Q&A: Riding towards a more sustainable future

This week we chat to John Zanol, founder of Dolomiti Electric Bicycles. An Italian-born professional golfer with a passion for all things sport and recreation, John recognised the potential of ebikes, which have become so advanced and ergonomic that they are now a “must have” item for many homes and technology lovers. John describes ebikes as “fast becoming the Tesla of bikes”, and is tapping into the fact that they are ideal for local travel, getting to and from work, recreation on the weekends and general transport – and that not only are they affordable, they are also environmentally friendly.

ISB: How did you get into ebikes and the idea of making a business out of them?

JZ: The idea came when I was spending time in Europe with my father. We began researching existing ebike companies in northern Italy. We saw the potential in ebikes and started manufacturing, supplying them to our first store in Carlton, Melbourne.

ISB: What were the biggest challenges in getting the business off the ground, and how were you able to overcome them?

JZ: The biggest challenge was finding suitable retail location along with learning how to manage the store – we all came from other industries so we had no experience in retail. Our other main challenges were the selection of models and educating the public about what ebikes are, and what they’re all about.

ISB: You bring in bikes from Europe which I imagine is a costly exercise, so how did you fund the business in the early days?

JZ: We used our personal funds to facilitate the importation of the ebikes and the fit-out of our stores.

ISB: ebikes are a relative novelty so did you need generate the interest in your product in the market and, if so, how did you achieve that?

JZ: We attended events all around the country promoting our ebikes. We also ran projects together with government agencies, along with some large international firms, to help get our name and the concept of the ebike out there.

ISB: Where do you see the ebike industry in general, and Dolomiti specifically, developing in the next few years?

JZ: Navigant Research predicts global ebike sales will increase from 2016’s sales figures of $15.7 billion to $24.3 billion in 2025. The industry currently is progressing quite well in Australia, and Dolomiti is developing at a higher rate than the industry in general – since establishing Dolomiti in Australia in 2011, our sales have almost doubled every year. This is due to many factors including our product mix and our expertise, our quality of service, our marketing mix and our fresh approach to bicycle retail.

ISB: And what lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur that you would share with those with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?

JZ: Be prepared to work hard and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Enjoy the challenge and be genuine.

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