Heavy interviewed founder Fleetwood Hicks about his company’s progress since he got a deal with two of the sharks. Here are the facts he shared with us.
1. They’ve Sold to Every State in the U.S.
All across America, people are riding a Villy Custom.
The four states they sell the most to are Florida, California, New York and Texas.
As far as oversees orders, Hicks said the shipping costs tend to be expensive. Nonetheless, they’ve sold to Australia, Canada, Mexico and Europe. Since their appearance on the reality show, they’ve “taken off,” according to Hicks. “Not only have individual bike sales grown, but the custom corporate fleet division of our company has exploded. The past two years we’ve had the opportunity to work with a long list of organizations, real estate communities and Fortune 500 companies and we will continue to expand in this area of the business,” he explained.
Since they began, their website has been upgraded three times. The bikes are not available in stores, only online, so it’s important for them to keep up on the latest online technology.
2. His All-Time Favorite Was Ellen’s
The company aired on another TV show, The Ellen Show, in December of 2014. The hostess sent each of her audience members home with a $1,000 limited edition Villy beach cruiser. Watch the episode below, where she surprises her guests with an early holiday gift.
Out of the many bicycles he’s designed for his clients, his favorite is the one they made for DeGeneres, a metallic blue and white Onassis. As for the creative process that went into her bike, he explained, “We powder coated every single piece of the bike. We used metallic underlay and coated Azure Blue over it and it had an amazing finish. We also added custom argyle patterned badges with the “Ellen Ltd. Edition” added to our badge.”
The talk show host is not the only celebrity to own a Villy Custom. The band One Republic, businessman Jerry Jones, and NBA star Rashad Lewis also have them. “We are putting one together now for Kelly Slater, who is probably the greatest surfer of all time with 11 World Championships,” Hicks added.
3. He Didn’t Know What ‘Shark Tank’ Was When He Got the Call
It was the company’s coverage in Entrepreneur Magazine- they voted Villy as one of 100 Most Brilliant Business Ideas for 2010- that ultimately landed Hicks into the Tank.
One of the executive producers of the show read the article and reached out. “I didn’t even know what Shark Tank was at the time, but, I told him I was interested. I then met them in Dallas and they took a short film of me, Villy (my dog) and asked me some questions on film,” he explained. “About a month later I received a phone call telling me that they wanted Villy Custom on the show.”
As for his experience on the show, Hicks said he was never nervous, that is, until right before facing the sharks. “They send you to a spot with an “X” marked on the floor, there are 13 cameras in your face and 80 people along the sides of the stage watching (ABC production people). You have to have a three minute “stare down” with all five sharks where there is complete silence,” he said. “Then, they count down from 10 to one and at that point, you start your introduction.”
4. The Oldest Customer is 83
The average age of a Villy Custom consumer is 32 years old. The youngest person who owns one is 6 years old, and he happens to be Jones’s grandson. Their oldest customer is 83-year-old Estelle Markowitz. “We are beginning to see a younger customer come our way as we grow and I think that is a great sign for Villy Custom and the popularity of the cruiser bike coming back into vogue,” Hicks said.
Besides individual customers, they also create bikes for corporations. “We allow you to have a rolling billboard for your brand by creating a bike with your company or organization, school colors and graphics,” Hicks explained. The companies use the bikes as social media giveaways, employee gifts and POP displays.
5. Barbara & Mark Gave Him a Deal
When he entered the Tank, the sharks all differed in valuing the company.
Kevin O’Leary thought the $641 average price point was too “high end.” Daymond John liked the design, but didn’t want to make a deal in the bike market. Buying an average of four bikes a year, Barbara Corcoran was interested from the get-go. Robert Herjavec thought Hicks was “trying to grow too fast, too quickly.”
Corcoran started the deal-making process by saying, ‘I can smell the money falling from trees.” She asked Mark Cuban to partner, and he agreed, under the stipulation of $500,000 for 45 percent of the company. Feeling like he would be giving up a large sum of money with this offer, Hicks counteroffered with 40 percent. They settled at 42 percent.
When we asked Hicks what it’s been like partnering with Barbara and Mark, he replied:
Both Barbara and Mark have their own styles. They are both readily available whenever I have questions, need support or advice. They are both willing to get involved and help make decisions and push me in different ways. They are both strong believers in being resourceful, outworking the competition and doing things the right way. They are both very smart and great role models for me.