Creating One’s Own Fortune – Don DiCostanzo on launching Pedego Bikes into a Global Brand
There’s this feeling of nostalgia that accompanies Don DiCostanzo’s personality. Remember the days when you were a ten year old child, trying new things just for the fun of it, and they’d lead you to adventures that you couldn’t have imagined before? This seems to be the narrative that Don’s business choices parallel.
Don is truly a fun-loving guy, and that characteristic is reflected in his ventures. While many are afraid to enter into an industry they know nothing about, DiCostanzo is not. He seems to have no fear of diving in headfirst if the opportunity calls for it. He’s led companies in automotive chemicals, carwashes, publishing, and now electric bikes. The businesses he’s created over the years were a result of genuine interest along with finding a niche that hadn’t yet been taken advantage of. When we got a chance to sit down with the co-founder and owner of the largest electric bike company in the country, we jumped on the opportunity to learn about his success and how he got there.
DiCostanzo is a guy that managed phenomenal success in what seems like every area of his life. He expresses great pride in his accomplishments and is never shy to speak out about his passion for business and intuition in marketing. DiCostanzo openly discussed his business philosophies, marketing ideals, creating his own luck, and his opportunistic mentality.
Publishing was one of the first industries in which he had no idea what to do. He just saw that there wasn’t an information source for service departments in the automotive industry and wanted to capitalize on it.
DiCostanzo and his co-founder went on to start a trade magazine which did exactly that. At the start of the company he called his partner, Terry Sherry, about the idea. Sherry said “we don’t know anything about publishing,” but DiCostanzo replied, “It’s never stopped us before.” Sherry went out and bought Publishing for Dummies. Thanks to that bit of motivated innovation, they’ve had a successful trade magazine for the automotive and bicycle industries, which includes a section for service departments. This is a testament to the entrepreneurial mentality that has driven DiCostanzo to continue to innovate. DiCostanzo makes success look easy and apparently, he always has.
The list of his accomplishments could go on forever from being the president of his fraternity in college, to working his way up at Wynns all the way from an entry level sales job to marketing, becoming the division director, and finally C.E.O. So, is he just some kind of genetically destined success story? Not exactly. There are lots of traits and ideologies that make DiCostanzo who he is.
Adages to live by
This dude is full of business philosophies and marketing strategies that he attributes his success to. His number one philosophy in working life is “Do what you love, not what you like.” We’ve heard that a billion times, but DiCostanzo was very passionate about this point and urges all of his family members and friends to live by it. He says a big part of the reason why he’s so adamant about this point is because he’s experienced just “liking” what he did when he was in the automotive chemicals business, and once he started his carwash businesses, which he “loved,” there was no going back. He says the best way to live your life is to be able to “look forward to Monday.” In fact, he claims, “Nobody loves the electric bike business more than me, everyone knows it, my competitors know it, and that’s my competitive edge.” To wrap up this point, he states, “If you don’t love it, you can’t do it!”
Another business philosophy that he feels is essential to building any company consists of three parts: concept, proof of concept, and scaling.
Concept is the vision, the foreseeable demand, and the idea to be executed. Proof of concept is actually getting the logistics together and seeing what was once a vision, become a real tangible product. Scaling refers to getting bigger, as the word suggests. An example given to us by DiCostanzo was “Okay, I know I can sell one bike to one person… Can I sell ten bikes to ten people? Can I sell 100 bikes to 100 people? 1000 to a 1000? So on and so on…” He’s always looking for concepts that have potential for grand scale.
In terms of marketing strategies, DiCostanzo says his number one thing is to make sure that customers are happy with the product and are truly having fun, because if they’re having fun, they’ll tell others about it. He’s always on the look out for new technologies that can help him grow his company.
His number one marketing strategy of choice: “Social media.” He analogizes social media with “saying something once, but in a room full of 200 people.” He stated, “As someone with a degree in marketing, I can tell you that social media is the single best marketing tool ever in the history of the world.”
The Internet does a lot of his marketing for him; several notable celebrities, surfers, and all kinds of random people constantly post up pictures of themselves on websites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on their Pedego bikes. DiCostanzo believes in making his electric bike company “the best electric bike company, not the biggest,” and he also believes in building his brand locally, rather than trying to expand as quickly as possible.
As a result of these marketing principles, the majority of his company’s popularity was due to word of mouth, which is ultimately what he believes is proof that you’re doing something right if you make a customer happy.
Gearing up globally
Soon enough, as Pedego began to grow in popularity, people from other countries would start buying them and have them sent to their homeland, no matter how far.
It was only a matter of time before he received a call from the United Kingdom asking him to ship some bikes over to sell. DiCostanzo had plenty to deal with domestically and was not interested, but the man was insistent and asked him if he would accept a meeting with him. He traveled from the UK and convinced DiCostanzo that people in the UK would highly value the concept of a Beach Cruiser that was built in California. From there it was just a “hockey stick curve.”
Eventually, there was so much demand that there ended up being about 40 dealers in Europe, and this continued to escalate into Russia, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Columbia, and Chile.
All this success that DiCostanzo has experienced is quite overwhelming. It seems that he’s been fortunate to have such an incredible run with no apparent issues or downfalls, but when asked about how he feels about this great fortune that’s come his way, he was quick to dismiss the notion. He made it clear that he believes that you create your own luck. He mentioned that he believes that “every business has a beginning, a middle and an end, and recognizing those stages are crucial to success.”
When people ask him about his fortune, he replies with “I’ve created my own fortune.” The idea of creating an electric bike company only came after he wanted to start biking, but quickly realized that going up hills was quite discouraging, a problem he felt was surely shared by other baby boomers from his generation as well as seniors. From then, he began to buy up electric bikes and had several brands in different styles and colors in his garage.
About a year after running his own electric bike company, he felt disappointed with the reliability and overall quality of the electric bikes, and that was when he noted a real deficiency in the market.
Regardless of his experience in the electric bike industry, he knew that there would be a demand for high quality electric bikes, and he trusted his ability to market it. He makes it clear that his knack for taking opportunities at the right moments is what makes him seem so “fortunate.”
With sound business philosophies and a real people-friendly marketing ideology, it seems his opportunistic vision is extremely sharp, which leaves little room for error. He goes about living his life, and when he experiences a problem, he thinks about whether or not this may be a problem he can solve, and if it is, he examines whether or not it is something that could relieve a pain for a lot of other people as well.
The most important thing in his mind is to always be passionate and love what you do. When it comes down to it, he says he loves his job because “at the end of the day, we’re selling fun!” •