How a Backyard Bike Shed Launched a Business
Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski was one of America’s top cross-country mountain bike stars, winning 15 national championships before retiring from racing five years ago. His wife, Heather Irmiger, was also a pro XC racer and national champion on the Trek team. Now that they’re both retired from professional racing, Jeremy has turned his attention to a business he started over 10 years ago with one of his racing buddies. We called Jeremy to find out how their business is doing now.
MBA: Can you tell us about your partner?
Jeremy: My co-founder, Mike Koenig, is a friend that I was connected with through mountain bike racing. He was a semi-pro racer himself and managed the Tokyo-Joe’s regional team when we started Studio Shed together in 2008.
MBA: How did you get the idea for the company?
Jeremy: I actually built the first Studio Shed in my backyard in 2005 to put all of Heather’s and my mountain bikes in! We lived in a little house in downtown Boulder and just needed a little more room. Mike loved the idea and asked me if he could just copy the design for his backyard. He did, and then we got such positive feedback from friends for a couple of years that we eventually decided to start the company a few years later. We started really small, just selling a unit or two to friends at first—and we built the first few ourselves. We started the business in the middle of the last recession and outsourced the manufacturing at first to a local metal fabrication shop that had some spare capacity.
MBA: How much money did you have to invest to start the company?
Jeremy: Honestly, I can’t even remember the exact number; I think our first big investments in materials and some marketing were about $10k each or something like that. Our first bank loan was for $100k. Since we started small and slowly, we were able to just self-finance until we had enough sales to get more traditional bank financing and business lines of credit.
MBA: How did the business develop?
Jeremy: The business was sort of a side project for both of us initially (I was still racing full-time), so it wasn’t until three or four years in that we really started to ramp things up. We only sold a handful of units in the first year. It was just Mike and me and our outsourced manufacturing partner at first—we grew to about 5 within a couple years, and there are now 35 employees. We outsourced the manufacturing initially, and then opened our own facility in 2013. We’ve since tripled the size of that production facility and are out of space again and will likely move into a larger building sometime in 2021. As for marketing, we’ve been really focused on digital marketing primarily, and the company has a strong online presence and 3D design experience. While we don’t share specific annual revenue figures, we’ve been doubling our sales pretty consistently for the past several years. We’re on track to sell and install about 700 units this year, ranging from small studios to small-home-sized guesthouses.
MBA: How does someone order a Studio Shed?
Jeremy: All of our orders start with our website (www.studio-shed.com). We have a 3D design tool where you can design your Studio Shed and choose shipping and installation options. We’ve got a dedicated in-house sales team who help with the process, from ordering through shipping and installation.
MBA: How much does it cost to get a small one installed in a backyard?
Jeremy: Our base price is around $10k, but our most popular small sizes average around $25,000 with installation, electricity and interior finishes. These would be a residential-quality building (so not a shed) with insulation, electricity, and high-end windows and doors. Our most popular size is 10×12, or 120 square feet. Our standard designs max out at 1000 square feet (20×50 feet), but we have a design department that has combined modules for customers that have gone into the 2700–3300-square-foot ranges. The costs vary a lot for the larger sizes, but would generally be in the $100,000+ range before adding things like kitchens and bathrooms, which most people put in the larger sizes.
MBA: Are all the Studio Sheds insulated?
Jeremy: You can purchase a shell-only building without insulation, but most of our sales now are for fully finished Studios complete with electrical, insulation, and often heating and cooling. They are easy to heat/air condition with a small mini-split unit, which lots of customers do. We have a dedicated line (our Summit Series), which are used as ADUs (accessory dwelling units) for guests and family. This is a rapidly growing segment of the housing industry.
MBA: What is the best way to learn more about Studio Sheds and check them out in person?
Jeremy: There is a ton of information and photography on our website, and we do have a showroom in Colorado. There are some other places where you can see one in person throughout the U.S., and our team can point you in the right direction depending on your location.