In this series, our collaborator Carolyne Brown meets the Local Talents—flagship stores in the heart of Alexis Nihon. These interviews are all about sharing, sincerity and proximity. We invite you to enter their world and discover who they are.
Let’s meet Bijan Bolouri, Co-founder of b.cycle
How did you become an entrepreneur?
I never thought I would become an entrepreneur. My father always worked for big companies and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I got interested in fitness when I was in college and it really changed my life. One day, a friend of mine asked me to run a marathon with him and I said no. When I saw him again, he told me he had run 7 km. I went home and ran 7 km. The next time I saw him, he told me he had run 10 km. I did the same thing. This friendly competition went on all summer, so much so that at one point I was running all the time. I finally ran my first marathon and I was really proud of myself. At first I hated running, but after my marathon, it became much more fun. My goal was to run a second marathon. For me, it was no longer a chore, it had become something enjoyable. This experience made me realize that people hate fitness because they aren’t very good at it. I wanted to create a fun experience that would be accessible to everyone, and that’s how I had the idea for b.cycle.
What makes your brand stand out?
The diversity of our services: we offer performance monitoring to help our clients improve. We also offer a body program to focus on other parts of the body. What sets us apart in the fitness industry is that we focus first on making the experience more fun. We want all our clients to feel good and proud when they attend one of our classes.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face in your career as an entrepreneur?
The COVID-19 pandemic was really tough. Many companies did not survive. At b.cycle, we were very lucky, because we had been very successful just before the pandemic started. Unfortunately, our locations were closed for several months. I had 8 employees and our budget went down to zero. We had no choice but to reinvent ourselves. I took a loan from the bank and bought bikes to rent out to customers at home, and we started offering classes on Instagram. We were the first in Montreal to launch an online platform. We built a great community through this challenging situation.
What is the biggest lesson that business ownership has taught you?
My biggest takeaway is simplicity. If you want to do something really well, do only that thing - it’s very powerful. It’s also important to always remember why you are doing the things you do.
What keeps you passionate about your field?
Seeing people who work 60 hours a week, like lawyers, accountants, dancers, etc., who are still coming to our classes. I love my management team. We work to create a wonderful workplace for all of our employees.
What advice would you give to a future entrepreneur?
When you become an entrepreneur, you feel a little like an imposter. Talk to people and if they say your ideas are horrible, don’t get defensive. When someone gives you advice, take it and remain open-minded. Don’t let your insecurities take over. Be humble and take the time to make your decisions.
What do you hope that people know and remember about your company? The vast majority of people tell us, “Wow, that was so much fun!” They are surprised to discover that the experience wasn’t what they expected. Our customers feel so good when they come here. We offer several complementary services such as spin shoes, adapted bicycles, etc.
What are your most popular products?
Our Alexis Nihon space is very busy as we have been fortunate enough to negotiate a free parking agreement for all of our clients. Convenience is a major reason why people choose this location. Our most popular classes are in the afternoon or after work.
What could we wish for you in the future?
I’m wishing that I won’t have to close my doors anymore. The closing and reopening of our locations was very difficult. If we can stay open, I know we will be fine. We’re working on several great projects, but our primary goal is to build a solid foundation for b.cycle.