The journey started in my mother in laws kitchen, blending various concoctions of chamois cream samples to be tested amongst my riding friends.
Who am I? My name is Chris, just a few years ago, I was an aspiring pro cyclist. I did manage to accomplish this dream with a lot of blood, sweat, tears and some luck. It enabled me to race and travel across South Africa, Belgium and the USA, it was a tough lifestyle which could at times be very rewarding. Ultimately, I transitioned from bike racer to running this small business as my full-time job.
Let’s not get ahead of the curve and rewind the story back to 2013 where I had spent the racing season in the USA. After struggling with saddle sores and discomfort on the bike after a particularly hot and humid training and racing camp in Florida, I was desperate for something better than what I could find at the time. I bought various ingredients from the local pharmacy and mixed up my own version of an anti – chafe cream, but didn’t give the idea too much thought until I returned to South Africa.
At the start of Wines2Whales with my wife Ash.
I wanted to continue with my racing career, but also wanted to start something on the side to stimulate my mind and support the uncertain lifestyle of a wannabe pro cyclist. I resumed testing and mixing up different samples before distributing them amongst my friends, most of them serious level cyclists at the time. There were positive responses and it seemed like we were onto something. Our first real test came when a 3 day stage race agreed to let us put samples into their race goodie bags. Our next challenge, how to make 500 samples with limited equipment, experience and funding within a 2 week time period.
After a solid grind, we managed to get the samples out and more over the next few months, the feedback we were getting was good, some changes needed to be made but we were certainly on the right track.
Our next challenge was to find a contract manufacturer who would work with a small start-up with even smaller opening orders. Our relationship with the father and Son duo of Hennie and Gerhard du Plessis started in 2014 and we still work with them to this day. My own family helped with access to funding which allowed us to be able to actually pay for the stock.
With our first production run complete, I filled my Toyota Corolla to the brim and much to my girlfriend at the time dismay, our living room was our first warehouse. On the first few orders, we also stuck our own labels, well my wife, Ash did, I couldn’t stick them straight.
The first home office with Lola the long dog, if you look closely you will see the 'warehouse' in the background.
The Toyota Corolla went above and beyond as a sedan delivery vehicle.
Possibly one of the most difficult parts of the journey was next. I now had stock now, but to have a real business, I needed to sell it. Cold calling is tough whichever way you put it, fortunately I knew some of the store owners and managers from the racing scene. It was a hard slog at first, knocking on doors, waiting to speak to the right person and learning how to actually sell, but gradually with time it became a little easier.
And then, voila! The first reorder.
For ASS MAGIC to grow, I couldn’t just sell in Cape Town. I would need to broaden our dealer base. At the end of the 2014 racing season, I flew up to Joburg, filled my class A rental with ASS MAGIC and drove Gauteng flat. It was another tough week of cold calling, but I managed to sell 250 odd tubs that week and sign up another 20 or so new dealers. I later found out that I had in fact had a lucky break, one of the main chamois cream brands at the time was out of stock and so there was a gap for me to get my foot in the door.
First delivery note from the first Joburg trip.
I kept on hustling, slowly building our dealer base whilst also juggling the challenges of a pro cycling career. I loved it.
Fast forward two years down the line and ASS MAGIC joined the Imbi Bike Saver in a new company, Bikalot. It would be the start of a import and distribution business to service the cycling, outdoor and motorcycle industries in South Africa with a longer term vision to export company owned brands.
I am confident to today say that ASS MAGIC has become a known brand in the South African cycling community. It is well received in the vast majority of bicycle and sports stores in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Mauritius in Southern Africa. ASS MAGIC can also be found in Costa Rica, the USA and Europe. We are in the process of starting to spread our wings to foreign stores and to bring a little more MAGIC to people’s ASS’es.