From GM of a big corporation to entrepreneur: Why Pierre Detry decided to launch an e-bike production for women?
Pierre Detry spent 30 years of his professional career working in one of the biggest corporate companies in the world. He left his post of GM and decided to pursue his passion for biking and meet the challenging task of making a positive impact on people’s lives in big cities.
What was the reason that made you change your career?
Moving around the world, from one capital to another (as an Expatriate GM, you are requested to move locations quite often), made me observe many things. I noticed that people were living in constant stress, me including. There was not enough time for personal well-being. It was a permanent race without a finishing line.
I was always a passionate biker. During those years, I tried to get on a bike as much as possible. It was my meditation and recharging. With new responsibilities, I had less and less time to cycle. And several times, I tried to bike a relatively short distance from my home to the office by bike, but it was never convenient: sweat, the discomfort of the suit, spots on the trousers. It was a disaster.
Then I tried a random e-bike. And it struck me that with all the technology that we had, we could design a light, easy to use, a comfortable e-bike that would substitute the car for people in big cities. And it also meant no stress because of traffic jams and parking lots. Without making an effort, you would have time for yourself, staying in good form and in a positive mood.
It was a crucial moment when I understood that this business would make it possible for me to pursue my passion for biking and positively impact people’s lives in big cities. This is how the idea of making new generation e-bikes came to me.
What was your plan after?
When I left the corporate world, I wanted to fundamentally change my professional life. There are three periods in life, there is a period to learn, then a period to earn, and then it’s time to share. I came to the moment when I was ready to share my experience and resources with society. And with my passion for biking, it all came together rather swiftly.
But riding on an e-bike isn’t the same as riding a traditional bike! Don’t you miss it?
I’m still biking a lot. While biking, I generate my energy and get new ideas. I can’t imagine my life without it, and I shouldn’t. I believe that an e-bike isn’t a substitute for a traditional bike; it’s a comfortable and ecological replacement of a car. It gives you the freedom to move around the city whenever you want. Isn’t it pure joy? To be able to move without traffic jams and make your life free of rush hours?
When we did our research, we concluded that people from European cities regularly had to cover from 2 to 8 km distance to get to the office (on average). This distance is quite long for walking, but too short for a car drive. The perfect way to commute will be on an e-bike. Don’t you think?
Our cities are polluted with cars. During the Coronavirus lockdown, we were astonished how beautiful and calm our native towns could be, with fewer cars. We could breathe and hear the birds chirp; we were able to live fully. We all want to live in a city like this all the time, and not during the pandemic crises, don’t we?
Why is it so crucial for you to have production in Europe? Wouldn’t the price of the bike be lower with production in China, for example? Like other e-bike manufacturers do.
It was vital for me to provide more opportunities for young people to work where they prefer to live (in the cities of their origins), next to their family and friends. As a father of 5 kids (most of them are working already), I didn’t want them to leave Europe and move to China to find exciting jobs.
I believe that we lost connection with our tradition. Europeans used to be masters of bicycle production, especially Belgium – once we were a country of bicycles. Now everything comes from China. And I don’t want to say that their output is not satisfying; I just want to pay attention to the fact that we are losing the ability to create our own know-how.
With lots of e-bikes on the market, weren’t you afraid to be lost and unnoticed?
First of all, you should know that the majority of e-bikes weights 20-25 kg. You can imagine it’s a lot to carry on. And the other common problem is that the weight of the heaviest items of the e-bike is not balanced. And if you are a biker, you know how important it is to feel balanced on 2 wheels for your comfort and safety.
Especially if you are a woman in a beautiful dress, wearing high heels. Have you seen a lot of bikes made particularly for women? I can assure you that there are a few who even thought about women as end customers. And we did. I’m not only a happy father of 5 kids but also a man inspired by my wife. When I started to dig deep into e-bikes, Tatiana (my wife) and I tried many different models, as I was obsessed with this technology. And as we exchanged opinions on the e-bikes we tested, I was always surprised that Tatiana paid attention to quite a different set of bike options than me. She shared her riding experience, making me discover things relevant for women. I wasn’t even aware of these details, and for most women, these things would be natural and self-evident, I guess. Doing my research, I concluded that there were not many e-bikes designed to satisfy women’s needs, and it gave me an idea of creating one.
What’s your source of power? Where do you find the strength to keep going in turbulent times like now?
For me, business was always about solving a problem. If you don’t solve problems, you don’t progress. We faced lots of difficulties initially, and I won’t lie, there were times when I thought it was too much for me. I went through the ups and downs of every entrepreneur, and luckily I always had people around me who encouraged me – “you like it so much, you have a good intention, keep going, it’s gonna work”. My wife trusted me and gave me the right amount of strength and energy to continue going. And with the reviews we get from our happy customers, I believe I made the right decision to follow my passion.
What’s next for BZEN? What will be your problem-solvers for the future?
First of all, to continue working on sustainability of our production. We have high respect for the environment, and it keeps us working on the concept that BZEN should be your bike for several years as it will be fully sustainable.
We are launching our first flagship store in Antwerp. People will be able to “get in touch” with BZEN bikes and try them, and we will get feedback and reviews to make our bikes more comfortable and intuitive. We don’t stop pushing the technology further to create lighter bikes for our riders.
Cities are changing, and our bikes will adapt to remain the best companion for those who prefer the comfort and freedom of e-biking.