Interview with Yanto Barker, founder of Le Col
Luke Lang, co-founder of Crowdcube and cycling enthusiast, interviews Yanto Barker, retired Welsh professional racing cyclist. Yanto started his own business, Le Col, back in 2009 and is now turning to crowdfunding to help continue establishing his brand and expand into new countries.
You retired from pro-cycling earlier this year? Why now?
I have raced full time for 20 years with a small break in the middle. I love cycling and have loved my career. I consider one of my biggest achievements the fact that I improved every year right till this July when I did all time power PB’s for 6 and 8 mins in races, which are quite a big deal when you consider I have not been idle, but constantly looking for ways to improve. Now is the time because I am expecting a family this winter with my wife, but most importantly I have been building the business for the last few years organically, and we decide to do this fund raise to accelerate our growth, which I believe will need my focus full time, so it coincides nicely at my age with retiring from my sport.
What inspired you to start Le Col?
A couple of reasons. Firstly, I needed to build myself a job for when I retire. I had this idea when I was 28 years old so I have been preparing for a while, secondly, I truly believe we can make better products than other brands. Last of all I am inspired to work in teams that excel, and this business offers me the chance to build a team and motivate people to achieve really great results, who also enjoy and feel fulfilled in their roles.
How did you balance pro cycling and running a business for so long? How do they compare?
Really good question, there are key similarities that I identified and focused on. Cycling is all about performance, and it’s possible to work in business in the same way. Break things down to the performances of ad campaigns, processes, products, people, designs and most importantly the performance of time within our business. Targets have all been projected against time so we need to make sure the time we spend in business is effective.
The big similarity in cycling and business is that cycling is about building alliances, working together and creating a teammate out of those riders in your group. Business can benefit from the same approach. It’s about understanding and identifying overlapping incentives, and working hard to align everyone to the same goal so there is no conflict within the work-space. Business and cycling have been a good balance for me, one is physical and the other is mental, which means I can balance that while working with my managers to deliver our targets. It works well for me personally.
After 20 years as a professional cyclist what is the most important lesson that you’ve been able to transfer to business?
Ha ha.. Honestly so many. I would select discipline and work ethic. Sport offers a black and white result of how well you did, usually the outcome over time of your work ethic and commitment.
What is it like changing the results sheet for a spreadsheet and power data for website conversion data?
It’s a pleasure. I love data spreadsheets and web stats. It’s frankly a relief that I can find a new way to transfer that data analysis experience to be beneficial to us as a business.
You’ve ridden for Team GB and Wales at the Commonwealth Games, how has your life as a pro rider given you the edge as an entrepreneur?
I’ve been fortunate to have been invested in as an athlete by some of the best physiologists and psychologists in the world. So I benefit from that experience, which means I understand the components of success at its most basic human level. This is something I am aware of and working on all the time, inspiring myself to work hard and achieve my goals, while also inspiring a team to work hard and be effective in their roles in the business.
I was first aware of Le Col several years ago as you sponsor one of my local clubs, the Mid Devon Cycling Club (MDCC), and rode for them as a youth. Is this a sentimental gesture or part of a wider business strategy?
Both, I came through cycling’s grass roots from MDCC and there are many clubs bringing talented youngsters to the sport and providing them opportunities to progress. I want to invest a bit back into the sport that supported me, but I also have the ambition to help find and support the next world Champion before they get there. It’s easy to sponsor big names once they have already made it, but Le Col prides itself on recognising talent earlier than that.
I’ve had the pleasure/pain of climbing some famous cols including Sa Calobra (Mallorca), Col de Tourmalet (Pyrenees) and the Nufenen Pass (Swiss Alps). Cycling is famous for suffering; what was your toughest moment in the saddle?
It was the Tour of Poland this year. 250km stage 7h00 in freezing rain in some barren mountains. For anyone who understands a 400+TSS day and with the added pain of the cold. It was my hardest day on a bike. That day out of 180 world tour riders 90 did not finish. I thankfully can withstand the cold and managed to get through.. Just!
What can the peloton teach us about business?
That while we are competitive you still need to act respectfully at all times. In cycling, unlike most races, other people can stop you winning if they ride purposely against you. I take this seriously and apply the same mentality to business, and try to operate in a straight and respectful way. Peer respect was always important in my sport and I prioritise it similarly in my business role.
You are currently raising on Crowdcube, what will the investment be used for?
Good question, our pitch includes an extensive and consolidated piece of market research and business modelling, that identifies our opportunity and the steps we need to take to achieve our goals. I would recommend everyone have a look at our pitch for all the details. Ultimately the money is for international expansion, brand awareness and product development.
Why did you select Crowdcube as your crowdfunding partner?
I do business based on relationships. I rate good people highly and Crowdcube demonstrated a clear similarity in their values, which I noticed and appreciated. Of course, you guys have done extremely well with your business over recent years, and I hope to be able to share in some of that success with overlapping our incentives to create a successful pitch.
How did you find Crowdcube’s due diligence process?
As you would expect, when so many people are investing through the platform, you guys can’t afford to make any mistakes, so it’s rightly thorough and robust exactly as you would expect.
Investments of this nature carry risks to your capital.
Approved as a financial promotion by Crowdcube Capital which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (no. 650205).