Have you ever been ‘sold’? And even knowing that it was happening, taken great pleasure in the experience?
In the fall of 2016, during a rainy Seagull Century cycling event that turned into a great girls weekend away instead, I met Barbara Kornbluh of Evelyn Hill Cycling. And I purchased a pair of women’s bib cycling shorts that I had had no intention of buying. Because of Barbara.
Barbara is not what you think of when you think of a salesperson.
She’s a classically trained concert pianist. And she’s a grandmother. But she can sell, very successfully. Because she believes in her product.
Barbara became a business owner, and then a salesperson, out of frustration. But to tell you that story I need to go back a few years.
Barbara’s husband Mel is a great cyclist; he’s also in sales, but that’s not really important to this story unless you acknowledge that he may have used his skills to get Barbara onto a bike in the first place! Like most newlyweds, Barbara wanted to be with her husband, so she got on a bike, rode three miles, and promptly threw up. Together they decided that perhaps a tandem bike might be easier, as a way to equalize their different strengths and fitness levels. Turns out they were right about that, and have since created a tandem bike business and ridden more than 190,000 miles together.
Female Cyclists Under Served
But Barbara was dismayed at the cycling clothing available for women. Yes, there was clothing designed for women, but after you waded through all the men’s clothing to find one or two women’s items you’d discover that the size XL wouldn’t fit your eight year old niece. So she decided to do something about it.
Barbara’s son knew something about fabrics and manufacturing, her husband about bikes and cycling, and Barbara herself knew that women’s cycling clothes needed be more comfortable and well, just cuter.
But as she says,
'You can’t just pink it and shrink it and expect women to wear it.'
You need to consider how women’s bodies are different from men’s. Which after many miles in the bike saddle, I can attest to.
She began by designing cycling clothing that would fit her, a 5’4”, full busted, middle aged woman. She had prototypes made and she wore them. She stained them. She washed them. She tested them in all sorts of conditions. And she developed and improved a product that she could believe in herself.
And that, my friends, is the secret to selling success. Barbara believes in her product.
She continually asks her customers for feedback and she pays attention to what they say; she wears all her cycling clothing herself and makes constant improvements; and critically, she wants all women, regardless of size or shape, to enjoy cycling and feel good about themselves while doing it.
Barbara has no formal sales training. And she had no idea she could sell. But she’s very good at it, because she believes in her product and she’s honest. She genuinely wants women to enjoy cycling and to be comfortable while riding.
I asked her if there is a difference between how men sell and how women sell. She laughed as she explained that she really only knows how her husband sells, but there is definitely a difference. He pays attention to what his prospective customers are telling him, but he pushes. Her approach is definitely softer; she comes out with coffee and banana bread, she asks questions and she really listens to the answers.
She believes women look for the soul of the person and what the real need is.
And as I know from my own experience, she’ll come into the dressing room with you to make sure you’ve got the most comfortable size for your body.
Which all sounds like a recipe for business success. A great product developed to fill a need and a business owner who truly wants to serve her customers. But she doesn't stop there. Barbara also leads weekly women's rides, on her very own single bike, teaching new riders how to ride in traffic and about the importance of the right equipment. Schedule details for these NJ based rides can be found on Evelyn Hill's Facebook page.
If you’re a female cyclist who’s been looking for comfortable and stylish cycling clothing, I’d definitely recommend checking out Evelyn Hill Cycling. You know you’re getting something designed, developed and tested by another female cyclist. And you’d be supporting a small woman-owned business too.
Barbara feels good about what she's accomplished with Evelyn Hill Cycling, but freely admits her next major challenge is getting her SEO sorted out so she can rank higher on Google!