Coming from a background in engineering, the three guys behind Butchers & Bicycles set out to redefine the way a cargo bike is made. We interviewed co-founder and company brand and communication wizard, Jakob Munk, and discovered that the brand’s products almost sell themselves.
DANISH™: All three co-founders have a background in engineering. How did you end up designing bicycles?
Jakob: That answer can be divided into two. It all began with a wish to make a company that developed products. My two colleagues, Morten and Morten, wanted to make a cargo bike, so they started doing sketches and making plans while still doing their full-time jobs. A year before we launched our first bike, at the end of 2013, Morten and Morten quit their jobs and started full time on our project. I joined the project in the summer of 2013.
So actually, it started with an urge to create cool products that matter and then we saw a need for a new cargo bike. Luckily, what Morten and Morten wanted to make the most was also a cargo bike. It is not because we have a special background in cycling nor a special interest in bicycles in general, other than as cyclists. We just wanted to create some really cool products that could make a difference for people.
DANISH™: You just saw that you could make a better, more optimal solution and went with it?
Jakob: There were plenty of opportunities to make a significantly better product. There really were not many cargo bikes that had the riding experience of an ordinary bike and at the same time had room for your kids, grocery etc. Cargo bikes did not have those features then, so it became the foundation ¬– to make a cargo bike with the riding capabilities of an ordinary bike. The simple ideas are often the best ones.
DANISH™: You have stated that you had an urge to redefine how a cargo bike should look and function. Where did this come from?
Jakob: I guess that is our raison d’être in design, which is filled with abundant products. Our past careers focused on completely different things, and not on making a big difference for other people, so we really wanted to make a great product that could make a difference in people’s lives. So that is where it comes from ¬– an inner need to make a difference. And we believe that we are good at turning complicated problems into solutions that are easy and exciting to use.
DANISH™: What defines a great cargo bike?
Jakob: You can compare it with a great referee in football. If you do not notice the referee, he or she is great. In the same way, you should not notice a great bike. Simply put, it should just function without you noticing. We have the ambition that our cargo bike will replace car number two for a number of families. And if that ambition is going to be fulfilled, we have to create a great bike that just works flawlessly every day. It has to be a pleasure to ride without any source of irritation. No creaks or rattles, only pure pleasure, so that you can enjoy the ride with your kids or whatever it is you are enjoying. We would never make a cargo bike if it could not meet these criteria– it would be too heavy to ride – so in a way our bike is uncompromising.
DANISH™: What set of rules do you work to? What defines good design in your book?
Jakob: Good design is closely related to function. It is not good design, if it does not work for the end user. Good design only has a fraction to do with looks, because looks are determined by function. Here our backgrounds in engineering come in handy. The primary thing is that handling, comfort and safety are the top priorities. Those are the main things for us. All these aspects have to be solved so it is usable and uncompromising. Aesthetics comes afterwards and is defined by the function of the bike. There is no redundant stuff. That is something we take great pride in.
DANISH™: What kind of customers do your products appeal to?
Jakob: Definitely, families with young children. The bike is developed to accommodate their needs. Also, companies with a need to transport goods. For example, DR (the Danish Broadcasting Corporation) has bought two of our bikes for transporting camera gear around central Copenhagen, because bikes are the fastest way to get around the city. But our primary segment is families with young children. Typically families that are expecting their second child. Suddenly, you just have a different need for space, as your family expands.
Furthermore, we have expanded our target group by offering to attach an electric motor to the bicycle, if the customer wants. By attaching an electric motor we have extended the radius for where people can get to. Typically, people will only ride maybe 3 to 4 kilometres on a heavy 3-wheeler, but with the electric motor they can easily ride 10 to 15 kilometres to work. Actually, we have a family that has only had their bike for one year and have already gone a total of 4000 kilometres because the father rides about 20 kilometres to and from work. Every day. On a cargo bike. We think that is pretty cool and it makes us extremely happy.
DANISH™: Soon you will have dealers in 16 countries. How did you come so far?
Jakob: Actually, it was quite simple. We have made a good product and a video to accompany it. We released the video online and we have not done anything else. The product sells itself through that movie, which is automatically spreading via social media and online forums. The video introduces the main idea of the bike in two minutes and we released it the day after we announced our bike in November 2013 and now more than 150,000 people have viewed it. Now that is a great business to be in.
It is a niche business. It is only in Denmark and Holland that the cargo bike trend is big. But it is underway in many other markets as well, like a niche inside the cycling world. There are people on social media who share every little thing there is to know about cargo bikes. Cycling enthusiasts follow blogs and are incarnated bike fans. A few days after we released the video, it was posted and shared on these online platforms, so we got a wave of requests from all over the world – people wanted to buy this bike ASAP. So we have not had to contact any potential dealers yet. Every one of our dealers initially contacted us and said something like: “Your products fit our universe of products very well.”
DANISH™: Do you have any new products in the pipeline?
Jakob: Well, our first is called MK1 so yes. We will see a MK2 at some point. We just cannot unveil what kind of product it is going to be or when it is going to come out.. We believe that bicycling is the next thing in big cities around the world. And therefore we have a mission to accommodate the need for healthy, smart transportation, which is also faster and more economical. In Denmark, we take the bicycle for granted as a mean of transportation, but that is not the case in the rest of the world. But we think that is about to change ¬– more people will think of the bicycle as an alternative to other means of transport. That is why Butchers & Bicycles exists. To make great products for this growing need.