MBA students Blux, a designer and Nick who works in green energy came together to create Eole – one of the lightest folding e-bikes in the world. Here, the pair reflect on how a chat about the London commute led to a new business and a product stocked all over Europe. We caught up with them at the Business Start Up Pitching Finals, where they were showcasing their products.
‘I was a part time MBA student, Blux was full time but we had several classes together. I knew he was a bike designer in Japan and we got chatting about the folding bikes he had been designing,’ Nick says.
‘At the time I was looking at buying a normal folding bike for my London commute, however prices and long lead times on them had put me off. I was amazed that Blux’s prototype bike was lighter than the regular folding bike that I was considering. Given the comparable price, I knew there was an opportunity for this bike in the UK.’
From that moment the pair set on developing the bike for the UK and EU markets. The bike is named ‘Eole’ after the Greek god of wind and their Canterbury based company is call Unitrax Ltd.
Blux says: ‘The Eole is an e-bike that is carbon fibre weighing just 14.5kg, the standard e-bike can be as much as 25kg. It’s a simple design, folding and super light.
‘I had worked designing for a particular Chinese manufacturer for over six years, so I went to them with the idea of offering it to the British market as a bike perfect for commuters in big cities, like London.’
The duo launched Eole at Eurobike, the biggest bike show in the world, in Frankfurt last summer, where they sold to a great number of distributors in Europe. In the UK they have also placed their product directly into many retail chains including the high street department store Fenwick’s.
Their success, Nick says, is a credit to studying an MBA while working on the business.
‘We developed a real sense of strategy on the MBA. The cohort is very international which gives you access to a global pool of ideas and opportunities. It’s not easy launching a new brand but the MBA has given us an edge. We’ve had to be innovative and resilient given the current market conditions.
The team are now considering moving production of the bikes to the UK, to improve their carbon footprint further and open up job opportunities.
‘There are several government grants that we could take advantage of to help in this area. Brompton are also based in Kent, so we hope Kent can become the home for folding bikes.’
The future looks bright for Unitrax, who are also developing smart security applications for future models, and Unitrax are also expanding their range with a longtail e-bike popular for parents with young children or those carrying luggage.
Blux says: ‘People often don’t realise that our bikes are folding or that they are electric. As a designer, I take this as a compliment, as functional can also be beautiful. We would like to thank the staff and students at Kent Business School for all their support, it has been a vital part of our start-up success.’