We’ve maintained on this site, again and again, that for most of us entrepreneurship is the surest path to wealth-building. It’s also the surest path to illiquidity and receivership, if you don’t know what you’re doing. And you probably don’t. Especially if you start a business for no better reason than you want to sell products that are, in your estimation, “cute.” Speaking of which, if you think “cute” is the overused adjective of choice among dippier females, wait ’til you get a load of this month’s (F)RotM and her overuse of it.
Meet Amie Pellegrini, a would-be transportation tycoon and founder of The Town Bike, somehow still in operation as of this writing. The only thing standing in the way of the realization of Ms. Pellegrini’s dream is a gaping hole where her business sense ought to be. We’ll start with the foreboding opening sentence in a Las Vegas Review-Journal story of 2 months ago:
Imagine Paris Hilton opening a downtown Las Vegas bicycle store.
Yes, except Paris Hilton has unlimited funds to indulge her fantasies. Ms. Pellegrini is operating a little more modestly:
Pellegrini debuted the shop this month, pouring $40,000 into [it]…
Laid off from her operating room medical device sales rep job, Pellegrini sold her Lexus for $10,000
Ms. Pellegrini can now go without the car because she works in downtown Las Vegas, where parking is relatively scarce. We’d say she can take one of her bikes to work, but her commute is too short even for that:
She lives above her store.
Owning a bike shop is the culmination of a lifelong fascination with and love for cycling, right? Not exactly:
“I don’t even know what bike shops are supposed to be like,” Pellegrini said. “There was a shop in New York I loved. I loved the way the bikes were put on display. It almost was like a runway for models. It was a cute store.”
Last Saturday morning, Pellegrini greeted a visitor while she was wearing a long pink dress and smoking a cigarette — not the conventional bike shop garb
Read the original article and you can hear its author, a competitive cyclist himself, holding back the laughter between keystrokes.
We saved the entrepreneurship chapter for last in The Greatest Personal Finance Book Ever Written. We explained how to set up a limited liability company, how to minimize taxes, etc. We didn’t explain what reasons you should have for starting your own business, mostly because they seemed too evident to mention. Fill a need. Look for an underserved market and serve it. As a business owner, you trade having one boss for having multiple mini-bosses, better known as customers. Make their lives easier, and you’ll succeed. Or to quote the Kinks, Give The People What They Want.
Ms. Pellegrini reverses the traditional wisdom here. You’re not going to believe this, but the hot blonde single chick thinks that her business should exist for the benefit of said hot blonde single chick:
“Mr. Zuckerberg, why did you create Facebook?” “I wanted to do something just for me.” Carry on, then. It does not strain the limits of credulity to think that people have been doing things just for Ms. Pellegrini for most of her life, including the poor unnamed loser in this paragraph:
[Pellegrini] admits she doesn’t know much technically about bicycles. She bought three old bicycles, including a Schwinn Le Tour road bike and a beach cruiser.
“I took apart the bikes, but couldn’t put them together,” Pellegrini said. “I wanted to find out how they worked. I called a friend who helped me put the bikes back together.”
No mention on whether the friend is male or female, but we can take an educated guess. And if you think that’s unnecessarily sexist, might we remind you that
[T]here are bicycles on the floor, but they were picked because they look pretty. And besides the two-wheelers, frilly sundresses hang from a rack greeting patrons, and cute dog toys and bow ties sit in one corner.
We now introduce the story’s villain. He’s the regional sales representative for Linus Bikes, a California outfit that sells 3-speed touring cycles. He also knows a sucker when he sees one:
The fact that Pellegrini is an outsider to the bicycle industry is just fine with the Linus sales representative who sold her the bicycles[...]
“She’s been refreshing. She brings a new perspective. She’s not coming from a techie bike background, so she relates to our customers[.]”
“Ma’am, your showroom looks a little bare. But you know what would fill it up just right? 20 of our Roadster Sport bikes. 5 almond, 5 black, 5 olive and 5 marine. They’d really accentuate the sun dresses and dog toys. I can get them for you wholesale. And the retail markups on them are among our highest.”
“But I haven’t had 20 customers come in all month.”
“Just you wait. Once you’ve got these babies in stock, you’ll have to turn people back at the door.”
We’ve never changed the (F)RotM in mid-post, but this time we might have to take the honor away from Ms. Pellegrini and give it to her neighbor, Don:
My neighbor Don who lives on Third Street, for a year I walked by his house and would talk with him about opening a bike store [...] He came over and helped me put together a whole shipment of bikes once. He helped me move everything into the store. He helped paint the store. He spent three months building the store with me and never asked for a dime. He just wanted to help me[.]
Okay, now try beseeching Don’s help again, only this time be fat and/or ugly and see what happens. We only wonder at what point Don asked her out on a date. He must have run out of pretexts at that point, seeing as he already had her contact information and knew where she lived. We don’t know what his line was, but we can guess her response. “Oh, that’s so sweet! I really like you, but not in that way. Now [bats eyelashes] can you help me carry these Thule® racks upstairs? They’re really heavy.”
Just kidding, that would never happen. Bike racks are bike accessories, and Ms. Pellegrini doesn’t have the floor space to devote to such trivialities when there are sundresses and dog toys to display. She doesn’t sell tubes, doesn’t sell tires, and doesn’t have a repair facility on the premises. If you buy a fixed-gear douche ride from her, you’ll have to take it to another store for professional repairs. That other store will have packs, bottles, shoes and helmets available, and will preclude you ever needing to set foot in Ms. Pellegrini’s store again.
We saw this story back in September and figured she’d be out of business in 4 months. A smart gambler would have taken the under, as she was poised to last barely half that long:
On Tuesday, Amie Pellegrini posted on Facebook that she would have to close her unique downtown Las Vegas bicycle shop, Town Bike.
But it seems that some gullible guys on Facebook took pity on her, the kindness of strangers postponing the inevitable until the end of the year. Oh, and one more handy tip for prospective entrepreneurs whose businesses are crumbling before their overly mascaraed eyes: try not to get arrested for domestic violence the very week that your failing business is featured in the local paper.