I’m officially 2 weeks into my new project: starting Nathan’s and my business.
I know hardly anything about starting or running a business, so this is all totally new to me. As I’ve learned more about just how much work there really is to do, I’ve gotten a few quick “AAHHHH!!!!” feelings….but only a few. Mostly I feel good. I’m eager to get things up and running and full of curiosity about what’s ahead.
Before I dive into what's going on though, I’d like to give you a little background about how exactly Nathan and I wound up deciding to start a business in the first place. It’s a great story, one of my favorites, anyway. :-) So let’s take a trip down memory lane (disclaimer: it might seem disconnected, but stick with me)...
We'll start in 2006. The story really starts before then, but it's a good enough spot for us to begin. This is when Nathan and I got married and started dreaming about what we wanted for our future. Nathan talked about how he’s always wanted to have his own business. I never really had that desire (ironic, I know, since I’M the one starting it), but I thought it sounded interesting. Since we were newlyweds with college debt and a mortgage though, we put the dream on hold and got jobs instead.
When the first paycheck arrived (or maybe a little before?), we decided to get involved in a more affordable hobby, bike riding. We excitedly bought new bikes from a local bike shop and participated in a longstanding biking tradition in our new home state of Iowa: R.A.G.B.R.A.I.. R.A.G.B.R.A.I. is a week-long bike ride across the state, and Lance Armstrong was even riding that year! We only rode for one day during the 2006 ride, and I think it’s safe to say it changed our lives. Here’s us dipping our bikes in the Mississippi River at the end of that day's route.
We had never done anything like R.A.G.B.R.A.I. before, and despite being 114 degrees that day, it was a great memory maker for us and became a big part of the inspiration for another dream: riding our bikes all the way across the United States! Like starting a business though, that became another wish put on hold.
In 2007, we had our one year anniversary, and to celebrate, we went to a 3-day concert with some great friends who were also celebrating their one-year anniversary. While we were together, they told us about Dave Ramsey, a financial guy whose program they were using to get their finances in shape and get out of debt. They liked it and recommended we do it too. We did not realize it at the time, but this was another pivotal moment for us.
We thought we were doing fine financially (oh how naïve we were…), but we knew that finances were a big cause of divorce, so we decided to look into it anyway to get some tips on avoiding financial marriage problems. Well, by the time 2009 came around, we not only learned a lot about how NOT OK we were financially, but we had shaped up our finances, shipped out our bad habits, and were proud to say we were debt free!! In 19 months, we paid off $51,000 of debt using Dave Ramsey’s financial advice (and our marriage was stronger too!). Here’s a picture of us with one of our debts paid off!
It was then that Nathan’s job moved us to Texas. Selling our house in Iowa is what helped us pay off the last of our debts. In Texas, we rented an apartment, and continued to work and save our money. Then, in the summer of 2010, we decided it was finally time. Time to move our dreams from the back burners up to the front ones. So, with lots of high-fiving and woo-hooing, we did!
We decided to quit our jobs, ride our bikes across the country, and start a business! So we turned in our resignation letters, flew up to the Pacific coast of Oregon, and started pedaling west (well, we actually started out going east, but that’s another story). Over the course of 100 days, we rode 4,641 miles, crossed 2 mountain ranges and 13 states, and made memories to last a lifetime. The trip was amazing, and I would recommend it to anyone! Here's the postcard we made and sent out after we finished our trip.
We dipped our bike tires in North Carolina's Atlantic coast in late November (read a summary of our trip and our best/worst experiences here), and made it back home to Texas just in time for Nathan to get a job offer in Indiana. Knowing we would need a steady source of income, we took the job and arrived at our new home in Fort Wayne, IN in February of 2011.
Now that we’re settled, Nathan’s off to his new job, and I’m working on launching our business. We are going to make and sell bicycle panniers, possibly expanding to other outdoor gear as well, and we plan to name our business Natril Gear. I understand if you're not surprised that we're starting a business in the cycling industry, but let me tell you, Natril Gear’s inception was anything but predictable (to read the story of our unexpected but un-ignorable neon sign, click here). Here is a picture of the panniers we made and used on our cross-country bike trip…the little bags that started it all.
Even though I’ve only been working on Natril Gear for two weeks now, I’ve already learned a lot that I didn’t know about starting a business, and I decided it would be interesting to share. Originally, we weren’t going to blog anymore until the business was up and running, but I think the journey to GET to the point where we’re up and running is interesting enough that I wanted to chronicle it for you as well.
Also, in the spirit of this blog (TheRoadTo.org), we wanted to share our lives with you in such a way that if there is anyone out there thinking of doing some of the things we’re doing, maybe our experiences will help you on your own journey! And for the rest of you who may never do the stuff we’re doing, well I guess we can be those people who do stuff you read about. :-)
I encourage you to follow along as we learn about all the behind the scenes stuff (marketing, manufacturing, finance, copyrights, etc.), do all the cool on-scene stuff (taking more bike tours, sponsoring bikers, traveling around the country, finding weird and wacky ways to promote our products), and generally work towards realizing our dream of owning a successful and exciting business.
And with that, I want to welcome you to the start of this new series of posts about starting our business! We hope you enjoy it, and we welcome any comments or questions you have about our experiences. (Oh, and if you happen to know a thing or two about starting and running a business, we'd really love to hear from you too!)
Thanks for reading, and remember, the journey IS the adventure!
Nathan and April Reinhard