Going Strong After 80 Years of Business
Jamis Bikes’ Ride from Distributor to Bike Designer and Manufacturer
A full line of high-quality bicycles to fit the needs of every rider
2017 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Bronze Prize Winner
Northvale, New Jersey
G. Joannou Cycle Co. opened its doors in 1937, just three years after Founder George Joannou immigrated to the United States from Greece. His passion was cycling, and he wanted to help everyone, of every age and skill level, experience the pure thrill of riding a bike.
He was one of the first people to import lightweight bicycles from the UK to the United States and, after World War II, began importing bike parts and accessories from Japan. People definitely started to take notice, among them was Joannou’s daughter, Carine.
Yes, she always knew she wanted to take over the family business. But, even she didn’t anticipate that moment would come so soon. At 21, her dad got sick and she took over the family business.
Despite her young age, Carine showed a keen sense for business. She purchased high-end bicycle manufacturer Jamis and just like that, G. Joannou went from being a distributor to a bicycle designer and manufacturer, with a proprietary line of products.
“Changing our model meant so much more work. Now, we had to think about things like product development, compliance, safety testing, marketing — none of which we had to do as a distributor,” Carine said. “Just the number of prototypes you have to come out with and the costs of the molds are insane.”
But, true to form, Carine figured it out and made it work — building an even stronger company because of the change.
Today, they’ve evolved to Jamis Bikes and ship their mountain, street, recreational and youth bikes to bike shops in more than 42 countries worldwide. Every one of its 140 bike models is designed in-house. Of course, getting those bicycles where they need to go on time is critical, which is why G. Joannou ships the bulk of their product through FedEx.
“We originally used another carrier but Denise, our operations manager, wanted to give FedEx a try,” Carine said. Because most bike orders take about four months to manufacture, G. Joannou can’t afford to have shipments arrive damaged.
“I don’t know what FedEx does to make this happen, but the boxes arrive in way better condition than they did when we used the other provider,” Carine said.
It was also Denise, the operations manager, who suggested the bicycle company enter the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest.
Jamis Bikes will use the grant money to “get kids off of the computer and out biking,” through a donation to the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). This nonprofit organization develops mountain biking programs for student athletes throughout the United States. The goal is to build “strong body, strong mind and strong character” through cycling.
Looking ahead, Carine will continue the company’s ongoing growth strategy. She also wants to find a way to better communicate the company’s value proposition.
“I want to try to get people to really understand that quality is important. I know that it’s hard to earn a dollar and keep a dollar. But, if you’re going to spend a dollar, make sure it’s on a product that is going to last and keep you safe, one that you’ll enjoy for a long time,” Carine said.
Running a small business is a process, with lessons learned along the way. Those lessons can come in the form of corrected mistakes or good decisions that ended up being great decisions or unexpected victories.
Here are Carine Joannou’s top three:
- HIRING: Hire People Who Are Smarter than You Are
“If you’re running a business, you have to know your strengths and weaknesses and fill in with people who are smarter than you are — and realize that it’s okay not to know everything.”
- COMPANY EVOLUTION: Evolve to Stay Relevant, but Stay True to Your Core Values
“We’ve modernized how we’ve gone about staying relevant but our core values have never wavered.” Jamis Bikes has evolved over the decades, from its business model to operations to the technology it employs. According to Carine, a good part of the company’s success is due to what hasn’t changed.
- PASSION: Do What You Love
Running a small business has highs and lows, but according to Carine Joannou, the lows are a lot easier to take if you’re following your passion.