QuietKat has ‘zero plans’ to leave Eagle after being acquired by larger outdoor company
Founders of e-bike company call move the ‘perfect scenario’ for growing the brand
The QuietKat electric bicycle firm started in Eagle as a family business. The firm is now part of a much bigger family.
QuietKat in May was acquired by Vista Outdoors, a large family of outdoor brands ranging from CamelBak to Bushnell optics to Federal ammunition and Giro cycling gear.
Brothers Jake and Justin Roach moved to Eagle in 2004, and incorporated QuietKat bikes in 2012. That was “really early” in the development of e-bikes, Jake Roach said. The company’s first product was a three-wheel bike that has since been phased out.
The company introduced two-wheeled bikes in 2015. The bikes are manufactured elsewhere, but the warehouse and sales and administrative offices remained in Eagle.
The Roach brothers had met and spoken with Vista CEO Chris Metz some time ago. In the fourth quarter of 2020, the brothers received an email asking if QuietKat would be interested in pursuing talks about Vista acquiring QuietKat.
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The move made sense to the brothers, and the deal was done.
“It’s a perfect scenario,” Jake Roach said. For one thing, being part of Vista allows QuietKat the flexibility to take on product development.
“The lead time for a (new) bike is just over a year, and cash flow even a month out is very difficult,” Roach said.
In addition, Vista has joint information technology, human resources and purchasing facilities that make it possible to provide up-to-date websites and good benefits for employees.
Roach said recruitment and benefits are important, since QuietKat has “zero” plans to move. Being in Eagle fits the brand because outdoor culture is so ingrained in the area.
More, not easier
QuietKat “isn’t about making biking easier,” Roach said. “We’re all about the utility aspect of increasing your experience in the outdoors.” For instance, someone camping at Sylvan Lake State Park can explore trails with a bike. Using an e-bike can also take people away from increasingly crowded areas.
“People can use more of their public lands,” Roach said. “That first mile (from a trailhead) is super crowded.”
QuietKat is primarily a wholesale company, providing machines to brands including Camping World, Jeep, Bass Pro Shop and other firms. Just less than 30% of the company’s sales are direct to consumers. And those sales are growing.
Roach said with current trends, it may not be long before e-bikes outsell conventional bikes. In addition, there’s pending federal legislation that will provide a tax credit to pay for 30% of a bike purchase. That credit can be as much as $1,500.
Fred Ferguson is Vista’s vice president of public affairs and communications. Ferguson said QuietKat is a good fit for Vista.
“It doesn’t take long being around Justin and Jake (Roach) to see (their excitement),” Ferguson said. “They’re making a difference, and giving new people the opportunity to engage in the outdoors.”
While QuietKat is now part of a bigger entity, Ferguson said brand managers have a lot of autonomy.
A ‘founder’s mentality’
“One of the core principles we talk about is a ‘founder’s mentality,’” Ferguson said. “We want everybody at Vista to demonstrate the principles of a founder … What we’ve found is that when the corporate entity is too involved, you lose some of that founder’s mentality.”
QuietKat’s location is also important, Ferguson said.
“Colorado is at the forefront of the outdoor recreation community,” Ferguson said, adding that Vista’s companies operate in 15 states, and the parent firm is involved in all of them.
As QuietKat expands, Roach said the company intends to expand both its reach and its workforce. The company currently employs “about 45” people, Roach said, adding that the workforce expects to have about 70 people on the payroll, and expects close to 100 people on the staff within a couple of years.
At the moment, the company has roughly 23,000 square feet of warehouse space in Eagle, out on Chambers Avenue. The company has more than 5,000 square feet of office space on Broadway.
As the company grows, Roach acknowledged that the firm will “probably” outgrow the logistics of what’s available in Eagle. That’s another area in which Vista can help.
But, Roach added, he sees continued activity in Eagle.
“If anyone is looking, there’s opportunity lurking here,” he said.