U.S. Small Business Administration visits Austin electric bicycle company

Representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration paid a visit to electric bicycle retailer Rocket Electrics on Jan. 16 to discuss the expansion and future of the business, including the potential addition of more bicycle depots, or charging stations, and more locations in Austin.

"We'd love to expand," Rocket Electrics owner Nicole Zinn said.

Zinn said the company's goal is to encourage more people to use electric bicycles, both for commuting purposes and for businesses that offer delivery services.

Zinn opened Rocket Electrics in December 2011 at 1608 E. Riverside Drive. The retailer carries Pedego and Yuba electric bicycles, which can travel at speeds up to 20–25 mph and ride about 20 miles per charge.

The business offers e-bike tours and electric bicycles for rent and purchase. Customers can book rentals and prepay online 24 hours a day, which has been a popular feature for events such as Formula One and South by Southwest Music and Media Conference, Zinn said. A new boardwalk is expected to be completed in 2014 alongside Lady Bird Lake, and Zinn said she hopes to open a Rocket Electrics kiosk there for rentals.

Marie Johns, deputy administrator for the SBA, said she feels that Rocket Electrics has a lot of potential to help people become more healthy, happy and environmentally friendly.

"We are working with the Small Business Development Center to devise a plan for growth for their [Rocket Electric] company here in Austin, and hopefully regionally and beyond," SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns said. "It's a fantastic company, and we are really happy to be here today."

J. Richard Johnson, a certified business adviser for the SBDC based in Round Rock, has been working with Rocket Electrics to help come up with a business plan for the future of the company.

"We're working on a business plan to help them get some funding, to increase their inventory, increase their marketing presence in the community," Johnson said.

The long-term goal for the company is to have multiple locations, he said. Johnson said the e-bike company is expected to increase profitability in the future. The SBDC is working with the company's financial institution to help the business be able to offer financing for customers in the future, he said.