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Partners buy Velofix franchise for the entire state of Minnesota in largest US franchise deal to date

Published December 20, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (BRAIN) — Two partners — including one bike industry veteran — have bought Velofix franchise rights to the entire state of Minnesota in what the mobile bike repair franchiser said was its largest U.S. deal to date.

The partners are Al Watts and Paul Schoening. Watts is a life-long cycling enthusiast and an entrepreneur. Schoening also is an entrepreneur and cycling enthusiast and the former marketing director at Park Tool. 

The partners began operating one Velofix mobile repair van in the Minneapolis area this month, and plan to add a second van in the Twin Cities area in February, and possibly a third later this year. In a few years they plan to cover the entire state.

Schoening is operating the first van himself for now, in part to educate himself on how the vans are run. He plans to transition into an office position as the business hires van operators. 

Schoening said one of the business's initial priorities is to establish accounts with large corporations around the Twin Cities, including businesses like General Mills and 3M. "We would park at the business and tune all the employee bikes as part of their employee benefits. And inevitably people will say, 'I have a garage full of bikes at home that need work,' and you make an appointment to go there. That's the best way to establish the business in the suburbs."

This being Minnesota, the vans also will provide ski tuning and will attend Nordic ski races and the region's popular fat bike rides and races over the winter. "Ski tuning will be an ancillary business, but between the corporate work, the fat bikes and ski tuning, the intention is to keep everyone employed year-round."

For now the business does not have a warehouse or other brick-and-mortar location, but as vans are added Schoening expects to establish a warehouse and office building with secure van parking somewhere in the Twin Cities region. 

Neither Velofix nor the partners revealed the dollar amount of the full-state franchise purchase. Velofix territories reportedly cost about $25,000 initially and generally encompass about a half-million people, depending on demographics and other factors. Minnesota's population is nearly 5.5 million. 

Schoening operated his own mobile repair business last year, called ProZone, but shut it down and sold off its assets after committing to Velofix in the fall. He said that establishing his own mobile business convinced him that the concept was viable but that a Velofix franchise was a better route than his own business. For example, he said, "I didn't have time or money to build out a good website. Velofix has an excellent site, from the front end to the back end. I figured I'd end up getting swarmed by Velofix anyway, so it's better to join them." Velofix also is developing partnerships with a variety of suppliers and omnichannel sellers that make the franchises attractive, Schoening said. 

Velofix, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, now has 89 mobile shops in North America, with plans to have 150 by the end of 2017 The company also has announced plans to expand into Europe. 

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