In 2011, Brian Richards was a middle school teacher who competed in triathlons for fun in his spare time.
To minimize the expense of the most high-tech bikes that he was constantly acquiring, he began buying and selling frames and parts on Craigslist and eBay and crafting his own equipment.
That utilitarian method of buying, and later selling, his bikes is now a full-fledged, multimillion dollar e-commerce company called My Bike Shop.
"I'd fix them up and ride them and then sell them," he said. "Turns outs there was an underserved marketplace for people trying to get a new bike."
The jump to a business began when he casually mentioned his year-old effort to a stranger at his pool during a workout. The man, Mark Oakes, turned out to be an entrepreneur and thought Richards' operation could become an actual company. With no business training, and a career-long focus on education, Richards was nervous at first about taking other people's money. He wasn't even sure he understood all the terms Oakes used.
But he studied up on the lingo and the basics and ended up partnering with Oakes and another entrepreneur, Todd Smith, to launch My Bike Shop.
Richards didn't consider quitting teaching until he was literally hit over the head with the idea. He was struck by a truck on his bike ride to school one day in 2013, suffering a concussion and other serious injuries. While he was rehabilitating and unable to train or teach school, he worked a bit more on the the business. He never went back to teaching.
The first website, mybikeshop.com, launched in 2014, and now he not only buys old bikes and parts from athletes, he buys overstock merchandise from manufacturers. That makes his inventory vast, though not always consistent.
Richards no longer fixes up the bikes he buys himself. He has a staff of 15 to fine-tune equipment, buy and sell supplies, and provide customer service. A few people are stationed in other time zones so there is always someone available to answer questions or offer a quote.
He has a 7,000-square-foot warehouse and a showroom in Pikesville. Customers can buy or sell, or both, in person or online.
Richard now also works with local bike shops. He buys back their customers' old bikes so the customers can put the cash toward the latest models and specific brands from their neighborhood store, as well as other gear.
That is "the rising tide lifting all boats," he said.
And while Richards no longer competes in triathlons, he still runs road races from time to time. He calls the business his new "Ironman."
co-founder and vice president of sales for My Bike Shop