As 90’s SoCal kids, brothers Ely and Kevin Khakshouri know firsthand the mental and physical benefits of time spent outdoors, particularly on their bikes. From daily commutes to family trips, the streets, beaches and canyons of California were their playground. Realizing that other young people may lack the know-how or financial ability to fully explore biking, Ely and Kevin set out to bring their favorite wellness pastime to college students along the West Coast.
Beginning with just a truck of bikes in 2009, Ely sold the bikes on consignment to local shops in Los Angeles. Soon, however, retailers came to Ely in pursuit of the newest models. With sustained growth throughout the first year, the brothers’ company Retrospec hired its first clerical employees in 2010 and reached over a million dollars in sales only a year after selling its very first bike.
Today, running a company with 50 employees and international distribution without any outside capital, Ely and Kevin are giving the outdoors-curious more reasons to explore, discover and make nature a regular part of their lives.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Ely about his favorite wellness hobbies, how to turn your personal bliss into a professional success, and why you don’t need science to tell you bicycling is good for your health.
Beth Doane: What kind of wellness practices do you most find helpful in your life?
Ely Khakshouri: Anything outside has always been wellness for me. I enjoy skiing, cycling and hanging by the beach. I’ve also been meditating for the last year or so, and that’s been a really nice tool that travels with me everywhere.
The outdoors is healing in so many ways. Can you share any interesting facts about why being outside matters so much, or the science behind it?
I’ve always known that my best and most relaxed self is after a great outdoor day. I can’t speak to science, but I’ve seen the same impact on my young children. Since they were just a few days old, both of my boys have been noticeably more calm, curious and happy when they are outside. Becoming a dad and seeing that effect on my kids has really validated what I’ve always felt about my time outside.
What led you to found the company? What was your journey like?
I was super into riding fixed-gear bikes in college, and the idea of Retrospec was born because it was too expensive for most students to buy a fixie. I worked with the Chinese and Taiwanese Embassy to connect with bike factories overseas and source our inaugural model, the Alpha. I drove my grandpa’s van up and down the California coast and sold Alphas to bike shops near college campuses. They flew off the racks, and the rest is history!
What is one reason you are passionate about your company and its influence on people’s lives?
I struggle with how many people don’t spend recreational time outside because it’s too expensive or otherwise intimidating. Our team works relentlessly to break down the barriers and help more people get outside.
It’s inspiring to see how innovators like yourself find ways to overcome diverse obstacles. What is one of the biggest challenges that you have overcome?
Starting a company straight out of school and learning all the different facets of running a business on the fly is the main challenge that makes entrepreneurship the adventure that it is. My learning and exposure to new things has not slowed over the last decade. Mostly I’ve learned that taking risks and making mistakes is not just okay; it’s an opportunity to learn. Once you overcome the fear of not knowing all the answers, things really start to open up for you and for the business. I also relish helping my team embrace what we don’t know, take risks, and celebrate both our wins and learning opportunities.
What is your favorite quote?
“They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” – Seneca