Interview with Karen from Strider Bike UK
This month we caught up with Karen, MD of Strider Bike UK.
We asked her some questions to find out more about the lady behind the best balance bikes!
So Karen, tell us why you’re in business?
I’ve had ten years travelling around the world, leading overland expeditions so I was used to being on my own, managing my own life and workload whilst juggling lots of demands. Overland driving is one of the Top 10 most dangerous jobs you can do, so anything after that was going to be a little mundane. I did have a corporate sales medical role for about 6 years, once i got fed up of living out of a bag, but really I got sick of making money for someone else and trying to juggle life as a mum. Running my own business allows me to use all my skills, learn new ones and have the lifestyle that suits juggling the demands of two active sporty kids.
I first saw the incredible Strider bikes in America, and I bought them for my own kids, who loved them. I then decided to start up as a dealer because I could see how brilliant the products were. I knew families over here would love them. I then was the biggest Strider dealer in the UK in 2014. I literally built it up from scratch with a baby sat on my lap so it was an honour to take exclusive distribution over in September 2014.
What drives you to continue?
Strider UK is a real family business. We work together with my husband and our team, and with talented and like-minded people. I have a brilliant product, fantastic support from the manufacturers, Strider Sports Inc. and complete control which is important to me. Working like this has given us the opportunity to do weird and wonderful things such as out instructor programmes and racing. We love what we do. That’s why I get out of bed every morning. We also have the best balance bike. It ticks all the boxes and is a real joy to sell as the kids and parents find them life changing.
Were you born into an entrepreneurial family?
No, not at all. My father worked for National Grid as an engineer and my mother is from an accountancy background, so they always worked for other people. It was a real shock to them when I set up on my own but they got over it quick. Because of all the travelling I did, they were used to getting a call from Peru once a year to say I’m still alive!
What events do you run?
Our events are all designed to create confidence in children to help them mix socially with others while they’re on their bikes. They learn from watching others and it’s brilliant to watch them all making new friends.
I believe that competition is vital for children so they can learn how to lose, which is an important part of self-development. Unless you put yourself in a competitive place you can’t learn to lose and pick yourself up and dig deep to keep fighting on and win. Strider Racing though is friendly. All get medals and all wear smiles!
I know that these days on school sports day they all get a badge to say they’ve won, but I’m not sure that’s always the right thing to do. With Strider it’s a fun and friendly competition where they have a great day out. We’re not pitting small kids against each other!
Riding bikes with kids isn’t as popular any more, so it’s about getting the love for the outdoors and getting stuck in. Our events are loads of fun.
Does Strider Bike help the community?
Yes we do. We’re committed to getting people of all ages and abilities on two wheels. That means organisations registered within the UK can now apply for grants whereby they can receive free Strider Balance bikes, in awards of £150 increments for bikes of any size for any age to assist getting more people to benefit.
One percent of Strider Sports’ gross revenue from all sales worldwide each month goes toward the Rider Fund, which mainly goes to help the special needs community.
We work with small independent businesses and allow them to give margins on the products because they’re the ones who are passionate about putting kids on bikes. They know what they’re doing and they love the products as much as we do. So we really support small businesses too. Shop local where you can!
How are you different from your competitiors?
Well the main thing is the quality of our bikes. Our involvement with Strider means we only sell unique high quality bikes , made by Strider and not the cheaper imitation copies that anyone can order from China. We offer genuine honest customer service, that allows people to make an informed buying decision..No Propoganda here!
We’re also the largest specialist manufacturer in the industry so we know what we’re doing. Striders themselves have a unique design, and a good history of being a kids’ favourite. In fact, we’re celebrating our ninth birthday as the Strider global brand.
Incredibly, Striders have taught 1.3 million kids to ride. Who else can say that?
We’re also the only specialist brand who offers 16/20 inch balance bikes for kids and young adults. They’re particularly good for children with ASD and other conditions.
Tell me about a happy customer
We have loads but there was a fantastic one recently. Aliya has an upper limb differential so the team at Strider in the US made an adaptation and then sent it across to us in the UK to help her. We wanted to do this at no cost to the family, to allow her to ride. Seeing her happy face when she got on it was just so rewarding!
Do you enjoy social media?
We love it! Strider US has a great Facebook page and we have our UK one too.
We use Twitter too, and we really enjoy spreading the Strider love.
We’re fortunate enough to be in a position that we’re not scared of social media because our customers embrace us and the parents who buy our bikes give consistently good feedback. We’ve never had to pay for a review either. So yes, we use social media a lot because naturally our fans want to rave about us. It’s great! For that reason we don’t lock down our Facebook page and it’s completely open for anyone to leave us comments and feedback. We love interacting with our customers.
What’s your favourite book or film?
Hmm, well I don’t get time to read unless I’m on holiday but I do love to lose myself in a good book. While I’m working though, I just don’t stop. I was putting container orders together at 10.30pm last night. It’s an 18-hour day but we love it so it doesn’t feel like work. The best part of the day is when kids aged 3 or 4 ring me to say they’ve moved on to pedals like big grown up children. I’ve been on Skype to them before and it’s adorable.
I don’t have time to have any hobbies, but I do like to get out in the garden. I’m a mum with two small children and a company to run, so I’m sure you can understand why I don’t have a great deal of free time!
If you could have dinner with a celebrity who would it be, and why?
I’d love to have a meal with Karren Brady. She came from Solihull, the same place as me. I’d love to meet her now and talk about being a woman in a male orientated industry. I like the fact that she doesn’t seem to comment about other people and she does her job well even though she’s in a tough position. Respect to her.
If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
I’d probably be a chimpanzee, you know. They’re smart, clever, and they like to do things their own way!
What’s the future of your business?
We will be the biggest brand of balance bikes in the UK. We are already market leader in the USA and various Asian countries. With the inovative team at Strider Sports Inc. behind us we can't fail!
We’ve got an exciting new product coming in the summer. Strider are bringing out a rocker in August. You can put your strider on a Strider rocker and it’s like a rocking horse! We’re going to be pushing it into toy stores because kids can ride striders younger than ever before. It’s a great idea as it allows parents to use their Strider from 1-5 years plus.
We’re going to keep it as a family run business. I don’t want it to ever become so corporate we don’t recognize it. Board meetings will always need to be outside wearing wellies with a cuppa, watching happy kids on their Strider bikes.