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Parts for Scooters: Fast-Growing Start-Up is a Big Player in a Small Market

For dealers who have any involvement in the scooter market, Parts for Scooters is a well-known name.

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For dealers who have any involvement in the scooter market, Parts for Scooters is a well-known name.

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]onsidering its widespread offerings in this niche segment, the company had an unusual beginning, actually dealing with imported toy kick scooters instead of the full-size street scooter, ATV, mini bike, pocket bike, and mini chopper markets it serves today.

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In 2002, John Celestian began importing toy kick scooters, storing them in his St. Petersburg, Fla., garage and selling them on a “rudimentary website,” according to Parts for Scooters president Matt Maney.

“He sold very few of the toy scooters in whole; he ended up just selling them for parts because he found that’s where all the demand was,” Maney says.

Because Celestian was bringing in these parts from China, he was immediately bombarded with requests from people for motorized scooter parts – an opportunity on which he decided to capitalize.

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Filling a Need

With that shift in business, Celestian’s budding company saw rapid growth, requiring a move to an office and small warehouse facility in St. Petersburg, in addition to hiring his first employees.

“The growth has been substantial, considering it’s a very small portion of the industry,” Maney says. “We really capitalized on a dearth in the market that basically allowed us to become a company.”

The St. Petersburg warehouse, which was roughly 7,000 sq.ft., was used until Parts for Scooters was “basically bursting at the seams,” according to Maney. In 2010, the company moved to its current Largo, Fla., headquarters, opening a 17,000-sq.ft. warehouse – which was expanded by an additional 10,000 sq. ft. last year.

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“2010 was the first time we were able to do some professional warehousing things like bin locating and making sure all our parts were properly labeled,” Maney explains.

More importantly, that move brought about a second major shift in how Parts for Scooters goes to market – changing from a retail company to a wholesale distributor.

DP_IMG_0758“We started bringing in domestically and nationally recognized brands that support the powersports industry, but weren’t getting a lot of traction in the scooter market, as major distributors tend to ignore that market,” Maney says. “That kind of leaves the door open for us to ride underneath them and offer a parts selection that just isn’t available anywhere else.”

Small Rides, Big Business

While the vast majority of Parts for Scooters’ wholesale network lies in its 3,000 U.S. customers, the company does business globally.

“We’re seeing modern Chinese scooters and particularly Taiwanese scooters growing very quickly in popularity in European countries,” Maney notes. “There’s also a lot of demand in South America for affordable Chinese scooters right now – the need for inexpensive transportation is very strong.”

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In the U.S., the vast majority of its customers are small shops that are solely scooter-focused.

“A lot of the larger shops just don’t want to have anything to do with scooter guys, so they’ll send people away. It’s created this small, niche market,” Maney says. “I imagine a lot of these small guys might not make it if the big guys wanted the scooter business – but they don’t seem to. And those small shops immediately find us and start ordering lots of parts because there’s a demand, particularly on the service side.

DP_NASRA-Spring-Nationals-2014With more than 45 brands serving modern twist and gos – Chinese, Taiwanese, European and Japanese automatic scooters – what sets Parts for Scooters apart from the competition is its precision and quality, according to Maney.

“We hold ourselves to a higher standard,” he says. “We really focus on the execution of getting the parts out quickly and correctly to customers. We make sure we have high levels of stock and high execution on the parts that leave and their packaging.

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“We also make sure we have a high volume of information available on each of our parts,” Maney adds. “We’re the only one in our market that has good representation with brands, particularly powersports brands.”

To ensure quality parts and aid in sourcing and communication, Parts for Scooters has a sister company in Jinan, China, where Celestian resides full-time.

“This is another thing that really sets us apart from other importers,” Maney notes.

Overcoming Obstacles

Over the years, the majority of challenges Parts for Scooters has overcome revolved around running out of space – which Maney admits is a good problem for a growing business to have – and dealing with the intricacies of U.S. and Chinese customs.

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“Sourcing parts that customs or the EPA does not deem appropriate for the U.S. market can be challenging. Sometimes the language barrier, dealing with China and Taiwan and making sure we get the parts that we need as opposed to what they choose to send, can be a challenge,” he explains, adding that the sister company and Celestian’s presence in China address that issue.

“Really, the biggest challenge we’ve had to deal with has been running out of space. We’ve been growing and it’s gotten to the point where we’ve had to expand a couple of times, and we’re there again. We’ve been tight on warehouse space over the last several years.”

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While many companies in the powersports market faced some challenging years in the economic recession, Parts for Scooters’ business actually increased.

“We were on a pretty strong growth trajectory during the recession years and even when the market was contracting severely, we continued to grow,” Maney says. “The lack of disposable income forced a lot of people around the U.S. in particular to take a hard look at scooters and inexpensive transportation, which really benefited us.

“Gas prices went up and people looked at scooters,” he continues. “Our sales became very strong in many of the urban areas of the U.S. as people looked at alternative forms of inexpensive transportation.”

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Parts for Scooters

7300 Bryan Dairy Road

Suite 475

Largo, FL 33777

(727) 347-1661

www.partsforscooters.com

Year founded: 2002

Brands: More than 45 brands serving modern twist and go scooters

Employees: 21

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Marketing and Culture

Just as scooters are “light-hearted,” so, too, are the company’s marketing strategy, event involvement and culture among its 21 employees, according to Maney.

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“We’re fun; the work gets done, but there’s definitely a lot of laughter that comes out of it – and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he says. “We just make sure everyone understands that we all care about the well-being of the company and so long as we all take care of the company, we can continue to enjoy being part of it.”

Employees are treated to holiday events and birthday celebrations, as well as two annual outings. Each member of the team “is allowed to bring the skills they have to the table and freely execute upon those,” Maney says, adding that micromanagement is not effective for what they do.

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The result is a tight-knit group with very little turnover.

The company culture is evident on Parts for Scooters’ Instagram page, which is maintained with the utmost transparency. The page offers a glimpse at the staff’s sense of humor, including the company description, which reads, “Seriously, the most awesome scooter parts company in the world. (There aren’t many of us, so it isn’t all that much of a claim, but we’ll take it.)”

Other social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, are key to the company’s marketing strategy. “We have pretty regular dialogue with our customers on our Facebook page,” Maney notes. “We also send email blasts and promotions every month.”

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Taking part in events – AIMExpo, the AmeriVespa scooter rally, and NASRA drag races, for example – carves out the remainder of the company’s marketing presence.

“It’s scooters – they’re kind of light-hearted, anyway,” Maney says. “If you take yourself too seriously, you might not really enjoy it as much as we do.”

That strategy seems to be working, as Parts for Scooters is the largest parts distributor in the small scooter market in the U.S.

Looking Ahead

In response to the aforementioned space issue, by the end of 2015 the company will open a second distribution point in the U.S., likely in the Midwest.

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“That’s inevitable and important for our growth,” explains Maney. “We can’t add too many more dealers until we’re in their backyard and we can give them just-in-time shipping, which is what they really need.”

The company will continue to add brands, from tires and helmets to brakes, oils and other service products.

“We’re working to offer dealers across the nation the scooter-related parts they’re seeking, particularly in the service department, that they can’t get anywhere else,” Maney says. “One-stop shopping for scooters is the ultimate goal; we want to continue to demystify that market for everyone.”

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