Throughout the pages of business history, it’s not uncommon to find an unassuming shed to be the birthplace for an idea. After all, if you need an affordable, comfortable, practical space to start out, a simple shed ticks all the boxes. So it’s not surprising that many household names that today sit proudly on big city skyscrapers, got going with more humble headquarters. You see it from car manufacturers to computer electronics to a particular brand of bicycles that you’ve probably heard of, even if you’ve never owned a bike.
In the winter of 1975, in a dimly-lit Wisconsin bar, two men settled on a name for a new bicycle company. One favoured “Kestrel” after the bird of prey. The other preferred “Trek”. A word from his native South Africa, which means journey. He felt it conjured images of travel and adventure.
With a name in hand, the two set up shop in a squat, red 7000-sq. foot shed in southern Wisconsin where they began to build bikes of extraordinary artistry. The shed would serve as the incubator for a company that would go on to imprint itself on the sporting psyche. One that would go from a backroad barn to conquer the highest mountains in the world of cycling.
There were only five employees on the payroll when the shed opened its doors in 1976. Together, they created a culture of free spirited craftsmanship and it showed in the product, which quickly earned cult status. In its first year, Trek produced 904 touring frames, selling for around $275 apiece. Two years later they started offering complete bicycles. After 4 years, the company had grown so much that they needed more space. In 1980 they purchased 10 acres of land not far from the shed that gave birth to Trek and construction of a 26 000ft factory got underway.
Today Trek bikes is one of the most recognisable brands in the world – even to non-cyclists. The name would also be inextricably linked to the pinnacle of all cycling races, the Tour De France (although perhaps for controversial reasons). In 1997, Trek signed a cancer survivor by the name of Lance Armstrong. He became the first American to win on an American team, on an American bike and, by 2005, Trek and Lance had rewritten the history books with 7 consecutive Tour wins. Although Lance would later fall rather publically from grace, the image of Trek and the yellow jersey is hard to separate. Today, the company is still recognised around the world as an iconic sporting symbol.
Although Trek’s headquarters may now be in a building much more modern and well appointed, they haven’t moved very far from the idea – and the place – that got it all started. In fact, it’s still on their property – just down the road. They not only kept their idea, they kept the shed as a reminder of what they set out to do in the first place.
To us, that’s the beauty of a shed. At ShedBoss, we like to think of it as a place where anything can happen. There’s no telling where a dream that starts in a shed might end up.