Hi Reddit, I started my business career in Vancouver, Canada as a young guy selling 10 speed bikes in West Point Cycles in 1972. Then I bought it. In 1981 I founded Rocky Mountain Bicycles and in '91 Race Face which I owned and managed until I sold it in 1997. During and after this time I've been involved with starting around 20 companies...but many of them were failures. And I'm fine with that. Our most recent project is JusTea - a Canadian-Kenyan partnership to produce a hand-crafted whole-leaf tea on the one-acre farms owned by farmers living below the world poverty line. So what is on your mind? Ask me almost anything about: business, bikes, or JusTea!

Check out our JusTea video on: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/justea/x/2655822 please share it with any tea-lovers in your life! Check out our facebook page at www.facebook.com/justeatea

proof: http://imgur.com/r84GO90

EDIT:This has been awesome! Keep sending questions and I'll keep answering!

Comments: 132 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

kamsbry13 karma

What is the future, 26, 29 or 650B? While we are on the subject I just can't get into the 29er thing yet. PNW trails are tight and I prefer my smaller wheels.

graysonbain7 karma

I see where you're coming from, I think it is moving towards bigger wheels. I'm a roadie now so I don't have a personal opinion.

outsideitude4 karma

A roadie now..? How 'bout that. As a veteran of the North Shore who is hurtling towards 40, I'm starting to see older riders diversify their interests (the Transition guys doing Traitor Bicycles for example) and in some occasions, hang up their big hit bikes for good. Injury accumulation, mortgages, kids, careers, longer and more painful recovery times and a change in interests seem to claim riders in my age bracket. Is this a familiar story or are you a roadie for other reasons?

graysonbain3 karma

All true....also on my way to EuroBike Germany I got a head cold and the pressure in the plane busted my eardrum. Reeks havoc on the fine balance needed for tight trails.

scientologyforever11 karma

whats your favorite kind of tea? favorite professional mountain biker and favorite trail? ever get into any other cycling discipline like road or cross?

graysonbain7 karma

My favorite tea is the Kenyan Chai that is brewed for me at the farms we visit. It uses unpasteurized cow milk, and leaves this wonderful skim on top of the mug. As far as a mountain biker, Brett Tippie is pretty cool. I mostly ride road now, the trails on Mt. Fromme in North Vancouver are great!

motrvatd10 karma

how would a budding engineer like myself come to work at somewhere like Rocky Mountain Bicycles? Golf or sailing?

graysonbain8 karma

Thats got to be one of the most common questions I get. I hired tons, of intern engineers from the three local universities in Vancouver, are you at one of those three?:)

motrvatd6 karma

I am at UBC okanagan! Going into my second year and most likely specializing in mechanical. I am very eager to begin a co-op position next summer!

graysonbain4 karma

Awesome! Good luck!

Vectorbug9 karma

Kind of off topic, did you ever get made fun of for your first name when you where a kid? My first name is Grayson too and it was such a pain growing up.

I've yet to meet another, but I hear about them a few times a year. Also, ordering anythere where they take your name. "Jason? Drayson? Creyson?"

graysonbain5 karma

My name has totally messed me up, when i was young, i got called Gracie. But it is a name to remember, even though as a family name I often get called Mr Grayson. By the way, my wife's name is Grace. How did your parents find your name?

brydonboutin7 karma

Any details on the prototype Flatline which has been appearing all over whistler recently? And thanks for making awesome bikes, I've been racing 4X on my Flow and just picked up a Slayer 70 frame!

graysonbain5 karma

You know more than I do! The first to find out are usually the Germans, watch the press there, their trade show is usually the earliest.

Vpr996 karma

Thanks for doing an AMA! I'm currently an undergraduate student and want to get a job in the cycling industry when I graduate. (I'm majoring in Apparel Merchandising & Design) I'm also a web/graphic designer by trade.

What does your marketing/design/branding department look like for Rocky Mountain? Do you have any tips or recommended skills to get into one of those positions?

graysonbain2 karma

I sold Rocky, but try sending your resume in to the HR department. People who have worked there, have often started out as free interns and then landed a job.

fergiebain6 karma

Will large company tea processers in Kenya give resistance to small farmers processing their own tea?

graysonbain3 karma

The main players in Kenyan tea deal in such high volumes, that our use of 1 acre, to produce a few hundred kilos of whole-leaf tea will be of no interest to them. They are also focused mostly on producing CTC tea, which is the tea in tea bags. Our whole-leaf tea is more of a specialty tea so we're not really in competition with them.

drtzz6 karma

Is this company similar to how the fair trade coffee idea works in Mexico?

