Cervélo Cycles: Riding Entrepreneurial Success

The story of Cervélo Cycles is not unlike many other entrepreneurial success stories, whose founders combined a deep-rooted passion and a killer work ethic to succeed against the odds to create a meaningful business.

Long-time Sloan Partners client Anna Dopico left behind her career in finance to join her husband, Phil White’s growing start-up company Cervélo Cycles. She provided a home for the business in the early years, eventually became a business advisor, and, in the later years, helped take the business to the next growth level as Vice President of the company. When the company sold, she spent three years researching and writing Cervélo’s story.

Her award-winning book, To Make Riders Faster, is the inspirational tale of Phil and business partner Gerard Vroomen’s journey to take their bike company from a school basement project in Montreal, Canada, to victory in the Tour de France, the Olympics and Ironman competitions.

“The book shares cycling stories, business stories, engineering stories and personal stories,” says Dopico.  “I never imaged myself as a writer, but I had an insider’s view and felt compelled to write Phil and Gerard’s story.”

Phil and Gerard met at McGill University where both were pursuing their Master’s in Engineering. For his final graduating project, Gerard was to build a time trial bike. One day at the lab, Phil and Gerard agreed to work together on the bike project, and by the end of the summer, they had designed an innovate, aerodynamic, carbon-fibre bike.  After graduation, the two decided to attempt to turn their bike design into a tangible business. To say they succeeded is an understatement. Together they built the most sought-after brand in the cycling world in less than a decade and faced the fight of their lives to keep their company alive.

The two men toiled for years to gain a foothold in the local triathlon market, attending races and raising awareness about their performance enhancing bikes through sponsorships and demo rides. After some success in the triathlon market, Phil and Gerard expanded into the coveted road market, by sponsoring a European professional cycling team, Team CSC-Tiscali in 2003.  The sponsorship meant a big commitment and presented significant risk but resulted in putting Cervélo on the global map.

To Make Riders Faster shares their wild ride to success, including the ups and downs and near-fatal setbacks, culminating in the sale of Cervélo in 2012 to Pon Holdings, a Dutch family-owned conglomerate.

The idea for the book was sparked during a cycling trip to France after the sale of the company.  “The last few years of work were extremely stressful, and I had nothing left in the tank,” says Dopico.  When word got to their fellow cyclists that Phil was one of the co-founders of Cervélo, she found herself on the receiving end of a multitude of questions about the company. “I felt conflicted because I wanted to move on with life, but I also appreciated people’s interest and support, and I still felt truly privileged to have been part of Cervélo’s story. I asked myself, ‘Why wouldn’t I write their story?’”

“The book will resonate with everyone, and especially with Cervélo owners, cyclists and entrepreneurs,” she says. “Entrepreneurs seem to have a special bond with this story because it reflects their own stories – the struggles, the successes, the sacrifices, the lucky wins, and the loneliness that entrepreneurship brings.”

We were referred to Jerry Paskowitz, a partner with Sloan, from a friend and business associate in 2000,” says Dopico.  “He provides us with business advice and accounting services and, as well, he provides us with personal accounting and tax advice and services. Jerry has become a trusted advisor and throughout our years together I know that I can just pick up the phone, discuss a concern or issue and be provided with advice.

Order your copy of the Reader Views 2018-2019 Literary Award Winner at ToMakeRidersFaster. Use one-line code Sloan0319 for a 20% discount.

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