed to achieve more than many other companies in its position. Part of that success has come from a focused customer development strategy and the next phase of this plan, which will see it targeting more UK dealers, could see it peak in the market. As both a company and a product, Mountain Trike is at the moment able to remain flexible enough to achieve the organic growth it wants. And dealers choosing to get on board with the supplier this year will be hoping some of that rubs off on them.