“Our Jenson USA brand is strong and so is our commitment to the bicycle industry, our many vendors, our millions of customers, and to the people who work here. ”
Mike Cachat - Founder and C.E.O.
Recently, there’s been considerable national debate whether America is still the ‘land of opportunity’ it once was. If you ask Michael Cachat, founder and C.E.O. of Jenson USA, one of the nation’s largest retailers of bicycles and related parts and accessories, the answer is a resounding, “yes”.
With over 20,000 items in stock, expert customer service, and a state-of-the-art 74,000 sq ft facility, Jenson USA prides itself on being the best place for cyclists to buy from, vendors to sell to, and employees to work for. In fact, the ultimate focus at Jenson is to create an over-the-top customer experience at every opportunity.
“I’m like a lot of other successful entrepreneurs,” says Mike. “My hobby and passion became a business.” In 1991, Mike envisioned his future as a professional mountain bike racer. In order to support that dream, he got his first job at a local bicycle shop in Brea, California. “I was really kind of a shop rat, building the low end bikes and doing whatever chores needed to be done. At $4.25 an hour it paid enough to help support a portion of my racing and I learned a lot about the business. I eventually started my own bicycle tune-up business on the side and then formed Jenson USA in 1994 while I was still in school. I soon discovered that selling bicycle parts and accessories was a preferred business model compared to the tune-up business.”
The next evolutionary step wasn’t far off. A hobby was quickly transforming into a real business. Still in school, Mike negotiated an agreement with his business accounting teacher to leave class early or even skip the class on occasion so he could get back to work at his fledgling business, handling sales calls and filling orders for parts. As part of the agreement, Mike became a ‘case study’ for his classmates and his teacher provided valuable mentoring advice. One of his first investments was in a “yellow pages” ad followed by the purchase of much needed graphic design software and a Veriphone machine to process credit card orders.
“This was truly an on-the-job learning experience,” comments Mike, now with a nearly twenty year track-record to put it all into perspective. “It was a bit overwhelming, exciting and challenging all at the same time. I think I was able to accomplish things simply because I didn’t know enough to be afraid. Business success is a lot about being willing to take some risk and the support of good mentors and advisors who can help develop your own personal skills.”
In 1995, Jenson USA established its first off-site location, a leased 1400 square foot unit in a local Orange County industrial park. With the opening of that store front, Mike hired his first employee, created an eight-page products catalog and began placing frequent ads in some well-known bicycle publications like “Mountain Biking” and “Mountain Bike Action.”
Less than two years later, Jenson USA was expanding into road bikes, and in need of more space which necessitated a move to a new location with larger warehouse capacity. Soon, there were a dozen full-time employees, inventory to purchase and a host of daunting business challenges every growing entrepreneur faces. “This was a true turning point,” says Mike. “We were growing so fast that it almost put us out of business. I realized that I needed to genuinely get serious and become a business and not a hobby. This meant instituting solid financial practices, making sure vendors were paid on time and treating everyone with respect that we did business with, especially our customers. If we were going to be a long-term success, it was essential that customer satisfaction became our number one priority. If it meant automatically upgrading a customer order to an overnight delivery instead of standard ground shipping in order to make a deadline, that’s what was needed to be done, even at our expense.”
Jenson USA’s renewed philosophy of “customers are everything” immediately began paying big dividends. Customers recognized and appreciated the fact that complete bikes were meticulously hand-prepped prior to shipment. Word-of-mouth referrals between bike lovers about Jenson USA’s exceptional service quickly spread, resulting in exponential growth of the company. “Customer goodwill can never be underestimated,” says Mike. “It was a valuable lesson learned and something we have never lost sight of. Regardless of how big we become, complete customer satisfaction is everything.”
By 2001, Jenson USA had relocated again to a larger facility, this time purchasing a free-standing 18,000 square foot building adjacent to the Ontario Airport, closer to major shipping hubs so important for on-time customer deliveries. More growth meant more focus on a disciplined business structure resulting in sustained profitability. “Every growing business needs a solid foundation and a heart. I like to think that Jenson USA has both,” says Mike. In 2004, an employee profit-sharing plan was created. This continues to encourage employees to suggest improvements and find ways to make the company more efficient and profitable so all will benefit. If a poll of Jenson USA workers were taken today, you’d find that it is one of the most sought-after places to be employed in the bicycle industry.
Realizing that diversification of the business model was also a key to longevity, Jenson USA opened its second brick-and-mortar retail bike store in Corona, California in 2007. The off-site sales location provided Jenson USA with an improved opportunity to interact directly with their customers and determine the wants, needs and concerns of local bicycle enthusiasts. It was also instrumental in broadening Jenson USA’s appeal to vendors who had not yet developed an online business relationship with the company.
2009 and 2010 were truly watershed years for Jenson USA. First, Mike was honored by California State University, San Bernardino at its annual Spirit of the Entrepreneur awards presentation as “Entrepreneur of the Year.” Shortly thereafter, plans to again expand the business culminated in the purchase of a new 74,000 square foot corporate headquarters and warehouse facility in Riverside, California. Not only is it state-of-the-art, but it is located only moments away out the back loading dock from Sycamore Canyon Park, a favorite venue for bicycle riders and occasional ‘test-rides’ by the Jenson USA staffers who also volunteer to perform needed trail maintenance.
In spite of a difficult national economy, Jenson USA has continued to grow at an unprecedented rate with record sales and profitability year after year. Helping to achieve that goal have been new policies such as ‘Guaranteed Arrival Dates’ which set new industry standards for customer commitment and satisfaction. Jenson USA has also been generous with its success, partnering with numerous non-profit events and charities such as Ride to Recovery, Loma Linda University, Movember, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Bikes Belong, World Bicycle Relief and donations to cyclists in the U.S. Military. More recently, Mike continues his willingness to be involved in the industry as a spokesperson, advocate, visionary and leader. He now serves as a Board of Director member to the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) which functions as an important advocacy group for a variety of issues including the promotion of more trail access for all mountain bikers.Although Jenson USA has changed a lot over the years, it’s still very much grounded in the basic philosophies and ideals upon which it was founded. “We’re first and foremost a bicycle company that’s passionate about the sport and the people who enjoy it, our customers are everything.” comments Mike. “We’ve built this company with integrity, dedication and a foundation of ethical business policies. (See our ‘company values’) Our Jenson USA brand is strong and so is our commitment to the bicycle industry, our many vendors, our millions of customers, and to the people who work here. Because of this, we have continued to grow, flourish and be profitable in spite of the challenging nationwide economic climate of recent years. Our financials have never been more sound and the future never more promising. We’ve come a long way, and we still have a lot of road left to ride.