October 22, 2014

Trendsetters in Biking

Mike Vogel | 3/1/2010
Wheels of Fortune

Paulo Camasmie
Big Cat HPV
Founder
Winter Garden

In 1997 in his native Brazil, mechanical engineer Paulo Camasmie, longing to start his own manufacturing operation, saw a comfort bike. "I had this epiphany. I could make bikes myself." He informed his wife they were moving to the United States to make bikes. "Of course, I had no idea what I was talking about."

Paulo Camasmie
Paulo Camasmie on the company’s first two-wheeler, the Musashi? [Photo: Brook Pifer]

He focused on a niche within a niche: Recumbent, aluminum, adult trikes branded Catrikes. He bought a Sears drill press and $100 Office Depot software. It took him six weeks to cut parts for six bikes. Today, 13-employee Big Cat HPV turns out a trike every 45 minutes for customers who want a quality, American-made trike, sleek, fast and comfortable, under $2,000. Revenue climbed 20% in 2009 to $2 million. He’s learned much about production, combining Japanese concepts with know-how gleaned from his days hand-building.

Camasmie has 120 dealers domestically and internationally. He counts on four patents, responsiveness and a devotion to quality and service to protect against cheap knockoffs. He’s entering the two-wheeler market with a recumbent racer, "the most beautiful and fast bike ever." He pays $12 to $17 per hour and covers 75% of health and dental insurance costs.

Orlando worked out for the family: Wife Rafaela, 12-year-old daughter Maria and 10-year-old son Antonio. "The quality of life is incredible here," says Camasmie, 40. "I was just looking for something better and to build our own life."

Big Cat was the Manufacturers Association of Florida’s small manufacturer of the year.

"Manufacturing is a different breed," Camasmie says. "You have to love manufacturing."


Down Cycle

Harry Bakker,
Wendy Shim

Trailmate
Owners
Bradenton

Harry Bakker’s and Wendy Shim’s Trailmate in Bradenton makes trikes for campground and resort rentals, people with balance issues and even factory workers. But, sadly for their 10- to 15-employee company, more seniors — a key market — now eschew pedaling for motorized scooters, which are paid for by insurers and Medicare. That’s bad, Bakker says. "If you quit doing what you ought to be doing, pretty soon you can’t do it."

DeSoto Classic
DeSoto Classic

Double Joy Rider
Double Joy Rider

Tags: Trendsetters

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