It used to be that Vernon’s Terence Giesbrecht would go hard in summer, then spend his winters in hiberation.
That was the seasonal existence for the 28-year-old Giesbrecht, who started Skyride Cycle in a 1,000 square-foot space in the back of Peters Tirecraft with his father, Michael, in 2004.
That all changed last season, when Giesbrecht expanded his operation by purchasing Outdoor Exposure on Silver Star Road (beside Butcher Boys) and took over their winter sales program, primarily skis, snowboards, snowshoes and outerwear.
“You’re trying to build all this momentum in summer, and then winter comes and you sink back down,” said Giesbrecht, of trying to maintain a seasonal operation.
“It seems to be the same wave every year, but last winter, with our first little taste, you can build in summer and at the very least, stay on a level in the winter. You’re at least climbing the ladder instead of slipping back down every winter.
“We just sat back and saw what kind of potential it had, and we found the sliver of the pie we want to jump into.”
The decision to move into the winter sporting scene, combined with a re-branding (Giesbrecht dropped the ‘Cycle’ from Skyride to reflect the shift to a multi-sport business), helped Giesbrecht earn B.C. Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Aboriginal Business.
The honour was presented at a ceremony in Kamloops by the All Nations Trust Company (ANTCO), an Aboriginal-owned organization comprised of bands, tribal councils, Aboriginal organizations, Métis associations, status, non-status and Métis individuals.
ANTCO originated in 1984 to provide financial services to Aboriginal entrepreneurs.
Giesbrecht, who is of Métis heritage, took a slightly unconventional route towards entrepreneurship. While working for someone else at age 19, he realized being his own boss was the only way to go.
But rather than go to post-secondary school for training, he attended “the school of hard knocks.”
“I started learning the hard way,” said Giesbrecht, who has daughters Stella, 4, and Claire, 18 months, with wife Brittany.
“Lots of my friends were going to business school, and with the amount of money they were spending, we were going to spend the same through trial and error running our business.”
After spending the first four years in the Tirecraft building, the Giesbrechts began sharing space with Stussi Sport, trading off with one another with the changing seasons.
When Outdoor Exposure became available last year, Giebrecht obtained a business loan (including a partial grant), from ANTCO to complete the expansion.
If there is one positive to slow winter seasons, it is that it gave the self-taught Giesbrecht plenty of time to learn about business.
“The Internet’s your best friend; you can learn a lot on the downtime,” he said.
“When you run into the issues you always have running a small business, you just use the Google machine and research as much as you can. You learn it as it comes.”
Giesbrecht’s advice to up-and-coming business owners: “To avoid headaches, research.”
“Being 19, I didn’t really know what to expect. The more statistics you can get from your business, from your area, from your target market, is huge.
“And work out your projections. If you can lay out your projections for five years, you can say ‘Is this going to be worth it?’ even before you start.”
Giesbrecht still remembers his first bike, a “Costco special” his parents gave him in 1997.
“We just rode that thing into the ground,” laughed Giesbrecht, who now owns a small fleet of bikes, including a one-speed commuter he rides to work.
“In Grade 11 I had a choice – it was the car or the bike. I got a nicer bike.”
Giesbrecht’s passion for cycling has also been a big advantage throughout his small business career, keeping his entrepreneurial fires stoked when times were tough.
“We probably pulled through some battles we shouldn’t have just because of the love of the industry,” he said.