For the longest time, Western brands from Australia and Europe have been dominating the cycling jerseys market with minimalist, block colour looks.
Yim Wai Hong, an avid cyclist himself, wanted to make something of his own.
“I wanted a different touch as I feel the Southeast Asian cycling landscape and culture is so vibrant and we have so much to offer. Why settle for minimalism when you can be all out, stand out and be seen?” he said.
And it’s true that Yim’s jerseys certainly stand out while still serving the practical purpose of being noticeable on the road amongst larger vehicles.
Friendships built over bikes & coffee
BikeBaju is Yim’s passion project. Full-time, he’s an operations manager at a retail business with 70 outlets in the Klang Valley.
Prior to this, he was the founder, chief bike mechanic and also barista of Velocity Cafe in Ampang, a bicycle workshop and cafe combined under one roof.
“We operated for 4 years and gained a sizable cycling community following. Even though we closed down the cafe, our friendship and love for the sport kept the community very tight,” he said.
That community was how BikeBaju got its name. They often cycled together and had a group chat which inspired the “BB” idea.
Sick of being a walking advertisement for other brands while wearing their jerseys, Yim designed the Chameleon, BikeBaju’s first jersey, for himself.
The cycling community took notice and started asking for orders. So he set out to manufacture more to meet the demand.
Those requests also led him to launch his second design, BikeBatik.
“Soon, my friends were even organising cycling trips just to wear the BikeBatik together as a group and take photos to show off!” he exclaimed.
His wife and co-founder, Yahui Tan, is an experienced marketer.
Seeing how he was making sales through word of mouth and minimal marketing, she felt they could take it a step further.
“She felt that there was so much potential to play with the BB brand. Bike Boys, Bike Boss, Bike Babes, there is so much room for the imagination with the BB brand,” he said.
Without hesitation, she bought the domain and hosting for bikebaju.com.
He turned down 3 investors
In addition to Malaysia, they already have customers from Germany, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia since launching in December 2018.
His past accomplishments stoked the interests of investors for this very venture.
“After I told them briefly about my life timeline, from being an art student in high school to getting an automotive engineering degree, to becoming a technical service engineer and then an F&B entrepreneur, to telling them about BikeBaju as my passion side hustle, that caught their attention,” he said.
Besides offering him a job, they also offered to invest in BikeBaju. 3 have approached him, but he turned them all down.
He knew first hand how unpredictable entrepreneurship financing can be, which was why he rejected those offers.
Yim himself is aiming for sustainable prosperity over a capital burn game.
I personally value financial stability and prefer not to take risks. I take my investors very seriously and I will only take funding if I decide to go all-in, without juggling a side hustle and a day job. I have to be fair to my investors and give my fullest.Yim Wai Hong, co-founder of BikeBaju
“Growing organically for BikeBaju has served me well so I’ll go with the flow for now,” Yim said.
“I’ve done my due research on building fashion brands, it’s very capital intensive on marketing and building brand awareness.”
Yim designs the jerseys himself and works very closely with a manufacturer to get the right quality and cut, as he’s meticulous about it.
BikeBaju claims to be fashionable yet affordable with their jerseys costing RM225 per piece.
Editor’s Note 26/08/21: The pricing mentioned above was accurate at the time of writing. Since then, BikeBaju has adjusted its pricing.
Now I’m no cyclist myself, but a quick search online led me to find much cheaper ones under RM100. So BikeBaju came off as being rather pricey to me.
He explained, “Premium cut and fabric has a price range between RM500 to RM1,000. Cheaper RM100 jerseys will get you unflattering cutting with inferior fabric that doesn’t last.”
“In that sense, BikeBaju is priced just right. But we’re still finding the sweet spot between manufacturing costs and margins.”
BikeBaju has customers willing to pay that price too, as their first batch of sales was purely preorders.
“We made enough profits from the first batch of sales that we decided to use the money to get some ready stock to be sold worldwide for our second batch,” he said.
For such a niche sport, word of mouth is powerful for the brand. Barely doing any marketing aside from Instagram ads, most of their customers were from organic referrals.
“When one cyclist wears the BikeBaju, other cyclists will take notice because the design is so striking and unconventional,” he said.
“Very soon, cyclist groups were asking about it and that’s how the orders snowballed.”
People also took notice of the brand when a TV3 celebrity host wore it and posted on her Instagram, which helped increase their sales.
“My cycling buddies and my youngest brother—who’s also an influencer—are currently actively promoting the next wave of BikeBatik.”
“I’m pretty serious about it and also curious to see where this organic growth will lead to,” Yim shared.
In terms of what’s next for BikeBaju, they plan to get a proper website up and running this year.
He’s also figuring out the best way to deliver their products to the international market with minimal time and resources.
“I know I would have made it when people reach for their BikeBaju over their European brands. A truly proud to be Malaysian moment for me,” he said.
Featured Image Credit: Yim Wai Hong, co-founder of BikeBaju