We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Nutting and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jennifer, is there something you believe many others might not?
The Competition is your enemy. Not true on so many levels, although a lot of people in my industry hold fast to that belief. Any entrepreneur will tell you to study the competition, which in turn causes everyone to be protective of proprietary information. You can protect your product and establish a beneficial camaraderie with your competitors. In the development stage of Handlebar Bike Tours, I sought advice from my women entrepreneur friends. One told me to reach out to the other tour companies, and introduce myself. Her reasoning made sense to me. She said they will learn about me sooner or later, you want to open the lines of communication and then she said, “more business, means more business for everyone.” That resonated because DTLA is an emerging tourist destination; more people finding downtown, whether it’s my tour or someone else’s, means more people spreading the word about the area Handlebar Bike Tours specializes in. Know thy enemy and know thy self. In idea stage, I searched similar companies; others were already doing bike tours. After studying them a bit I knew I could do it better, or at least different. Collaborating with competitors has helped me define exactly why my business stands apart. What I do well, what I need to work on, what I can expand on to grow. Also, what I can never do as well as someone else, so don’t even try. That last one was challenged recently in a collaborative chat with a competitor; it took a competitor to define a strength of my product I hadn’t considered before. I once had a competitor threaten me, which I took as a compliment I was doing things right to be perceived as a threat. Competitor collaborators, good and bad, will tell you more about your business than a consultant. I’ve had a variety of responses from the competition, but by far the most favorable responses come from the most successful tour companies. I have collaborative chats with several competitors, and we try to share information we all might find helpful, which has been a real support during Covid shut downs. We don’t share everything of course, but helpful info like business software or attraction information, etc. Some relationships don’t extend beyond an occasional email. My friend was right, you will run into competitors in the field. Knowing each other ahead of time establishes a professional rapport and leaves a positive impression with potential customers. On tour we encounter other tour companies and it’s far more pleasant for guests to observe guides give each other a friendly greeting, rather than the cold shoulder. My competitor friends know I’m not going to poach their guests and vice versa. Think about it; do you want potential customers to view you as aloof and afraid around competition or friendly and confident? Another tip is to reach out to folks in the same field but different markets; some of my best advice has come from bike tour companies in other cities I’ve never even met in person. That being said, I recently had a cold email solicitation from a newbie entrepreneur asking me about budgets, gross earnings and where he could get insurance and how much it costs. This person had not even bothered to learn my name, just requested I prepare a business plan via our contact page. There’s a right way and a wrong way to reach out to your competitors. Learn their names, come with something to offer, invite them for coffee, and pay. The tour business is a public performance, so there is no way to hide my product. I’ve had others copy, and film parts of my tour to use in their own tours. So far no one has been able to copy the je ne sais quoi I bring to the business, just as I cannot copy the style of other companies I collaborate with. Most entrepreneurs are leery of copycats, knock offs or thefts of intellectual property. If you are truly great at creating a product, generating new ideas; no one can replicate it better than you. True creators, with a passion for Los Angeles, like many of the companies I consider friends, have their specialty. Sure, a large franchise can always swoop in with a bigger marketing budget, and a corporate structure I can’t match. But as my wise friend said, “more business, means more business for everybody.”

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I created Handlebar Bike Tours in 2017. We do bicycle tours of downtown Los Angeles, designed for casual riders. We’re located at Grand Central Market, and have several specialty tours to choose from that just about every level of cyclist can enjoy. My background is in teaching and restaurant service. That combined experience has taught me how to impart information in entertaining ways, how to anticipate needs, engage multiple levels of interest and comfort levels with city cycling. With summers off, I’ve travelled the world on self supported cycle tours before founding Handlebar Bike Tours. I’m still a teacher, and it has been hard to hold down a full time job, and run a business. Up until 2020 we were experiencing exponential year over year growth. I hope to one day transition into Handlebar Bike Tours full time, and continue to provide jobs for former students.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
You could spend a whole day in the Arts District and Little Tokyo. I’d start out the day at Eat Drink Americano, head to Hauser and Wirth, then cross over 4th street to the Container Yard and check out the murals. I’d walk to 7th street, grab a slice at Pizzanista, then head to Flying Embers on Industrial and enjoy a hard Kombucha cocktail. Next I’d hit up the ICA, and then Row for a little shopping. I’d end the day in Little Tokyo, show my friend the Irvine Japanese garden, check out the anime shops, and thrift at Space City vintage before ramen on 1st street. I’d end the day at the Far East bar, and call a Lyft. If someone were here for a week, I might have to take them to some of my favorite road trip stops like The Old Place, or Cold Spring Tavern.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Sherry Grisham is in sales at Just Got 2 Have It, she is the friend who’s advice to embrace the competition has made her a successful sales woman and entrepreneur herself. Karyn Cantor, owner of Classic Hardware, has offered mentoring advice along the way. Neel Sodha is a wealth of knowledge he imparts on his LA Walking Tours.

Website: https://handlebarbiketours.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/handlebarbiketours/?hl=en

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-nutting-91491141/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_LV2IwPqaSXDXeNLF83CeA

Other: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g32655-d12429167-Reviews-Handlebar_Bike_Tours-Los_Angeles_California.html

Image Credits
Marko Paavolainen

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