MADAME BLUE, “The Electric Bike Queen on Wall Street ”

“As we begin so shall we go.” Marshall McLuhan

She was a familiar site bopping around on Wall Street. With years of experience in the fashion and beauty industry and having vast experience in sales she was  a master of her venue. She knew many famed people and this was her environment. She also had creative talent and knew what to look for in order to create appeal to sell a product. She had vast experience in putting advertising and marketing campaigns together for well known commercial clients and brands.

He was head of GlobalEcoVillage Inc a start up company focused on the creation of sustainable communities. Starting with famed architect Phil Hawes architect of Biosphere 2 and student of Frank Lloyd Wright in 2009, when word came of a student of Hawes who sought to found an electric car company he was happy at GEV to help and spin the company off as a sister company.

Much aid was given in the founding of the car company and the GEV corporate attorney was even lent for purpose of putting together a private placement for Alternative Energy Motor Company as well as creating the legal corporate structure. Everything was put in place and Alternative Energy Motor Company was launched with fanfare as a great new startup to address the fabulous new emerging market worldwide for electric cars.

It was two years after the founding of the company that this story begins. Biruni had decided to get into the bicycle business back in 2011. There is a natural connection to bicycling in our business concept at GEV (see central column first page)  AEMC had requested that GEV put together a retail sales force in the field.  For him having 17 years of experience in telephone retail sales this wasn’t a problem. As ad director of creative marketing she could make the ads with lifestyle appeal and personality which sold the concept. She was expert at on the ground, person-to-person sales and on the telephone too. She would be the addition which made it all work. They made a great team. GEV also contracted to create a selling force for AEMC and had a contract for GEV to passthrough from AEMC for commissions.

All that was lacking with Biruni was a product to sell. That was why when the president and creator of AEMC, an architectural student of the GEV founder, introduced the wonderful first trike for us to sell we were very pleased. To our delight we were introduced to the Papillon.

It was clear that this product was a winner. The design was beautiful, functional and desirable. The Papillion was to be the first electric trike model which we sold. This was truly the “Trikedream.” The Papillion was a beautifully conceived and engineered electric trike perfectly fitted for North American Markets. This technology had purpose. The design was economic and desirable. Making the lifestyle easier and simpler for the everyday person.

We were told that the Papillion trike was being made available in an exclusively signed series of ten. Management assured us that there was product to sell. She was continuously sent great quantities of marketing materials along with a lot of material for raising money. Sales would be great as she was in the very desirable demographic. Soon she had sold the main denizens of the area. She was truly the “Electric Bike Queen on Wall Street.” Why? Just look at the clientele she was bringing in.

She was well known in the financial district and recognized by many. Here was a product she could see worthy of her introductions. She could see these trikes tooling all over the financial district.This product was perfectly suited for the upper middle class transition from the automobile. The Papillion was a trike perfect for the Hamptons and other upscale venues.Two of these lovely trikes could be fitted into a single car garage space. Stylistically and in terms of design this was clearly a market winner.

As soon as word got out about the trikes they were selling rapidly. Management said,”Don’t sell them all I need to reserve some for my friends.” No real tricycle had materialized although we were assured that they would be delivered.

In addition they marketed and represented the company to hundreds of bicycle shops across the nation on the telephone. She soon was finalizing the closes for the Papillon limited edition. There were major buyers coming in from Wall Street and other significant people too.

A high end East coast music promotor wanted the trike for upscale venues and was thrilled at the prospect. We referred him to management as instructed. He kept asking, “Where do I send the check?” He was calling and emailing her frustrated that management was not calling him back or paying him any attention. Management had  ignored and “blown him off” nor did he ever hear back.

A bicoastal bicycle company that deals with bicycle sales, rentals and tours wanted the Papillion for their tour guides in San Francisco, Brooklyn Bridge (NYC) and the Waterfront in the financial district. We sent them to management and they never heard back.They too were “ignored and blown off.” Our painstaking efforts were ignored.

After assiduously working these leads none of which were credited to the parties who brought them to the table. Was business done later by Management? Maybe..

A prominent dealership on Wall Street wanted the trike for its display window and that opportunity was blown off as well. Susanna was going to get to the bottom of this! She then got on the phone with management and after being told, “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do!” It was clearly apparent to her that something was seriously wrong here!

Also a prominent food court business in the financial district wanted to purchase a fleet of trikes for their delivery vehicles. They also were ignored. We had been told by management that racks could be fitted on the trikes for delivery purposes and it could be designed any way one wished. When the team tried to place the orders they too were ignored by management.  

The team then backtracked after having been blown off for quite some time. Management did not generally work the leads the team sent along to him. As in the case of the Irish Festival in Hermosa Beach. Susanna and I were invited by letter to participate in their Hermosa Beach St. Patrick day Parade. They wanted to feature one of the Biruni bikes and the team was ecstatic! We directed them to management and the bike shop owner was never contacted either. To our dismay the selling team received absolutely no credit as usual and once again another very interested referral was blown off. There was no contact with Hermosa Beach until  a year later. This did not prevent Biruni from being at the 2013 festival

The marketing of the Papillion was a wash. Here are some of the reasons why. 1) A product should never be introduced before it is available. One of the most  important buying sectors in the market the financial purchasing sector wished to purchase the product but it was not made available. Perhaps in the mind of the Creator this was acceptable. This is unacceptable for management of a company.

Or perhaps it was not a wash. We were being used for market research and were never clued in about it. We were told instead that we were selling bicycles and tricycles.The going rate for market research is $1300/hr

Secondly, the sales force was told that they had something to sell which they didn’t. It was an embarrassing spectre of the most influential customers being given a runaround by the company who was avoiding them. This destroyed the credibility of the company and undermined the credibility of the sales force.

This was clearly a failure of management. Compare this to the success of the ELF launch and think what the Biruni success could have been had the vehicle actually been available at the time of the launch and proper management in place.

To date their are a few Papillon prototypes. Here is one of them:

We were then told by management all of a sudden that there was a new trike for delivery, not actually in production yet. We were to disseminate this information widely on the new cargo trike. No Papillions had as yet been delivered but we had “drank the kool-aid.”

We were to go on selling these newest trikes for months and getting large and significant orders never to be filled. At last we learned the truth. There was no Papillion and we had been used.  The team was never paid for their efforts.

We then went in search of funding to make the Papillon happen.The investor we brought in had also pre-purchased one. He was told the trikes were being offered for delivery when he had pre-purchased. He has yet to this day to receive his trike even though it had finally been produced.

Ralph and Susanna Copyright 2015


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