"Inspirational" digital skills training pumps up the tyres of bicycle business

"To have the opportunity to get fresh input on the digital side of our business was really good...I would say it’s been inspirational."

A Warwickshire bicycle business has emerged as one of the success stories of the pandemic after meeting the ongoing commitment of amateur cyclists to invest in their hobby.

Velo Atelier, run by bike designer Lee Prescott and his wife, Jo, has also been supported with digital skills training that has helped it to grow its market during the crisis.

Lee, who studied product design at Coventry University, has pedigree in the bike industry, with a CV that includes working as head of design for the world-famous Stratford-upon-Avon-based Pashley Cycles.

After establishing his own full design and fit service Velo Atelier, he created his own brand, Meteor Cycles — named after the factory in Coventry where J K Starley invented the modern bicycle.

Both are based at Hatton Technology Park and have a growing customer base, locally and nationally, which appears to be as keen as ever to spend their time and money on their bikes. The business has also been boosted by government guidelines that allowed bike shops to remain open for much of the pandemic.

It was during last year that the couple decided the next stage of the development of their business was to move their online presence up a gear.

They signed up to the Warwickshire County Council funded workshops and one-to-one support to improve their digital skills delivered by Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Stories Marketing, funded through the Council’s Warwickshire Towns Network programme.

Jo  said: “Lee is the mastermind of the business, but he had been doing all the social media as well as everything else. So, signing up to the programme was a catalyst to increase our own knowledge but specifically to upskill me.

“Purely looking at the metrics, the number of hits, the number of likes, the number of follows, the number of shares, all of it has gone up since we started to employ the tactics we took away from the workshops. The level of detail in them was incredible and we came out with a clear road map of how we’d be able to better use and improve our social media.

“For example, having the confidence to put a call to action on a post, so rather than just saying ‘hey look at these new wheels’, it’s simple things like adding an instruction ‘click here to buy’, ‘share our post’ or ‘leave us a review’. Helping people by telling them what you want to do with the post makes a real difference.

“Lee has also been doing Facebook ‘lives’ to share his expertise on specific subjects, and to host store walks to show people around the new service centre.”

Jo added: “It’s fair to say that the bike industry has done fairly well during the pandemic. We were shut for two to three months from the outset of the full lockdown in March, but by the summer we were able to reopen. We’re not like a high street bike shop that you go into, where there are lots of bikes, our services are one-to-one, so it was quite easy for us to adapt to the COVID guidelines.

“But to have the opportunity to get fresh input on the digital side of our business was really good. I would say it’s been inspirational. I’m regularly dipping into my notes and still have a big list of things from the workshops that we’ll be having a go at.”

The advice and training are being offered as part of a larger package of support from Warwickshire County Council to continue to support economic recovery within the county, which includes the Survive, Sustain and Grow programme, Adapt & Diversify Grants as well as the business start-up programme.

For more details on the digital skills support or to book a place on the taster session, go to towncentres.eventbrite.com

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