Local Entrepreneurs: Dartbike Rentals

As part of this term’s theme of Innovation, we have launched a new series aimed at highlighting business ventures undertaken by students right here at Dartmouth. This issue’s spotlight, Dartbike Rentals, was initially founded in the fall of 2013 by Erik Nordhal and Danny Reitsch, both members of the class of 2016 and two friends who felt that they had identified an underserved need at Dartmouth. Erik Nordahl is studying Economics and Math and hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Danny Reitsch, from Rockford, Illinois, studies Economics, Computer Science and German and also serves at the 2016 Class President.  Dartbike Rentals follows a simple business plan. For $100 a term, students receive a bike along with a lock to use throughout the term. Currently holding a fleet of 50 bikes that they rent out on a term-to-term basis, Erik and Danny both see growing demand for rental bikes, which they hope will allow them to eventually increase their inventory and be able to serve a larger audience. In the following interview, Erik and Danny tell us about their experience starting their own business, the challenges as well as rewards they have faced and finally their prospects for the future.

Dartmouth Business Journal (DBJ): What made you decide to start Dartbike Rentals?

Nordahl and Reitsch (NR): All of us at Dartbike Rentals have personally experienced both the conveniences and hassles that come with owning a bike on campus. While a bike can save a lot of time (some of us save 1-2 hours of walking per day from biking to class, practice, and other activities), the maintenance, storage, and lack of local mechanics are difficult to circumvent. We wanted to bridge that gap and provide students with an alternate option: to rent a high quality bike at a moderate price, free of the hassles that come with owning a bike.

On a more personal level, we are all people who truly enjoy the challenges and rewards of owning and running an on-campus business. We all enjoy and embrace the challenges that inevitably arise from starting a business and believe that the rewards, both monetary and educational, far outweigh the costs.

DBJ: Walk us through the steps you took to create Dartbike from where to source the bikes to determining how to price the rental?

NR: After we had the idea, we did some research for potential bikes that would be a good fit for riding around campus at a price point college students could afford. After contacting several manufacturers, we were able to narrow our list down to a couple of brands, and develop relationships with those companies.

As far as pricing the product: it’s always a difficult task. We sent out a lot of surveys and asked for students’ feedback about their current bike options. With the cost of our bikes in mind, we then carefully considered this information and set our prices competitively.

As far as organizing the business: I think all of us at DartBike Rentals have realized that ideas run much smoother in our heads than they do when implemented in reality. Unanticipated challenges arise, however, and we enjoy reacting to those challenges in order to build our company and provide our customers with a product we take pride in. We have been forced to be meticulously organized and responsive. All of us have been lucky in that each individual on our team has been very enthusiastic with their involvement in DartBike Rentals and has been able to pick up where other members leave off. Although difficult, it is a lot of fun to work on this business with a great group of students and friends.

DBJ: From what demographic of Dartmouth student have you seen the most traction?

NR: We’ve seen traction from all demographics of Dartmouth students. Everyone needs to get around on campus, and everyone loves saving time. However, student athletes and students that live in off-campus housing have been good segments for us.

DBJ: What were the biggest challenges you have had to deal with?

NR: Our biggest challenges include maintenance, theft, and damages. Maintenance is difficult because some problems that arise are very unique. On the rare occasion that the bike is severely damaged, we have mechanics that can repair the bikes. Theft is difficult for obvious reasons, however, we have our bikes registered with Safety and Security. That way, in the off-chance a bike gets stolen, we can alert S&S and have more eyes out for the bike.

DBJ: What do you find most interesting and rewarding in terms of running your own business?

NR: It is very rewarding to see all of our customers riding our bikes around campus, and know that we made it possible. It is also great to have taken risks on ourselves and see them pay off. Starting DartBike Rentals was a bit daunting, but we have gained confidence from our success up to this point.

DBJ: What do either of you see yourself doing after College?

NR: We are still unsure of what we want to do after school, but running a business is definitely high up on our lists.