An interview with Mike Palombi, owner of The Bike Medic based in Geneva.
Q: Describe your business. What do you do?
The Bike MedicMailing address: 39W450 West Mallory Drive Geneva, IL 60134
Owner: Mike Palombi
Year business started: 1994
A: I provide bicycle repair and maintenance by appointment. And I bring the bike shop to your door. It's no longer necessary for you to load up your bikes and haul them to a bike shop and then wait, and wait, and wait for your repairs to be completed. Only to drive back, load your bikes up and haul them back home. I carry a variety of quality parts and accessories. I can special order anything. I have more than 25 years experience in the bicycle repair industry and offer a personal guarantee on the quality of my workmanship.
Q: What made you start your business?
A: I work full-time as a paramedic/firefighter at a local fire department and wasn't satisfied with various part-time jobs I have had on my off-days. A lot of time was spent thinking about starting a part-time business. I was trying to come up with an idea that could utilize my mechanical aptitude as well as include my passion for anything bicycle related. While reading a bicycle trade journal I came across some information about a bike mechanic in California who had started a mobile bicycle repair business and was offering a printed business plan on how to start your own mobile repair service. There was certainly a need for an "on-site" bicycle repair service in the Fox Valley. After purchasing his business plan I spent a lot of time researching the feasibility of starting my own part-time version in the TriCities. I tailored the plan to suit the demographic I was pursuing and it all came together. And now its 20 years later and I'm still loving it.
Q: What has been the most difficult obstacle in running or starting a small business?
A: The most difficult part for me was deciding to take the risk and then to "pull the trigger" and just do it. The first year was a learning experience for sure. The pressure was less because it is a part-time business. My family and I didn't have to depend on that income to live.
Q: What do you enjoy most about operating your business?
A: I'd say the most enjoyable aspect of operating my business is the fact I'm doing something I love and getting paid for it. I get to be outdoors. I get to get my hands dirty. I can make my own schedule. I get to meet some of the nicest folks too. I tell people that the paramedic/firefighter job pays the bills, the Bike Medic job keeps me sane!
Q: Is this what you pictured yourself doing when you were young?
A: Neither the paramedic/firefighter job nor the Bike Medic business was anything I thought of doing when I was young. The idea of being a bicycle mechanic didn't even enter my thoughts until the mid 1980s when I rediscovered my love for riding my bike. It started when I began taking my toddler son for rides on my old Schwinn that I had since high school. I was always mechanically oriented and once I started riding again I wanted to learn how to maintain and repair my bike. It snowballed from there.
Q: If you could give one tip to a rookie business owner, what would it be?
A: It's easy to become discouraged. Don't get discouraged. It helps to discuss any issues with people whose opinions you value. Evaluate their input and implement the changes you think will be beneficial to you and your venture. To borrow something a friend of mine said, "Be adventurous, take risks, and don't be afraid to make mistakes."