“At Strider, we build bikes that teach kids to ride,” explained founder Ryan McFarland, who built his first balance bike for his two-year old son.
With a passion for motorsports and teaching young kids to ride, McFarland turned his creation into a business in 2007. His pedal-less strider bikes are designed to fit children between 2 and 5 years of age and to teach them the fundamentals of riding on two wheels. McFarland explained that the simple, focused approach of balancing before pedaling lets kids progress at a much faster pace, typically enabling them to ride a two-wheeler 2 years earlier than with tricycles and training wheels.
Strider Sports is headquartered in McFarland’s hometown of Rapid City, South Dakota. With distributors in 25 countries around the world and manufacturing based in Asia, the small business has an extensive international presence. International customers account for over 50 percent of Strider Sports annual sales.
“Without the internet, our business would not exist,” said McFarland. He said that, were it not for the opportunity to reach the rest of the world through websites and social media channels, he would not have considered turning his hobby into an actual business. The internet allows the Rapid City-based company to sell products, share documents, communicate with partners and customers, and receive payment from countries around the globe.
Social media, what McFarland calls “modern word-of-mouth,” and mobile-friendly websites are imperative for the company’s marketing efforts. The company hired dedicated staff in their headquarters in South Dakota to work on outreach and content via online channels including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Flickr.
The company has used other technology-based tools to handle shipping and logistics, including platforms from FedEx and UPS. “These companies have some freight financing programs that can be helpful when moving large amounts of product by ocean carrier,” said McFarland.
Counterfeit products are a big issue for Strider Sports in the global marketplace and have a significant impact on the company’s growth and profitability.
“Even though our manufacturing is handled overseas, we are creating many great jobs in the USA– high paying sales, marketing, and innovation jobs,” noted McFarland, who explained that the profits from their global activities come back to their workforce and community in the United States. Strider sports has 32 full-time employees in South Dakota and 10 overseas supporting their international operations.
McFarland advises entrepreneurs interested in going global to be prepared early on for the additional resources, expense and time that goes along with the journey.
He noted that regular communication and collaboration with teams overseas is crucial and easier these days, and points to tools such as Skype and Google’s suite of services as making it easier and cheaper to stay in touch with global suppliers, customers and partners.
Getting paid upfront for international orders is also important both to determine valuable partners and to decrease risk from currency fluctuations.
“The world is a big place and there is definitely a business to be had in global markets,” said McFarland.