Let us introduce you to James Coombes; a 27-year-old Sydney boy who’s always aspired to run his own business. Having earned a Commerce-Commercial Law degree from Macquarie University and after gaining plenty of experience in the finance industry, he finally felt ready to go it alone - navigating strict government legislation to get the go-ahead on his road-worthy electric scooter business, Eat My Dust Scooters.
From almost zero marketing and only himself running the show, he’s now grown his company to a forecast of $18,000 revenue per month and his website traffic is on an upward projection. The next step is to help tackle Sydney’s traffic issue by offering a sustainable solution - and we want to find out exactly how he’s going to do it.
Who are you and what brand did you start?
My name is James Coombes, founder of Eat My Dust Scooters. I’m a 27 year old Sydney boy who has aspired to run my own business since I can remember. The moment I finished my high school exams I started my first online business, which was a marketplace like eBay but specifically for video games. It also allowed people to swap their games. At one point, we had over 20,000 games listed online!
From there, I decided I would follow the more traditional path. I went and got a Commerce–Commercial Law degree from Macquarie University and a job in finance for approximately 4 years. But my passion for my own business was burning white hot. I left finance and ran NSW, VIC, SA for Australia’s largest cycling retailer. This was as close to my own business without risking my own money I could get. I learned at a rapid rate for the 2 years I held that role until the time came to do it all myself. Other than business, I am very active. A fit body equals a fit mind and I love to play the occasional video game to socialize with friends.
Eat My Dust Scooters imports and retails electric motorbikes online. We are the only company anywhere near our price point and we achieve this by using no middlemen or third party services. I literally fly to China and visit the factories myself, hand-pick the products, share the specifications for the Australian market, import them, certify, then retail them.
We’re based in Sydney currently, and will be Australia-wide by the end of 2020. We target anybody with a short (<5km) commute, students, food delivery drivers and anybody who is environmentally conscious. In June 2019, our first unit hit the road after a long certification process involving many aspects of government. We were told countless times that the laws didn’t cater to this kind of vehicle so it couldn’t be done, but we found a way through persistence and now have road-worthy scooters on Australian roads.
How did you come up with the idea, brand name and logo for Eat My Dust Scooters?
My story of conception probably isn’t as inspiring as many. I was offered a scholarship during my university degree to visit roughly 10 Chinese businesses in China, ranging from global superpowers (Lenovo), to architects, to a small electric motorbike manufacturer (yep!). What was consistent across the visits was the Chinese efficiency - it was infectious and something I had to be a part of.
The electric motorbikes grabbed my attention due to the simplicity of the idea. They can move people sustainably without the price tag of a Tesla, whilst also reducing the load on Sydney roads. It was a no brainer; during the visit I asked the owner of the factory if he’d send me a sample unit right there. Three months later I had an electric motorbike in Australia – undoubtedly one of the first to ever meet our shores because the import approval didn’t even list ‘Electric Motorbike’ as a category!
The brand name (Eat My Dust Scooters) came from a ‘lightbulb’ moment driving home from my finance job one night. I still remember the moment. I was driving my manual Suzuki Swift in peak hour traffic up the Anzac Bridge in Sydney. It took me 40+ minutes to go just 5km. I realized it was time to give this a go properly, and knew if I was going to I’d need a name that appealed to our target market.
We’re a young, fun brand who is reinventing automotive retail so we needed something that would reflect that. I used that commute home racking my brain for colloquial sayings that would resonate but were also relevant to our product. Eat My Dust Scooters was born in that moment. Our logo is simple and represents our product in vibrant colors. No specific meaning - just one that is easily identifiable.
Describe the process of launching Eat My Dust Scooters?
Our brand is still finding its feet and I touched on how I sourced the products above. For future products, we have two different factories working on prototypes right now. It’s very important to stay at the forefront of this new market as our brand is going to be the leader in new products at a very affordable price. The only way to achieve that is to build relationships with our manufacturers and build exclusivity around their upcoming products.
We faced many, many hurdles when launching. Certifying the bikes was probably the largest - it was very costly time-wise and financially. Financiers didn’t want to touch us at this point as our business was simply an idea with nothing tangible. Promoting the business through circles of family and friends has been very helpful, however given the specialized nature of the business, I have had to run the first part of our journey alone. Some very promising early signs are:
a) After relaunching our website, we are averaging 3 page visits per customer. In the first 30 days we had over 700 page views from zero marketing.
b) We have had several pre-orders before a product was even available to test, which demonstrates trust in me and the business. It’s hard to select only a few memorable moments, but landing the first scooters after seeing them at the trade fair in China was special. Riding them on the road (legally) was a milestone also. Calling our supplier to chat about a volume discount because we have secured a deal with a food delivery company will be something I will remember forever.
Since launch, what has worked best to attract and retain customers?
Finding an amazing product at an amazing price. Our customers genuinely can’t believe it when they learn what they get for $3,000. We normally get questions about what else it will cost, like “Is that all?” etc., which is very encouraging. Our nearest competitor is just under double what we charge, making our offering unique.
We also compare the cost of ownership to other options - the most successful example of this is public transport. The average commute using public transport here in Sydney is more expensive over a year than owning one of our motorbikes, making the value proposition very strong for inner city dwellers.
How is the business doing today and what does the future look like?
Our business is still extremely young. We have several pre-sales and the future is bright. The key is becoming a mainstream alternative to public transport and car ownership. Our plan is to help solve Sydney’s traffic issue - sustainably.
We will have several models available over the years but only one available for purchase at a time, which is to ensure our bargaining power remains strong. It also creates a buzz around the product that is currently for sale; we want people to feel like they could miss out if they don’t act soon. We hope to sell our first 50 units by the end of 2019, with at least double that in 2020.
What’s been the biggest learning experience since starting your own brand?
Nothing ever goes to plan. That can be good and bad; sometimes your plan was horrible and a deviation from it can save you. Sometimes not. We had our certification process all mapped out. We were told our units would never meet Australia Design Regulations without significant changes.
Yet, we knew there were no safety implication of the rules that were in question. It took persistence and creativity to help the government see our point of view. I expected them to immediately but now understand there is a process that must be followed to ensure high quality imports are sold in Australia.
What marketing tools do you use to run Eat My Dust Scooters?
Xero accounting software is excellent. WordPress is a very powerful web design tool and easy to transition to a design agency once you reach that point. G Suite is excellent for storing any important docs so you can access them anywhere.
*Find full list of tools/platforms at the bottom of the page.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts or other educational resources?
Tony Robbins helped me make the first step. I watched him live and I learned that I was my own harshest critic. I never took the time to celebrate progress, but I now see how important that is. My main resource has been my network from years in the finance and accounting industry, reaching out to them and reigniting relationships that were dormant. We are surrounded by experts - don’t make the same mistakes that they have, instead learn through others.
Who have been the most influential people for you during this business journey?
My dad started his own company and risked the welfare of his family to chase his dream. He had the belief to carry himself through that. That is very inspiring still.
Any advice you’d like to share for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
The world isn’t your cheer squad. Don’t expect people to love your idea nearly as much as you do. Be passionate, never stop thinking about it but never be offended if people don’t share that with you. It’s your job to convince them through action, not words.'The world isn’t your cheer squad. Don’t expect people to love your idea nearly as much as you do.'Click To Tweet
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now or open to new investors?
Always open to new investors willing to take a hands on role. I don’t want money, I want partners. As for staff, we will be recruiting as the business grows over the next 12 months.