Each month the NW Innovation Resource Center writes about Whatcom County residents who have invented products that solve everyday problems.
Names: Paul Barkley and Charlie Heggem
Product description: Isolation Seatpost for all types of riders and any style of bicycle. The Cirrus Cycles BodyFloat Isolation Seatpost is “Where Comfort and Performance Connect.” Born in Bellingham, BodyFloat provides the ultimate in comfort, control and performance to any rider on any style of bike. The connection achieved on a BodyFloat substantially improves bike control, allows for a more efficient pedal stroke without bounce, greatly reduces rider fatigue and offers the most comfortable ride possible.
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How to buy: Purchase direct or from a dealer at: http://ridebodyfloat.com/dealers/.
What was the problem you were trying to solve (or niche to fill) and how did you come up with the solution?
We wanted to address the chief complaints of most riders: Lack of comfort and a sore butt after every ride and achieve better performance. Suspension seat posts have been around for decades, but no one had put all the pieces together correctly until the BodyFloat Isolation Seatpost. We were inspired by years of inadequate seat posts and performance-robbing compliant frame designs so we tweaked the BodyFloat into a product that not only solves the immediate comfort problem but also enhances the overall performance of both rider and bike.
What has it taken in terms of time, effort or expense to get the business up and running?
We have relied on private investments from about two dozen individuals over the last five years. Over that time, we have increased sales and subsequent cash-flow enough to invest in improving operational efficiencies, expanding market share, opening research and development, and creating sales growth in many new markets. We learned this is not a turn-and-burn process but rather demands a steady hand over the long haul.
What have been the biggest challenges you faced in the process?
To say the least, the challenges of a new company are many. Money is a primary and constant need. The best product in the world risks failing without the necessary and carefully allocated funds to more than just sustain the business, but to grow and profit. Beyond money, people come in a close second. We have found it takes time to build the right team of people who are passionate riders, as well as skilled individuals who believe and understand the commitment. Everyone has to learn you do not take things personally, just get it done.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs?
Find smart people to vet your idea and shoot as many holes as possible in your dream. If you can plug the holes and build a stronger vessel because of those holes, then you are onto something. Building a team that understands and values all the intellectual and financial investments necessary is critical. Friendships and relationships both grow and also may fray, hearts and expectations may be broken and again rekindled. … Honesty and reality will prevail if it is meant to be – all ships rise with the tide.
What milestones or successes have you recently had that you want to share?
In August, we were part of a 32-day, 5,000-plus mile record ride on a Stromer electric bike. This record proved that BodyFloat is the most comfortable product possible when excess time is spent in the saddle. Also, BodyFloat was part of The Project Speed world record, where the women’s paced land speed record was broken on her first attempt at 147.7 mph. We are working with her on the design for her next attempt to set the human speed record in 2017, eclipsing the current 167 mph record and inching closer to 200 mph on a pedal bike. We recently introduced Team RacePace/Cirrus Cycles to help educate riders about the advantages of BodyFloat and allow us to attend regional and national cycling events, from races to charity rides.
Lara Merriam-Smith is the program manager for NW Innovation Resource Center, a Bellingham-based nonprofit that helps inventors and entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life. For more information call 360-255-7870 or go online to nwirc.com.