How will your company hold itself accountable for where the money goes?

graysonbain6 karma

Fair trade coffee, is good if you know the actual source of the farm. JusTea will tell you, as a tea drinker the farms where your tea is grown and hand-crafted. We call it direct trade, we're trying to eliminate middlemen and connect the drinker with the farmer as directly as possible using social media and our website. As a non-profit our finances will be open to scrutiny.

iammike276 karma

Are each of the one-acre farms owned by a separate, independent farmer?

If so, what methods are used to ensure that the quality of your teas will remain consistent between the variety of farms with each having a different owner/"boss"?

graysonbain8 karma

Thats a great question! Yes, each farm is an independent family. We're starting the project with just one farm so initially, it won't be an issue. In the future though we want the project to expand to as many farmers as want to take part. We're hoping that eventually, each tea region we are operating in will have a co-operative of a few farms that would hand-craft their tea together using the same methods and equipment. They would share their knowledge and all use the same farming methods to grow their tea. Kenya has a strong tradition of self-governing co-operatives which we are hoping to carry on!

yennijb4 karma

How did you end up starting the relationship with the kenyan farmers? how did the idea for this venture come about? Did you have the idea and then find a tea farm for it, or vice versa/some mix of?

graysonbain6 karma

Most ideas start with a relationship. I was on a trip to Kenya in 2012 with some friends. We randomly met a tea farmer, Davison, in a market. He invited us to come visit his farm. We thought we would just come see the place for an hour or two, but his story was so captivating and he was such a genuine, friendly person that we stayed for a few days! That visit was the genesis of the idea. When I came back to Canada I dreamed and schemed for a year. In January of this year I went back with my son Paul and nephew Ian and we spent 2 weeks researching the possibility of the idea, and asking tea farmers how they would do it. Now here we are! Its the same way I got into mountain bikes

damonlds4 karma

So you are saying your tea is brewed with the tears of Kenyan opression?

Are you going to have a movie about you called Blood Tea? If so will you want your character to be played by Matt Damon or would you prefer Seth Rogan?

What are your thoughts on Justin Beiber? Are you sorry for the Canadian people as a whole to the rest of the world?

Additionally I owned one of your bicycles for a few years, It was easily one of the best built bikes I have owned. So thanks for building decent bikes back in the early 90's.

graysonbain4 karma

Rockys built today are still great, why aren't you still riding one? Justin Beiber and I had a falling out, I decline to comment on it.

zeroack3 karma

What is your proudest bike/bike product/bike related accomplishment?

graysonbain3 karma

Hard to narrow down, as some of the people along the way that came through West Point Cycles and then Rocky Mountain are talented, amazing individuals- starting Syncros, Kona, adding to Schwinn, RockShox, SRAM, Norco and many other companies. But just creating 2 companies that have world wide fame - RMB and RF is cool? And the I beam crank, or 1st Cdn built Mountain bike...or...ok, enough bragging

SoUpInYa3 karma

Why tea? I thought tea consumption was decreasing, and why did you think it wise to go into such a market, already dominated by big players?

graysonbain4 karma

I started JusTea because of a friendship with a Kenyan tea farmer named Davison. I was amazed by his story and by how little he earns from so much work. I wasn't thinking about consumption, or the market, just about the tea farmers, hence the non-profit. But luckily it seems consumption is actually on the rise:

According to the Canadian Food Trends to 2020, a report commissioned by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, tea consumption is expected to jump 40% by 2020, as growing consumer interest in health and wellness has lead to increasing awareness of tea’s functional benefits.

graysonbain4 karma

Whole-leaf tea is especially on the rise, as you can see by Starbucks moving into the market by acquiring Teavana, and chains of tea shops popping up such as David's tea.

