WHEN redundancy had left Steve Lee jobless for a year, he decided it was time to turn a passion into a business.
Two years on, he is looking at growing his Bury St Edmunds based motorcycle courier business, Concierge Couriers, so that he can take on more riders.
Steve was the UK sales manager for a Scandinavian chemical company and when he was made redundant he handled a turnover of £3.5 million.
Standing next to his red Moto Guzzi 750 bike (he also has a BMW ex-police bike) he admitted: “This had been a dream since I was a kid. Motorcycling is my passion and it’s good to make people smile when you do a good job.”
Having looked into starting the business he went to Suffolk’s enterprise agency Menta to see what help they could give.
“They gave plenty of support,” he said. “It would have been a lot harder without Menta, that’s for sure, and there would have been a lot more head banging.
“For the last two years we’ve been in regular touch with them. We’ve done some of their courses, too, which have been very useful.”
He has also had police motorcycle training, which he recommends, and training from Suffolk County Council’s Low Carbon Champion scheme, which has reduced running costs.
His air of the mature, respectable businessman is a far cry from the usual image of a bike courier, but so is the technology he uses.
Instead of bike ‘leathers’ he wears a rider’s suit of high tech materials including patches of impact resisting foam and bullet-proof Kevlar to protect him in falls. His £1,000 helmet has a microphone and speakers enabling him to make and receive calls or hear the satellite navigation and radio. He says the sat nav saves fuel by plotting the most efficient routes for his typical 400-mile days.
The bike also has a camera which enables him to show customers the reasons for delays. He added: “The other day I had a solicitor claim something hadn’t arrived, so I emailed them a clip of me delivering it and someone signing for it. They phoned later to say they’d found it.”
He says some people think bike couriers are limited to documents. But his bikes have three huge panniers and boxes can be strapped to the pillion seat in a waterproof bag.
“We take aircraft spares, tractor spares,” he said. “We’ve even had some artworks; anything you can fit on the back.”
He currently has other riders subcontracting for him and says: “The next stage is to grow the business to sustain a few other people.”
Steve has a website at www.conciergecouriers.co.uk