Grand Junction, Colorado
Wachs was looking for a new bicycle rack when he stumbled on a modular system that ultimately led to him entering the bike rack business.
Wachs' search led him to the rack's designer, Cal Phillips, who at 68 years old was no longer interested in running a business. He was looking for someone who was interested in licensing the Quik Rack Mach2 -- the second version of his extremely successful 1Up rack originally developed in 2000.
"After 20 years of the prior iteration, he listened to the feedback and made improvements," Wachs says. "A lot of people buying this rack have his old rack."
Wachs and Phillips searched for manufacturers that could make the racks and ended up finding two that they liked. They chose Intrawest Machine and Fabrication, which resulted in Wachs forming a partnership with the Grand Junction-based company's owner, J.T. Westcott.
Rebranded as the QuikrStuff Mach 2, the rack has a modular design with add-ons that enable it to carry up to four bikes. The rack can be installed on a hitch receiver quickly without the use of any tools. The Mach 2 can carry mountain bikes, road bikes and fat-tire bikes as well as heavier electric bikes. There is a ramp accessory that enables heavy electric bikes to be wheeled up onto the rack. All materials are made in the United States.
The first 100 bike racks sold so quickly that Wachs decided to take the facility into full production mode, an effort that was boosted by the purchase of two automated computer numeric control machines that were acquired with the help of a $150,000 grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. QuikrStuff is building a batch of 2,000 racks, and it already has 400 orders.
"With these automated machines, it will help us tremendously with speed and labor costs," Wachs says.
Challenges: The coronavirus pandemic has caused delays in QuikrStuff's supply chain. The company also has had employees who've called in sick, resulting in sending everyone in the workplace into quarantine.
Another hurdle Wachs has had to overcome is that not many suppliers are interested in a U.S.-based manufacturing company during such uncertain times. Aluminum companies, for example, have put QuikrStuff at the bottom of their lists as they try to take care of larger and more consistent customers.
"There's too much craziness going on," Wachs says. "They're asking themselves, 'How do you know how long this is going to go? How much risk am I willing to digest in an environment of not knowing anything. That part has been super challenging."
Opportunities: The already large outdoor recreation industry continues to grow. The industry was increasing 14 percent a year before COVID, but since the onset of the pandemic those numbers have doubled.
Wachs says he believes that because QuikrStuff racks' materials are sourced in the United States and are made in Grand Junction, the company avoids paying the tariffs imposed on companies that manufacture their products overseas. "Demand is huge and supply is low," Wachs says. "Companies manufacturing in Asia are having trouble getting stuff here."
Needs: Wachs says he's always looking for mentors and advisers to help him guide the business. He's also trying to raise another $300,000 for the company, which so far has generated more than $900,000 from investors.
"Who knows when we're going to come out of COVID," Wachs says. "Luckily, demand is huge. Every day we pre-sell two or three racks with no marketing."