SHEESHKAH3 karma

Ever been to Red Bull Rampage? I know you guys sent a couple people there.

graysonbain4 karma

[email protected] Whistler/Blackcomb not to ride tho (i'm old)

kibii3 karma

Why would you rate Kenyan tea so highly? How does it differ from the rest?

graysonbain3 karma

I'm not a tea expert, personally I love the way its strong maltyness goes with milk, and especially the Kenyan chai with their unpasteurized milk! But from a tea sommelier's perspective here's a short video of our partner Brendan of www.theteaguy.com tasting and describing our tea! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8EU4bR54xo

OtherGrayson3 karma

Hello Grayson,

I am also Grayson from Vancouver(born and raised). I thought I was the only one. It feels good to know there is another Grayson in Vancouver. How do you feel about being slightly less unique? It makes me feel slightly less autonomous. How about you?

graysonbain4 karma

I don't believe you exist! I am the only Grayson in Vancouver, so you ...if you exist HAVE to move!

rayde3 karma

will decent dual suspension bikes ever be made at entry-level-rider friendly prices?

graysonbain18 karma

Decent assumes you mean, they won't fall apart on the trail, and you want that at walmart pricing, never.

p0wnd3 karma

What's your favorite business(or business idea) you had that ultimately failed?

graysonbain3 karma

Building fat-boy electric bicycles. It was fun while it lasted, but it cost me $25 000.

ChickenTeriyakiBoy3 karma

What are some of your all time favorite bikes? (Road, Mountain, etc.)

graysonbain1 karma

RMB Turbo - built for me by Bo Juskew. The first RMB XS Speed - weird and wonderfu

lospinas3 karma

How has nobody asked this yet? What are you currently riding?! Mountain and road. Whats your favorite local track?

graysonbain2 karma

Just Road - Prestige (Carbon) and a pimped out Sherpa Touring (steel) for winter..

codkill3 karma

No question, just a thank you. I bought one of the last RM7-FR frames available (if I remember correctly)

pic

Thanks for my favorite bike of all time

graysonbain3 karma

Super good to hear - wow. Thks

poopoojuice3 karma

How in the hell did Rocky Mountain score bikes.com? That seems like a goldmine of a URL. Just luck?

Also, what are your thoughts on the ever-growing diameter of our stem clamps? Will it stop at 35? SHOULD it have stopped at 25.4?

graysonbain8 karma

Nope, no luck. predicted it would be nice to own in about '89 I think. Paid $50 bucks for it.

graysonbain4 karma

And on stem clamps, I don't know, it's evolved because of liability as well as anything. Fork column to blade to head tube is a tough area to engineer.

rafa_horchata3 karma

Any advice for a young entrepreneur that's just out of college and ambitious to start a small start up?

graysonbain3 karma

Don't... Nah i'm kidding. Check out the "Business Model Canvas". Sorry no URL.

Dif3r3 karma

What do you think of Paul Brodie moving away from FS bikes to HT's? I think his last FS series was built in 2010. Is he trying to focus development into different markets (ie. commuter, road, and XC rather than a full range with DH and AM)

Secondly from my understanding sometimes fair trade programs can actually cripple third world farmers because of the "licensing"/"certification" costs for their farm and it only then makes sense for big MNC agri-business (who then buyout the smaller guys) to license and charge the downstream end consumers higher prices. It's good that you're going farmer direct but would problems like the fair trade thing I mentioned above happen or would it be minimized compared to a fair trade program? For more information go to this wikipedia page on Fair Trade Criticisms . If you need more info, feel free to private message me, I have a bit of a background in Economic Geography.

Thirdly, as far as teaching farmers to process and prep their tea leaves, you said that you planned on adding more farms and trying to keep the quality the same. I don't know much about tea but could they learn the basics and with time eventually have the knowledgebase built up to be able to create unique "artisan teas" (for larger margins to be able to get out of poverty and make a better living than just making standard black teas for the rest of their lives) that have a minimum quality and experiment with giving their teas unique features (like whisky does with it's different peats and mashes and whatnot giving different qualities to the end product)?

graysonbain3 karma

1)It's hard for a small co to keep up with full suspension tech. 2)You're right in your concerns. This is a tricky balance of politics economics and, corruption. The JusTea project won't be fair-trade certified, it also won't charge fees or anything to take part in. It won't affect the other farmers business, because the other farmer's sell their tea leaves before they are processed, to large centralized factories. The factories process it into CTC tea, which is low grade tea-bag tea. These factories operate on such huge volumes, that our production won't affect them or their demand for raw unprocessed tea leaves. 3)The tea we produce will already be a unique hand-crafted artisan whole-leaf tea! Keep in mind that as of now, the farmers don't make tea they simply sell their raw unprocessed leaves, missing out on the value addition. When we expand to more areas it would be awesome to have region specific tea. They definitely won't be 'just making standard black teas for the rest of their lives'. We want them to be in charge as much as possible, choosing and creating packaging options, tea blends etc.

