OUR CULTURE = Fun. Wild. Crazy. Eccentric. Love. UCE. Service. Family. Outrageous. Clean. Creative. Team.
THE NS4L STORY
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was January of 2004 and I was dressed up in my suit and tie in the O’Dome at the University of Florida for Career Showcase. Résumé in hand, I walked from recruiter to recruiter, shaking hands, going through mock interviews, and discussing employment opportunities at their companies. As I did this, I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh… I am never going to work for you.” This was one of those very eye-opening moments for me. None of that world was for me. I felt out of place and I felt like a monkey in that suit [I ALWAYS hated dressing up in suit and tie as a child]. I definitely ‘faked’ my way through that day at Career Showcase and knew immediately after that I would not work for anyone.
As a college student, the pressure is on… “What am I going to do with my life?”
Most of us have said that to ourselves at one point or another. All I had figured out was that I was not meant to work FOR someone. So no what? After UF’s Career Showcase, my eyes were becoming more observant of the world around me and all the problems around me. Throughout my four years at the University of Florida, I lived off campus at an apartment complex called University Terrace West. I remember going out to the bus stop every morning, sitting and waiting for the bus to come pick me up. I always thought waiting for the bus was a complete waste of my time, but that wasn’t even the worst part. Morning after morning, especially between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., the bus would approach my stop, I would stand up, pick up my backpack, prepare myself to board, and then the bus would drive by with those words that are forever burned into my mind… FULL BUS.
Basically, I rarely got to class on time. I would either show up late or have to completely give up all together. To say it was frustrating was an understatement, especially for someone that was a good student and took a lot of pride in his grades. Luckily, many of my classes were online or on TV and I could watch them there, so my grades didn’t suffer. For the classes I couldn’t get to, Smokin’ Notes and Tutoring Zone helped me fill in the blanks. Oh… One more note… If I actually got on the bus, it was usually packed like a sardine can and had standing room only. You tell me how comfortable it is holding your arms up and grabbing the handrails on the bus’ ceiling when you had just been standing outside waiting for the bus for 15 minutes and that sweat patch under your armpits built up. Did I mention I was a college guy and standing all around me were cute college girls?! You get my drift.
I also remember how the University of Florida continued to grow. With the exception of a couple of buildings, this incredible university is trapped between 4 core roads: University Avenue, 13th Street, Archer Road, and 34th Street. There isn’t a ton of land in there and every time the university decided to build a new building, it would build on the only land available… parking lots. [And still do.] Have you ever tried to park a car on campus? I have. Believe me, you can’t. Sorry folks… getting a decal at UF doesn’t guarantee you a parking spot. In fact, UF sells way more decals than parking spots available. There just isn’t enough parking on campus and I predict that UF will continue to build on the 20,000 or so parking spots they have available.
All of my frustrations with UF parking and the RTS bus system made me think, “I can’t be the only one with this problem!” I saw an opportunity to build a business that would (forever change the culture of an entire community and) help students with their campus transportation issues. Scooters were barely in existence. There were no scooter parking slots like you see all over campus today. There were only hashed blocks at the end of parking rows with a sign stuck in the middle that said ‘Motorcycle/Scooter Parking.’ The scooter parking slots came a few years later after New Scooters 4 Less flooded Gainesville with hundreds (now thousands) of scooters. To park a scooter on campus in 2004 it would have cost you $30/year. To park a scooter on campus today? $160/year. However, it is still worth the additional expense due to the amount of time it will save you and the convenience it offers you, allowing you to park in so many areas of UF’s campus.
In March of 2004, my friend Justin and I seized this opportunity that was knocking and created New Scooters 4 Less. I worked full time trying to get New Scooters 4 Less off the ground and went to school full time as I prepared to graduate in May of 2004. As soon as I graduated, I dove head-first into our entrepreneurship venture. The early years of New Scooters 4 Less helped shape me into the businessman I would become. Between 2004 and 2006, Justin and I set up a small retail scooter shop, but focused primarily on wholesale and eBay sales to generate the cashflow necessary to further develop our business. We sold mini go-karts, pocket bikes, generators and more. By the end of 2005, we achieved nearly $3 million in sales and had customers all over the United States. [This is a part of the NS4L history I am asked about often and I plan to write an entire blog series of those incredible days. When I do I will link it up!]
