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Finding a Community Need and Creating the Solution A great business idea solves a hole in the marketplace, creating something that solves a problem that no one had previously been able to solve. That is what Shelly Walker, owner of Fairmount Bicycles in Philly did - and it paid off.

By Emily Washcovick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Fairmount Bicycles
Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

A great business idea solves a hole in the marketplace, creating something that solves a problem that no one had previously been able to solve. This doesn't always mean coming up with a new idea. Sometimes it just means identifying where an existing business could meet a need and starting there. For Shelly Walker, owner of Fairmount Bicycles in Philadelphia, she hadn't always dreamed of opening a business—she just uncovered a need and made it happen. Everyone's origin story is different and Shelly's teaches us that it doesn't take a lifelong dream, but it always takes determination, dedication, and community to find success.

"Where do you fix your bike?" It was that simple question that Shelly asked the people she met in the cute neighborhood of Fairmount that led to her eventual business. A friend of hers fixed up old bikes and would sell them on Craigslist for beer and rent money. From her boots-on-the-ground research, she knew that Fairmount was in need of a bike shop, and she had a plan. She hired her bike-fixing friend Chris George and got to work. Business inspiration can come from your daily life—it doesn't necessarily have to be something you've been manifesting since childhood. Look for inspiration all around you, and use simple tools, like simply asking people if there is a business need.

Once opening the shop, it was important to Shelly that Fairmount Bicycles was more than just a place of business. She wanted it to be a place where people felt a sense of belonging and community. In Shelly's experience, bike shops can sometimes have a reputation for "being holier than thou; the condescending bike mechanic," as she put it. Shelly wanted to ensure that their shop was never seen as that: "No matter what line of work I have been in or would be in, it's just crucial to me is that we treat people as humans." Now, this may seem simple, but really respecting someone and treating someone on an equal level can be tough, especially when they come in expecting a negative experience. Yelp reviewer Aelita P. specifically noted that in addition to Shelly's great service, it was a comfortable space that people enjoyed being in. It's what kept them coming back time and again.

When your business model has a reputation for, let's just say, not being the friendliest of experiences, you can be facing an uphill battle every day. Don't let that get you down. Try to elevate the experience and work to take customers by surprise. In the end, it will be an even better result.

Each week we talk with business owners who may not have taken the traditional path to entrepreneurship, but, like we see with Shelly, it often results in even more passionate business owners. Here are a few other quick takeaways from Shelly and Aelita's episode:

  • Know your audience. When it comes to something like a bike shop, there are two very different sides of the spectrum. You have those who are looking to get a bike for daily transportation, like to get to and from work and everywhere else in between. On the other side, you have hobby enthusiasts and competitive bikers. The price range and experience varies greatly between these two, and Shelly needed to understand who her audience was and make sure that the shop and inventory met expectations (with of course some wiggle room to meet other outlying expectations).

  • Be upfront about pricing. One thing that really drew Aelita to Fairmount Bicycles was the transparency around cost. Shelly and her team don't let it become the elephant in the room. They're very upfront, and it helps them attract customers who might be price sensitive.

  • Be more than a service. We've touched on this before, but it's so critical that it's worth repeating. Think beyond the transaction. As a consumer, there are so many choices which is why it's essential for business owners to create an experience worthy of a consumer's dollars and time. If they are just treated as another line item, they will have no reason to choose your business in the first place and certainly no reason to come back. Think about the bigger picture.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Shelly and Aelita, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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