DaaraJ3 karma

I actually have several questions as investing in and supporting African smallholders is something I'm very interested in:

1) Do you plan operating on a contract model with the farmers you source from? If so do you have mechanisms for enforcing this model? Is side-selling an issue?

2) Are you working with any NGOs/development agencies (ACDI/VOCA, Technoserve, etc)?

3) How do you handle payments to the farmers and quality control? eg, do you pay farmers on the spot for their leaves, or is payment deferred a few weeks so you can assess quality? Do you pay farmers in cash or are you using something like M-Pesa?

4) Do you plan on collecting the tea directly from the farmers, or are you setting up more centralized collection points based on farmer density or co-op location?

Best of luck!

Edit: One more question that just came to me: Why did you decide to go the non-profit route as opposed to for-profit (or some sort of hybrid model, I forgot what the Canadian equivalent of the B-Corp is)?

graysonbain2 karma

OK, you are cool, I want to meet you...Skype? 1) Yes, it will be contractual. Enforcement of the arrangement is somewhat a moot point...we won't buy the tea if it is not made according to our templated process. As far as side-selling, we will not want it to happen, but we are most interested in breaking down the present monopoly. So if we are getting sufficient supply, we will all co-exist. This is a joint problem, not just "jusTea" We have our partners, nationals that have a separate company set up in Nairobi. They are the key to our success. 2)We're looking into working with an organization called the CPDA which was done a lot of work with tea farmers. 3)Good Q's - Please get on board and you can help the Kenyan partners answer this! On cash vs. M-Pesa - They have thought of both...unsure. 4)Centralized collection points, they will weigh it as it arrives. Only 3-4 farms per processing centre. VERY minimal capital output for the farmer co-op. 5)Non-profits and for profits are close...For Profit raises funds thorugh shareholders and debt. Non Profits tend to operate a flatter org model, but have a tougher time getting capital, since we can't pay out dividends. WHY choose a non profit? I wanted to try a model of co-created crowd sourced volunteer run organization. So far it'sa huge exciting challenge. and lastly, I'm always trying to stay conscious of the fact that we mzungu's think we have some idea of what to do when we enter Kenya business. We are going to keep a healthy distance and let the Kenyans be the heroes.

atomicauto3 karma

In your intro, you say you started selling bikes for west point cycles, then you bought it. That's quite a leap, and one that I hear often from entrepreneurs telling their stories. To me that would be the most interesting part to hear. Did you scrap and save for 9 years then use that money to secure a loan? Was the previous owner your uncle, and he wanted to keep it in the family? Did you hit the powerball and buy it because you thought you could make it better? How did it happen?

graysonbain4 karma

Scraping and saving, it was 8 years actually. Then I bought 50 percent -- from my Dad. I secured a Royal Bank loan on equity from the store. Prime + 2 - which was 22 percent/ year.

peacelyse3 karma

Love what you are doing and have been telling many people about your efforts! I can't wait to help you and the farmers. What is the nature of your partnership? I've read it described as a non-profit, so who gets the profits of the tea that is sold and how are funds allocated for your efforts and marketing to get the tea to the customer? I was a founding member of the International Tea Farms Alliance, which operates on a very similar model as yours. Unfortunately the organization had much trouble sustaining because of the inability for the members of the organization to get paid for their time and resources. For this reason I started its for-profit partner; Tealet. How do you plan to sustain and grow your organization?

graysonbain2 karma

OK you are my friend. Thanks, I am so grateful for your support! 1)What is the nature of your partnership? At the moment there is JusTea, a non-profit in Canada, partnered with a few key contacts in Nairobi. In the future we want to be partnered with a fully autonomous Kenyan Co-op.

2)I've read it described as a non-profit, so who gets the profits of the tea that is sold? When the tea is sold, the profits will be split between JusTea in Canada and the Kenyan co-op. Up until now we have been running almost entirely on a volunteer basis, but this may not be sustainable so we will use some of the profits for workers in Canada, as well as for expenses to sell the tea and market the tea. The rest will go to the Kenyan co-op including funds for expanding to other areas. As we are just starting out I can't break down exactly what percent of profits will go where yet, but in future, once we are established we want to operate with financial transparency.

