Aldo Baiocchi is the co-founder of Daymak – a Toronto, Ontario-based manufacturer of next-generation electric bicycles.
When and where was your first export sale? How did that first export opportunity arise?
We shipped some of our Shadow Ebikes to the USA in 2011. We created a lot of press around the Shadow, which led to several successful leads.
When and why did you first start thinking about exporting as part of your business?
We always wanted to develop our own products and export them, but it took a while to get there. We started importing originally when we started the company in 2002. It took years to develop our own products, because they are very complex and involve integration of many components, several engineering disciplines and software development.
How has the trading world changed since you started in business?
The Internet has brought markets much closer (to us). We’ve found trade shows do not work as they used to.
Tell us about your lessons with exports.
We weren’t completely prepared and some of our early shipments didn’t have the required documents. Europe uses 220-volt chargers and we only had 110, and the types of plugins were different in different European countries, so we learned the hard way that all the details matter a great deal. If you don’t meet the rules, it becomes very expensive, in terms of shipping to fix mistakes. It was an ongoing process to learn the ropes and it’s still ongoing.
When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Things always take longer and are more expensive then you think.
EDC resources to help you export
What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about export and trade?
You need to raise the game. Your products must have unique features. Differentiation is critical. If your products are the same as other products out there, there’s no point. The Beast was really unique. Yes, it was a niche product, but there was nothing out there like it and it’s a leader in the niche of rugged ebikes. There is still nothing like it.
What’s the biggest difference between selling in Canada and selling in another country? How did you adapt to that difference?
Electric bikes in Canada are more scooter types, with a reliance on the power provided. In European countries, people are more about exercise, with power only being used when necessary. It’s a completely different mentality towards bicycling and scooters are not as popular. So what sells in Canada and Ontario in particular, customers would not like in Europe, with Quebec being a little more European in outlook.
Also, with Canadian winters, we feel that in this business, if you can make it in Canada with that limited timeframe for sales, you should be able to make it anywhere and that’s been true.
How has exporting changed the way you market/sell your products/services in Canada?
It hasn’t yet. The markets are pretty much completely different and it’s not changing at this point, but it might. Younger people seem to want more exercise.
What have you learned from exporting that has benefitted your sales/operations in Canada?
People in Europe ask for a lot more quality and they also ask for a lot of different details. They provide different points of view that we’ve applied back here to make changes to the products and improve them.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in going global?
Every market is different. The more you travel, the more you learn. It’s good to speak several languages. Providing quality with additional market support is the key.