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Colorado Springs man and his fat bikes to appear on CNBC show 'Adventure Capitalists'

November 6, 2017 Updated: November 7, 2017 at 12:45 pm
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From left to right, Dhani Jones, Jeremy Bloom, Bode Miller and Shawn Johnson East stand with Borealis fat bikes, which they tried out in the mountains outside Banff, Alberta. The investors in CNBC's "Adventure Capitalists" will decide in Tuesday's episode whether or not to invest in Steve Kaczmarek's Colorado Springs company. Photo courtesy: Mike O'Hara/CNBC

Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect Borealis Fat Bikes' sales were $2.5 million last year.

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Steve Kaczmarek, owner of Colorado Springs' Borealis Fat Bikes, was vacationing in the Caribbean with his wife and two teenagers when he was asked to leave immediately for Canada.

He'd been picked to appear on CNBC's "Adventure Capitalists," for the prime-time episode airing Tuesday.

Days after cutting his beach trip short, Kaczmarek was in the cold mountains outside Banff, Alberta, with the 68-foot rig he'd driven through the night for 1,300 miles or so. Before he knew it, he was on camera, in front of four famous people who act as the show's investors in a "Shark Tank"-like format; "Adventure Capitalists" features entrepreneurs in the outdoor industry.

Kaczmarek pitched interest in his 5-year-old company to Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson East, former NFL linebacker Dhani Jones and former world champion skiers Jeremy Bloom and Bode Miller.

"The good news is, I was so tired when I pitched it," Kaczmarek said. "I was so tired my nerves weren't even there."

He's contractually obligated to not spoil the investors' decisions. If you're curious how they liked his fat bikes - equipped with thick tires that maneuver through snow and sand - tune into the show at 9 p.m.

Also, Kaczmarek won't say how much stake he offered in Borealis. Nor does he reveal his company's value, saying only that company sales were $2.5 million last year. Each bike sells between $1,800 and $6,200.

But he can say the reason for seeking investment in Borealis.

"My intent with going to 'Adventure Capitalists,' it wasn't about the money," he said from his company's downtown warehouse. "What was more important to me was to get help with, call it 'B to C,' direct to the consumers. Or how do I get more dealers?"

Many dealers he initially sold to now make their own fat bikes as the fad grows. When Kaczmarek started Borealis in 2012, he counted on his hands the number of manufacturers. And he didn't count any that were specializing in Borealis' carbon fiber frames that minimize weight and maximize performance.

"Selling was easy back then," Kaczmarek said. "Today, everybody has a carbon fiber bike. So sales and marketing are hugely important and very, very competitive."

Retail is not his specialty, he admits. And really, the whole bike business is "a total departure" for him; riding was only a hobby before.

While teaching entrepreneurial-minded students at Colorado College, one introduced him to the fat bike and the idea of the company. Kaczmarek liked the idea so much that he reached into his own pocket and took out a $1 million bank loan to start Borealis, with the plan for the student to buy him out upon graduation.

Kaczmarek was expecting to have sold hundreds of bikes by then. The number turned out to be closer to 5 million. "The problem is, the company got very big very quickly. It just made sense for him (the student) to exit."

Kaczmarek considered himself "happily retired" while teaching. "It was just fun. My entire life, I always wanted to teach. Then this thing got so big and busy, so that's on hold at the moment. I do hope to get back to it."

He thought he'd be spending more time with his family by now. He thought his business days were behind him. Certainly, he never thought he'd get into bike manufacturing after a career in printing and packaging.

And certainly, he never thought he'd be on a reality TV show.

"My wife has asked me, 'Would you do it all over again?' And I sit there and say, 'Well, we haven't made a lot of money.' But there's been a lot of cool things that have come from this."

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