NAME: Louis Chuang
COMPANY: Topeak, Inc.
Topeak doesn’t manufacture a single product. Yet the company that Louis Chuang founded in 1991 is one of Taiwan’s most successful. Chuang has proven that a Taiwan company can master world-class design, not just efficient manufacturing processes.
Just as Topeak is not your typical bicycle company, Chuang is not your typical Taiwan businessman. His conversations can veer toward the enigmatic, especially in his second language of English.
“I’m a dreamer. I’m not a designer. I’m a dreamer,” he once told Bicycle Retailer. “Dreams in my sleep are always in color, not black and white. You need to have a dreamer and you need to have a dream-maker.”
While other A-Team members are manufacturers—and thus concerned with the nitty gritty of managing factories—Topeak outsources all production to a network of more than 70 subcontractors. About 70 percent of them are in Taiwan and the rest in China. Chuang says Taiwan’s compact size and close-knit business community makes it an ideal place for outsourcing.
Freed from the responsibilities of a factory, Topeak can focus on its strengths: designing and marketing bicycle accessories.
The results are always functional and often quirky, like the inflatable “air fender,” which unrolls like a birthday party blowout, or the Bikamper, a one-person tent that uses a standard mountain or road bike as its main support (just remove the front wheel).
With 48 employees, Topeak’s annual sales are about $50 million a year. In the U.S. market, Topeak has had a long and exclusive relationship with Todson, the Massachusetts distributor.
Topeak is no longer just accessories. It recently introduced a new bike line called Jango, which aims to be a “plug-and-play” bike that lets riders quickly add and remove any number of accessories, from baskets to trailers to fenders to lights.
Chuang, who majored in marketing at Fong Chia University, has been married to Shirley Chu for 18 years. Their son, Max, is 15.