Absolute Bikes rides on a business model that is heavily focused on community involvement. By utilizing their own talents and interests, the people at the popular bike shop leverage the time they spend volunteering into promoting cycling and their store and, at the same time, benefit the Northern Arizona community.
“The premise is that we have to do marketing – every business has to do it,” said Anthony Quintile, manager. “But the bicycle business is a small-margin business, so we had to look at how to best leverage a small [marketing] budget.”
Traditionally, bike shops sponsor races and charity rides but Quintile and owner Ken Lane wanted to take the conventional to the next level because of their interest in making Flagstaff a better place to live.
“We’re community-minded people, Ken and I,” said Quintile. Through the years, they have helped train thousands of youth through the Safe Kids Bike Rodeos, encouraged their Team Absolute Bikes to volunteer a thousand hours of work per year to charitable causes like the Taylor House and raised money for Flagstaff Family Food Bank.
“Our biggest cost is the time commitment,” explained the bicycle expert. “We leverage our time and our enthusiasm for cycling into direct and indirect marketing. Being so active keeps us prominent in people’s heads,” said Quintile, who has been heavily involved with the Fort Tuthill Bike Park through his role with Flagstaff Biking Organization.
The small-budget marketing plan is innovative, yet simple. Absolute Bikes sponsors a bicycle racing team like many other bike shops, but instead of qualifying with fast times, team members are required to document community service hours, many of which are spent in trail building for the Coconino National Forest, working bike events that raise money for the Taylor House and other community outreach efforts that further the growth of cycling. Team members earn schwag, every-day discounts and store credit. The end result is threefold: cycling is promoted via media coverage, participants are encouraged to buy more at the store and the community is improved through donations, clean-ups or safety education.
The Taylor House Century Ride is organized by Absolute Bikes in cooperation with The Taylor House and the Flagstaff Medical Center Foundation. Proceeds from the annual charity road ride go to allow family members of FMC patients to stay across the street from their loved ones at the Taylor House hospitality residence. This year, the ride is on July 15, and passes through Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments.
Absolute Bikes also supports the upcoming Flagstaff Bike to Work Week May 17-May 22, as an as associate sponsor. The business is a title sponsor and organizer for the Absolute Bikes Old Fashioned Mountain Bike Race in August that raises money for the Flagstaff Family Food Center.
The business model has worked so well that Absolute Bikes was selected by Bike Advocacy, the leading trade publication for the bicycle industry, for the “Brainy Award,” which honors the nation’s top retailers for their efforts in bicycle advocacy. The shop has also earned Arizona’s only Gold Level “Bicycle Friendly Business 2013-2017” by the League of American Cyclists for bicycle advocacy and a bicycle-friendly workplace. The award required a stringent 10-page application that helped vet best practices, community involvement and business management strategies. The business has also been recognized by Goodwill of Northern Arizona and the City of Flagstaff Commision for Disability Awareness as “Employer of the Year 2001.”
As another community-focused local business, the owners of Olsen’s Grain believe that community involvement is key to their success. Steve Sischka, an owner and vice president of Olsen’s Grain, said, “All of us affiliated with Olsen’s have a strong belief in and a commitment to the communities where we live, no matter if it’s Flagstaff or Clarkdale or in the greater Prescott area.”
Sischka is a member of Rotary International, serves on the Board of Trustees for Yavapai Regional Medical Center and is directly involved in Central Arizona Partnership.
“We honestly believe we can make the places where we live better than ‘just good enough,’” said Sischka. ‘Good enough, just isn’t,’ is the tagline for the Olsen’s Grain chain of six stores in in Prescott, Dewey/Humboldt, Clarkdale and Flagstaff.
“We’re all active in the community – the Chamber of Commerce, service groups, schools,” said Christi and Warren Hubbard, the co-managers of the two Olsen’s Grain Flagstaff stores.
“We spend a lot of time training our employees. We really focus on their paying careful attention to the needs of our customers. We also want them to be aware of needs and concerns of the greater community so they can be a part of making our communities prosper,” Sischka explained.
John Olsen, now retired, founded the original Olsen’s Grain in Chino Valley in 1979. True to his belief of being involved and giving back to the community, Olsen served on the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, as chair of the business-growth advocate Northern Arizona Council of Governments (NACOG), and now is on the Board of Visitors for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott.
Terry Roberts of Terry Roberts Marketing agrees that community involvement is a key component of marketing. “Especially in this town. People in Flagstaff want to know what you are doing to make the community a better place. I am involved as a volunteer with many organizations, including Shadows Foundation, Soroptimist International and Flagstaff Communicators.”
Roberts recommends that clients make community involvement part of their marketing mix. “I tell them to find a cause that matches their interests. Whether they are an outdoorsperson, enjoy working with kids or have experience with illness, there’s a charity out there that will meet almost anyone’s interest,” said the marketing expert, who is also a Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce member.
One of Roberts’s areas of expertise is connecting businesses with non-profits so they can collaborate and help each other. “I’m like a matchmaker for businesses. I tell my clients that by becoming involved in the community, they meet people that they might not know. It’s easy to socialize when you come together for a like cause. It’s a great place to build trust and let others know what you do.” FBN
By Stacey Wittig
Flagstaff Business News
202 East Route 66, Flagstaff
6101 Highway 179 Suite D, Village of Oak Creek
Flagstaff Bike to Work Week
2250 N. Steves Blvd., Flagstaff
1171 State Route 89A, Clarkdale
Terry Roberts Marketing