A Rocky Road Forces MTB Direct to Backpedal and Pave a New Path to Success in the Mountain Biking Industry

July 10, 2019

By Kendall Fisher(opens in new tab), executive producer at Grow Wire

Michael Geale is the epitome of an entrepreneur, turning his passion into a business to benefit people who share that same obsession.

And his obsession happens to be mountain biking.

After spending the better part of his younger years exploring the forests of Australia on his mountain bike, Michael teamed up with his riding partner and best mate, Tim McCullough, to open a bike shop in Brisbane dedicated to their hobby. 

The in-person interactions with so many people equally invested in their love of mountain biking was unbeatable, and that customer-centric focus became core to their business model. However, despite providing unparalleled customer service, Michael and Tim just couldn’t seem to compete with the cheaper prices offered by online competitors.

And such was the impetus for MTB Direct(opens in new tab)

With help from his wife, Jen Geale, Michael decided to open an online store in 2012 while Tim ran the brick-and-mortar shop. He dedicated all of his time to the new project, selling as much product as possible to as many customers as possible for as cheap as possible—an expensive route to take, but one they hoped could compete in the industry.

It didn’t.

Within a year, Michael and Jen realized the online shop wasn’t catching its stride, and unable to turn a consistent profit, they agreed that their original plan wasn’t sustainable. So, they made a drastic decision: Cut back on everything, go barebones and set the ultimatum that if the online business didn’t start turning a profit in one year, they’d shut it down and move on.

Michael and Jen went to work right away, diving deep into MTB Direct’s finances and cutting back on everything the company didn’t need: extra bits of software, paid advertising, overhead expenses and so on. While this eventually helped MTB Direct break even, the company still needed a strategy to stand out from competitors and earn revenue while remaining authentic to the brand.

This was precisely when that idea around the consumer experience came barreling back down the mountain, giving Michael and Jen the momentum they needed to implement a new strategy focused entirely on their customers and an all-encompassing love of mountain biking amid that community, their employees and themselves. 

Watch this three-part series to find out how MTB Direct pedaled through its rocky journey to become Australia’s No. 1 source for mountain biking parts and pieces.

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