With an advertising background and a degree in Fine Arts, stays in Stockholm, Sweden, which is a far-fetched characteristic for any Silicon Valley founder. This doesn’t hinder her from embodying Silicon Valley’s status -quo- disrupting claim.
It was only two years ago that the 27-year–old was applying for a job as a barista at a Stockholm’s Starbucks. She failed to land the job with the reason that her hair was ‘too blue’. She didn’t let the rejection put her down. Instead she used it as inspiration to start her coffee shop, Wheelys.
Entrepreneur Ideas: Drinks on Wheels?!
Wheelys is a solar-powered mobile bike café franchise, and it’s aimed at bringing organic cafes on wheels serving cold drinks, coffee, and vegetarian snacks. In just a span of two years, Maria had managed to be part of Y Combinator accelerator, then started a global company. Wheelys started out by launching IndieGogo campaign series with one having the title, ‘ Wheelys. A café in a bike-deal with it.” The campaign had on its own raised $153,196 which really superseded its fundraising goal by 253%. With such humongous support, Wheelys was able to supply bikes to over 250 franchises referred to as Wheelers in almost 50 countries worldwide.
Together with the two co-founders, Maria would then apply to the Y Combinator, which they luckily got in. Wheelys announced that its seed had closed at $2.5 million in April 2016 with investors such as Justin Waldron-the co-founder of Zynga, Jared Friedman -founder of Scribd, Othman Laraki -co-founder of Color Genomics and Paul Buchheit -creator of Gmail.
Making Starting a Business Less of a Challenge
Wheelys aims to make the experience much easier looking to open a business. The startup cost ranges from $3,000 to $7,000 which is dependant on Wheelys bike model with the operator buying the bike. They pay a franchise fee of $200 monthly for use of the Wheelys brand, access to marketing materials, business support, discounted prices on coffee, supplies and various other benefits.
The Wheels cart leaves a minimal carbon footprint, are compact and also would allow owners to plan their own schedules. It’s a requirement for all wheelers to have Wheelys coffee but they have the freedom to offer other extra varieties depending on their preferences which can include snacks, pastries, fruits and magazines in line with the local regulations. Additionally, Wheelys has an app which allows the customers to digitally order and pay ahead, although the customers still have the option of cash transactions.
Currently, Wheelys is exceeding and rapidly expanding in the US. Maria and her team have been tirelessly working on ways to advance the bikes so as to have better health standards and also to be more efficient and environmental-friendly for all the Wheelers working on the customer’s orders.
Maria says everyone that works at Wheelys’s cafes, own their café, meaning that they have their heart in the café. They choose to do this since its something they want, they invested in it, and put so much effort and time into it. It’s different from applying for a job.” At the beginning, Wheelys operated at a loss since they created their first 20-30 bikes in a basement and sold them for only a few thousand dollars.
The Entrepreneur Mind: Always on the Lookout for the Next Big Thing to Attract Customers
To look for strategies that would attract customers, De La Croix, together with her co-founders tested the bikes on their own parked the bikes in different locations. At one time, Maria says she ended up out-performing her corporate competitor Starbucks in the area. The coffee house was dismayed since After all, had been given a permit to do business on the streets. In as much as Maria gets feedback from her network of wheelers globally, she also tests on her own .
Jared Friedman who is one of the investors at Wheelys says that he was very impressed by the strength exhibited by the community. He says that Wheelys is more than just a job, it is more like a social movement. It is just perfect since the Wheels founders score big as natural leaders who can push such an agenda. They are not only entertaining but also gusty and high-spirited.
Having a background in adverting and with major artistic skills, De La Croix had such a solid foundation in branding which came in handy during Wheelys’s expansion. De La Croix is very categorical about the distinction between big brands and branding. She comes from a place of being rejected by a big brand, that’s why on Wheelys website they proudly declare “Fuck Brands’ but the word Starbucks is censored as ****bucks.
Initially, Maria and her incredible team did test out unbranded bikes but experienced more customer traffic once they added a name and logo. Maria says a lot of people prefer the Wheelys brand since it stands for something more organic and entrepreneurial people. With the high-quality, it also makes it quite possible for them to connect easily with more people. Her personal brand is more consistent and in her LinkedIn, she still rocks her infamous blue hair while staring at the camera. She also explains how selling at the front of a Stockholm’s Starbucks pissed them off but to her, it was fun, and she enjoyed it. She lives by a single statement as depicted in her LinkedIn profile, “Unlearn what you’ve learned.”
Business Opportunities Anyone Can Try
On Wheelys Café channel, she posted YouTube videos that were minimally produced including -Yc Hates money- which has her co-founder Tomas Mazetti and her explaining how they believe that Y Combinator places value more ideas that people want than a detailed business plan. They acknowledge that despite the fact that the accelerator is to a large extant responsible for Wheelys bank account balance, they would most likely refute being characterized as such.
After all is said and done, the only thing that Wheelys’s defiance wanted to achieve was to call other people to action. They perpetuate the fact that it’s possible to start a business even with just minimal materials and funds and still sell high-quality goods. You are not supposed to conform to the corporate constraints since all they do is limiting your possibilities. Maria says people should go ahead and get things done. The only big challenge that people are facing is having a lot of great ideas but make them too complicated.
The Entrepreneur Mind: Creativity in Building Your Vision
Maria says how she realized that the common traits shared by entrepreneurs and artists are that they are both creators focusing on building their vision. She takes pride in being someone who inclines towards both titles in equal measures and her perception of today’s world is that startups are meant to be used as a way of self-expression and possibly influence the public a lot more than art. She thinks that art affects people when its good and in a great way it can really change things. But today, art is not doing a lot, and startups have been doing the real deal in shaking up things in the society today.
aria De La- Croix dared to push boundaries, do something different, get out of her comfort zone and not let the rejection bring her done. Together with her team, they have created a globally-recognized brand, and they don’t look like stopping anytime soon on their path to success. She has the entrepreneur mindset of going out there and getting things done.
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