3)how are funds allocated for your efforts and marketing to get the tea to the customer? A percentage of the profit will go to marketing, promoting, packaging, and sending out tea. I'm sorry I don't really know what you mean by how?

4)How do you plan to sustain and grow your organization? You are way ahead of us (in tea). I could learn a lot, or maybe we could talk about joining in a JV at some level. With my awesome Board and the dedicated vollies, we have lots of strategic ways to make this happen. We want to create a dedicated, engaged community of tea-drinkers in the west, as well as a community of farmers in Kenya. Our big risk is not so much the lack of funds but the lack of market in the West to sell the hand-crafted tea produced.

optimusthecat2 karma

Over the years, what have been your favourite bikes (both road and mountain) that you have owned/ridden?

graysonbain2 karma

The XS Speed ... and the super scooter. Bet you never heard of those...Ha

chooch1782 karma

how did you get the URL bikes.com?

graysonbain1 karma

predicted it would be nice to own in about '89 I think. Paid $50 bucks for it.

sachou2 karma

Do you anticipate starting even more companies in your lifetime, or are you planning on retiring anytime soon?

graysonbain3 karma

I want to be a coach for others who build business-for-good. I own 3 myself and mentor a dozen or so business leaders. Why retire when this is such a ride!

pieeatgood2 karma

are tea leaves bad to eat on their own? can I eat them after i make tea with them??

graysonbain3 karma

I've never tried it, let me know how that works out for you!

hornytoad692 karma

I have not tried your tea, but I plan on it! I like programs like yours that encourage growth in 3rd world areas.

Is there any flavor difference to expect?

graysonbain2 karma

repost from a similar question above : Personally I love the way its strong maltyness goes with milk, and especially the Kenyan chai with their unpasteurized milk! But from a tea sommelier's perspective here's a short video of our partner Brendan of www.theteaguy.com tasting and describing the tea we are selling in the fundraiser! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8EU4bR54xo

chocorrroles2 karma

Grayson! A guy I know used to have the distribution for Rocky Mountain in Mexico! Do you know this Victor guy?

My real question is, what is the single most important entrepreneurship lesson that you have learned the hard way, after your 20 start ups?

graysonbain3 karma

Relationships are more important than even the most brilliant idea! Start with a clear Purpose, then love your People ;) then Plan and finally build the Process.

Bosses_Boss2 karma

What period of time while running Rocky Mountain Bikes was your favorite? When did you think you made the best product with what you could do?

With RaceFace, why did you sell it?

I have never owned a Rocky Mountain bike yet but I plan to soon. (Flatline)

I love RaceFace, I still have gloves from the 90's that I rock with.

Thanks for making/starting such great companies. And thanks for trying to make so many others!

graysonbain3 karma

1)The Early suspension yrs with creating the Edge. Haha if only we knew back then what we do now re suspended dynamics of rider over bike + big steeps! 2)Ditto - Edge. Also the RF I Beam crank.

WOW what a grateful person! Thanks!

itssilianrail2 karma

[deleted]

graysonbain5 karma

The price I sold Rocky for ...was undervalued because I had big problems 2 years prior with FX and A/R. (if you don't know those abbreviations- you should't have asked the question) RaceFace cost me cash for R&D intially. But it was birthd around the trials and milling machines by Rocky riders - especially Bryn Johnson

SleepingHippo2 karma

What was in your opinion, the most iconic development in the cycling industry? Also, if you had to ride one brand of bike besides your own, what would you ride?

graysonbain3 karma

I'm a roadie, I would like a BMC..if not a RMB! What's an iconic development if it is not the 1980's combination of "Mountain" with "Bike"???? (BTW, that was a tradename to start with - MountainBike was owned by Gary Fischer)

[deleted]2 karma

[deleted]

graysonbain2 karma

you'd have to ask them...I don't know, I sold it over a decade ago:)

roommateys2 karma

What bike are you currently riding the most? What's the one startup that failed that you really,really wanted to be sucessful?

graysonbain2 karma

1) It's summer, - Prestige (Carbon) 2)Ha! Ummm I guess there's 2 Revclick, for online kids. And Bluesky for electric bikes.