Come fly with me.

AuteurMawson, Emily
Fonction Business: entrepreneur in focus


I am on a journey to the back of beyond. I leave sleepy Huttwil in Oberaargau on a community-run mini bus. We drive through a peaceful patchwork of fields, tumbledown farms and Alpine foothills. After several bends in the road, a khaki-coloured building appears out of nowhere. Large letters on its facade spell out the word FLYER.

Inside, the factory is a swish affair. Light pours through the floor-to-ceiling windows and settles on the colourful Flyer electric bikes in the showroom. Kurt Schar, CEO of Biketec AG, welcomes me.

Oh, to have a Flyer ...

Charismatic and jolly, Schar laughs heartily when I ask why his factory is based here: "It's a beautiful place!" (He grew up nearby). Actually, the remote location was chosen according to more than thirty criteria, including the work ethic of local staff and business support from Canton Berne.

The hilly countryside is perfect for Schar's so-called 'pandemic marketing' strategy. "After a test ride on a Flyer, customers have a positive impression," he explains, adding that--hopefully--they tell their friends about it. Last year, more than 18,000 visitors went to the factory and tried out the bikes.

Cheekiness crosses the entrepreneur's face. "If you have a product, which makes the hills flat and takes power out of the wind, it has to be successful," he insists. Flyer electric bikes have settings for high or low battery assistance depending on gradient, wind level and whether you want a workout.

The way up

Trained in electronics and marketing, Schar believed in his business venture from the start. The story began 12 years ago with the bankrupt BKTech, who had targeted younger customers with their Roter Buffel (the electric bike that preceded Flyer). The concept failed, because electric bikes were stereotyped as something for the elderly. Schar was hired as CEO and turnaround manager to re-design the bike. "I had to fire 27 people," he says. "That was a terrible experience."

Schar firmly believed that the new bike "made sense." When investors remained unconvinced, he took the plunge. Together with business partner Hans Furrer, who was product manager at BKTech, he bought the company's assets with "family loans" and founded Biketec AG in 2001. "If it didn't work, it didn't matter--because everybody thought we would fail," says Schar flippantly. "If it did work, we could be entrepreneurs. And you must be successful if you get the money from your family!"

The first Flyer left the...

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