New York, NY-Dec. 28, 2012
As told by Gustavo Henry Francisco
Edited by Jen Benepe
Every bike brand has its beginnings and history. Some companies started in garages or basements and with little or no resources. The story of Montecci Bikes is not much different.
But these days starting a new bike brand is a bit more challenging because of all the different brands out there that push small companies out of the important dealers, magazines and major events. If you’re in the bicycle business, you probably know what I am talking about.
It was 1984 when my mom gave my sister and I a bike we could share. At that time Dominican Republic was a bike paradise, few cars, nice weather and a large number of BMX riders.
By the way, my name is Gustavo Henry Francisco, and I am a Dominican-born entrepreneur that has done every job in New York city before embarking on his project, as manufacturer of Montecci Bikes.
Most people call me Henry–I didn’t learn my real name is Gustavo until I was 13, which is very irritating. So just call me Henry.
As a kid I used to make bikes for all my friends and we used to go explore the Colonial City, the beaches and town on little 20 cm bikes.
Those days were the happiest (and hippest) days of my life.
My mother Maria Francisco, used to worry about where I was. And it was because of the bike I missed all of my sister’s birthdays, my aunts’ weddings and the school tours to the Zoo.
Most of the pictures of my childhood are of me on a bike. I fell in love with the bike for the freedom and the suffering that makes you stronger.
Becoming a cyclist was very expensive, the physical effort was hard, and my face was sunburned all the time.
So, in 1992 I left the bike, I felt old, big and too busy with my work. I was 17 years old.
Depression, lack of interest, not being able to find a job, 190 pounds on my frame and no cash to pay the rent had intervened.
But in 2008 I started to think about getting on the bike again. But if I could barely pay the rent, could I afford a bike?
Besides, it was so cold here compared to the Dominican Republic. “Who the hell bikes in the cold?,” my friends joked. But instead of just riding, this time I wanted to make my own bike frames.
My friend Ana Garcia lent me $1,500 dollars, and a co-worker named Nelson lent me another $1,000 to start the business, but that wasn’t enough to make the frames, paint them and ship them to New York.
Some people said to me, “Who the hell will buy your frames? “What if it breaks? Can you paint them,” people asked.
A lot of the comments made me think it wasn’t worth it. I used some of that money to cover my bills, the dream of making a bike brand was over and I hit Monster.com and Craigslist in search of a job.
One day Jorge Cordero who was visiting Innovation Bike Shop at 106th Street on the West Side, heard my story. Two of the owners of the shop, Leo and Melito told me that the frames could sell, but it wouldn’t be easy.
Jorge asked me the price of my frame, which was still in my head.
But there was no frame, no money and no energy to do that, I said.
From that moment on, every time Jorge saw me, he reminded me that he wanted a frame.
He was willing to give me the money up front, but I refused because I still wasn’t sure about it.
But I started planning anyway. I wanted to convince the factory to allow me to make only six frames to test, no paint, just three stickers on the top tube, seat tubes and ship it under a friends Fedex account that I could pay for later.
In March 2009 we got our first shipment and we sold our first two frames, —all without a tax ID, a trademark, or a business certificate.
I found a job in order to cover my expenses and start the process of establishing the Montecci company.
Once that was done, I started to have the frames painted: in 2010 that was a huge feature for us. Next we started to develop Montecci folding bikes.
A lot of people have contributed to the development of the brand: they gave us ideas and helped us to correct the brand features to become competitive with big companies.
In just three years, the Montecci folding bike is one of the top-selling bicycles in New York City, and we’ve grown from one to over 30 accounts in the tri-state area.
Montecci’s folding bike is the number one selling bike in the line with 300 bikes this year in only 30 stores.
Recently, Montecci started selling products in Canada, Mexico, Guadeloupe and San Marteen.
In the elite races in Central and Prospect parks the Montecci bicycles are competing with big market brands, and in some cases winning races but at least getting a lot of compliments.
It is a lot of work and effort though. In the past three and a half years, I have lost relationships and friends. I don’t shop for clothing and I had to get roommates to cover my rent.
But with the help of our dealers, and the cycling community, we are making a bike brand.
And that is irreplaceable.
Editor’s note: Montecci bicycles sell at a number of stores in the Tristate region, including Piermont Bicycle Connection, Innovation Bike Shop, Echelon Bicycles, Tread Bike Shop, Champion Bicycles, Al’s Cycle Solution, Tony’s Bicycles, Roy’s Sheepshead Cycle shop, Liberty Bicycles, and James Vincent Bicycles. You can reach Francisco by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit them on Facebook.