We had an interesting chat with Mr. “Luke Makris”, CEO & Founder of the Annapolis – USA based startup “PawnEssentials”
Below is the interview we conducted with him:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
Originally the concept was flea market meets google search. I have refocused and now buy, fix up, flip and sell bikes to members of the community in order to promote better health, sustainability and overall community improvement.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
Began 3 years ago but I have not started to really do much with it until this past semester at school when I created a website. It is since I was in the paper that I really believe the business officially took off.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
I buy bikes and parts, fix them up and then resell them at affordable prices. I am in the business of getting more people on bikes, not making large profits off of each transaction. I also service bikes and trade bikes. With no physical location or overhead I am able to keep costs low and prices affordable.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
The team is just me. I do not know if I am going to add anyone. I am not sure I can financially afford it because business is so volatile. I do have my 10-year-old neighbor as an intern who loves filming and helps me with that.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
I C.A.R.E. about my customers.
And I allow customers to request a product and I will go and find it for them. In doing so I try to get the best price for them.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
I was just featured in the Capital Gazette Front Page of the Business Section. I was then in the Memorial Day Parade in Downtown Annapolis. From that I have had an increase in awareness and calls. People have spotted me and said I am a celebrity.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
Local Pawn Shops, Ebay, Craigslist.
I provide a request a product service and I will go find it, and I bring an in-person human interaction that one can trust to the transaction and business. I am also doing it for a good cause.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
I was not sure about much. I did not know if I wanted to make something of my business or not. With the support and help from my community, teachers and classes I have gotten much of the help I need.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
I am not in it for excessive profits, just enough to make it through college. I expect you to barter with me. Bartering takes two people. It is part of what I enjoy about the business. I want you to learn to barter effectively.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
My passion for helping others, bikes and business as well as the support and help of my community. It is them whom I am in the business for and them who help motivate me.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
Electronics, Video Games, Bike Rentals, Sales over seas, and be like eBay or amazon, but then I would loose my in-person advantage. I could franchise out the company and have California Pawn Essentials, Colorado Pawn Essentials, etc.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
I have always had a passion for business and bikes. I merged the two and found a need for it in my customers and community. I also had teachers and classes guiding me down this route.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
Practice is the best way to learn. The smile on a happy customer’s face is priceless. Without the joy I get from what I am doing I would have stopped this business a long time ago. I may not have even started it.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Managing the business and school at the same time. I am very involved at school and I do not want to give away a lot of power yet. I have not found anyone whom I can really trust with the business yet.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
They can get a bike to stay active, be healthy, help the environment, and all at a low cost. They can even save money in other areas of their life, like gas expenses.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
Word of Mouth, Grass root marketing, being in the newspaper, being in the parade, riding my bike with signs. I actually had one person from Arizona who moved to the Annapolis Area and found me with an organic google search.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Current: Community Members and locals of Annapolis Area
Target: Parents and children of Middle-Class Caucasian families and latino families. I also want to target the latino population in the Annapolis Area.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
In the Newspaper and from friends.
They want to help out a local business.
They want to get rid of their old bikes.
They have always wanted to get a bike but it was not worth the money.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
Luke is a fair business owner with the goal of getting more people riding bikes. I can think of no better mission statement for a young entrepreneur! Fair negotiation and great service- John K.
20. How are you going to scale?
I do not know. I am not even sure I want to. I would have to give away power and I have not yet found others who see the business model as I do or that have the passion I do for the business.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
Easier Payment Methods. One customer even asked for a bike clinic or classes on how to fix bikes. I think I would need to be full time on this to have a bike clinic, and I am not sure how I would charge it. Or if I would even charge.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
No. I will internationalize on the markets I target within the United States but not over seas. The costs will probably be too high.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
Only local because I need that in person interaction. I could franchise the business. The power structure needs to be very decentralized and flat.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
No, just if you have a bike you want to get rid of give me a call, or if you are in need of a bike. If you are a local event that happens in Annapolis I would love to partner with you for social media content and SEO.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Make sure you love what you do, or stop doing it because you will fail and burn out. It is more important to have a culture and group of people at work that you love more than it is important to have a job that you love.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
I am in business for the benefit you receive, thus I ask that you help spread the word and bring people in need of bikes, people who need bikes repaired and those who need to get rid of bikes to me. I am in the business of improving my customers’ (aka my community’s) health, the environment and the betterment of the community as a whole.