By January 2006, our visions had changed for the direction of the company and Justin and I decided to split our partnership. In February of 2006, I would go back to square one, keep the business name New Scooters 4 Less, rebrand and become known as NS4L, and move 100 percent of my focus to RETAIL. I knew that I wanted my mission as an entrepreneur to be to help college students get to and from class at their convenience without having to wait for the bus. I knew the struggle. I had been there. I wanted to keep other students from having to go through the same struggle.
On August 1st, 2007, we moved to a new location, 118 NW 14th Ave., Suite D, and began a new chapter. For a long time, just a handful of us would run and grow the company. In 2010 and 2011, our showroom and service department doubled in size. We quickly went from 4 employees to the 20+ employees we have on the team today within a few years. We have sold an additional 100 scooters per year the last 4 years. In 2015, we were recognized by the University of Florida in the Gator 100 as one of the fastest-growing Gator-led businesses in the world. To be recognized by my school that I love with all my heart was one of the greatest honors my team and I have ever received. The University and the City of Gainesville continue to work with New Scooters 4 Less as we develop and grow. I have been blessed with the opportunity to contribute, teach and mentor students in several different classrooms, clubs, academies and organizations throughout UF and Gainesville. Giving back and being able to do so has fueled me and taught me what is really important in life, and I am incredibly grateful for all of these opportunities.
In August of 2015, we opened our 2nd retail showroom at 633 NW 13th Street. Within a few months, we realized the potential of this location and decided to go ‘all in.’ By November of 2015, we made the call to move our entire organization to this new location and spent the entire spring semester of 2016 remodeling and preparing for the big move. We poured over $100,000 in renovations to create the greatest and most efficient workspace for our team. We also compartmentalized our dealership so it would flow and allow us to service the needs of our customers better. We completed the big move in May 2016 and reopened our doors as one unit on June 1st. The move has been exciting as we have had record breaking sales and have found ourselves continuously evolving and adjusting to the needs of our customers. It’s a ton of work, but the problems we face because of growth are exciting ones to solve! Our customers have played an incredible part in our business and have been so patient (especially seasonally) as we evolve processes to keep up with the growth.
I’m often asked what has been the defining factor that has contributed to the success of New Scooters 4 Less. The answer is easy. CULTURE built around a set of CORE VALUES. A few years ago, our team sat down and established 12 core values that would be used to set direction for our company. Our number one core value is to Create and Recreate the Ultimate Customer Experience – UCE. This has allowed me to ‘grade’ our company and hold us all [including myself] accountable.
I put my people first and in doing so, they put our customers first. I am blessed to work with all of these individuals and there is not a single person here that I wouldn’t put my life on the line for. They are the heart of this company and they are the reason we are a success.
What’s in the future for New Scooters 4 Less? Lots! We have continued to build and build this dealership and want to create an experience so great that people choose to travel from all over the United States to come get their scooter right here from NS4L. We also see a lot of opportunity to take our brand, values and leadership and inject it into other communities to make positive impacts on other markets throughout the nation (and potentially world-wide).
So where do we go from here? If you took the time to read this, THANK YOU. It means the world to me. I hope that you will give my team the opportunity to earn your business. Your business is what allows us to wake up and pursue what we love everyday. I am incredibly grateful for that!
Though I am in and out all the time, it is important for me to stay connected to our customers. I am easily reachable through my personal website, COLLINAUSTIN.COM or via email at Collin[at]NS4L[dot]com. The BEST way for you to reach me is through Snapchat. I not only use Snapchat to stay connected to my customers, but I also use it to answer scooter questions, offer assistance to students doing school projects (lol – I’m serious), and show you what is happening in my day-to-day here at the shop and in my life. Please reach out to me anytime!
I wish you and yours an incredible year! Thank you again for being a part of my story. I am truly blessed and forever grateful.
COE – Chief of Everything
New Scooters 4 Less
(From left to right: Thom, Robbie, Collin, and Todd… Yea yea. Laugh it out now. We were essentially the back-ups for the Backstreet Boys. I mean, come on… Look at this pic!)
NO ONE and we mean NO ONE takes business as seriously as we do. Our customers and their safety is our top priority and when you purchase a scooter from New Scooters 4 Less, you are gaining much more than just a new scooter. There have been circumstances where a parent was out of town and their son or daughter had a problem that was completely unrelated to scooters and they felt compelled to contact us because they knew we would help them in the situation. That is what happens when you have more than a ‘customer / business’ relationship. We are family.