When Daisy Bell took the reins of LadyBiker in 2014, she felt like the stars had finally aligned for her.
As she admits, she was having something of an identity crisis at the time, having given birth to her second child and leaving a high-octane career in Business Development. So she took her motorcycle test after years of putting biking on the back burner, and then the opportunity to run her own business presented itself.
Daisy explained: “Everything I’d done had always been for my job and then for my children. I needed something that was for me. I was talking to my mother-in-law Pauline about what I should do, and out of nowhere she asked me if I’d like to run LadyBiker.”
Pauline had launched the LadyBiker brand back in 2002, when she was looking for a new challenge after her children had flown the nest. “The idea for the business had actually come from another chat around the dinner table,” said Daisy. “I had started riding on the back of my now-husband’s bike, and was moaning that there weren’t a lot of options when it came to women’s wear - short leg troubles! Pauline’s husband Stuart was a biker and RoSPA instructor and she’d found the same thing.
“At that time, e-commerce was just taking off and so Pauline decided to start selling Bering women’s gear from her house. She got a second supplier and then a third, and it gave her a purpose once her kids had left home.”
By 2014, Pauline and her husband Stuart had decided to retire to North Wales, moving from their home in Suffolk. So it was the ideal opportunity for Pauline to pass the LadyBiker mantle to Daisy, and the perfect time for Daisy to grab it with both hands and run with it.
Happily, this brought everything full circle for the mum-of-two, as biking had been part of her life since she was a girl. She said: “When I was 12, my dad opened a transport café called The Chalet in Cowfold, Sussex. My brother Martin still runs it now. The café was predominantly for bikers, so they were always part of my world at that time.
“Previously, I’d thought of bikers as being Hells Angels causing havoc; they had a bit of a name but it just wasn’t like that. They were all so friendly and had a really strong ethos about family and friendship. I had a Saturday job there and worked there during holidays, so it helped me learn how to speak to different people of all ages.”
Daisy’s connection with bikes continued when she went to University in Edinburgh and met her husband Mark; alongside the rest of his family, he was a keen rider. “When we started working after uni, we’d go off riding through Europe,” she said. “We had no responsibilities and nothing else to spend our money on! We got engaged on a riding trip in France.”
At the time, Daisy was happy riding pillion, having taken her CBT but not enjoying the experience. “Mark had bought me a voucher for my birthday because he wanted me to have the freedom he had,” she said. “But they gave me a bike which was too big for me, so I couldn’t do it and it really put me off. I decided just to stay on the back of Mark’s bike.”
Indeed, riding pillion was how Daisy spent the best part of a year after she married Mark in 2006. The newly-weds gave up their jobs, rented out their house and headed to the USA and South America; Daisy says they headed south from Las Vegas and “just kept going”. Their epic trip took them through Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Panama, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina, with Daisy even starting to dream in Spanish by the end of the adventure. “It was a life-changing year,” she said. “There was such a sense of freedom. We’d ride past all these people waiting for the cheap buses at night; we didn’t have to do that because we were on the bike.
“We’d see bikers riding the other way and they’d tell us where to stop. You’d ride into the smallest hamlet and there would be a B&B where you could bring your bike in for the night. We brought camping gear with us but we only used it twice.”
She adds: “We did get a lot of punctures, which we’d have to fix ourselves in the scorching heat of the desert!”
However, Daisy finally did experience the freedom of riding her own bike when she passed her test in 2014, not long after her daughter Heidi was born. She says: “Mark had started riding more then, and my friends started to pass their tests, too. It was becoming more on the radar for females to ride. So I took my test and got my first ‘big’ bike, a Triumph Street Triple (great fun!).
“Two of my friends also passed around the same time, so we’d ride out together to the beach at Southwold just to have some chips. We felt so proud of ourselves walking down the prom, thinking, ‘we did that!’. It was so empowering and gave us a sense of solidarity.”
So, when Pauline asked Daisy if she’d like to take over the family business, it really was a no-brainer. Since then, the entrepreneur has led LadyBiker to new heights through a combination of hard work, marketing savvy and exceptional customer service.
Daisy said: “I already had a strong sales background and had a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t in business. I also knew how I felt when I went into biking shops and was ignored for half an hour by the male staff! So the key thing for me was that I would be utterly focused on customer service.
“Because LadyBiker was online only, I wanted to create a really nice place for customers to be; easy to use, tasteful, personal. Even though it was already an established business, I had carte blanche to do what I wanted with it, and so it was like starting from scratch. It was very exciting.”
She adds: “At first I was fulfilling orders from my spare room and then the garage. But the business just grew and grew, so even the garage reached saturation point. Using social media really helped to expand the business, and Mark had lots of good ideas as he’d started a Master’s degree in Business Administration.”
Daisy took on a unit in Rendlesham in Suffolk in 2018, once both her children Oscar and Heidi were at school, taking on staff to help her. “The business was only supposed to be online, but the unit has a mezzanine level which lent itself perfectly to being a retail shop,” she says. “Unfortunately, Covid reined that back in 2020 so we had to go back to being online only. But we’ve actually found that it works really well, as everyone is used to online shopping now. It gives us time to be as efficient as possible.”
Daisy prides herself on offering a truly personal service to her customers. She takes time to get to know the needs of the ladies who buy from her, and will only ever advise them to choose the gear that is right for them. She explained: “I know the products really well; I know how they fit and I know their features. So I’ll ask the customer lots of questions about what kind of riding they’re doing; that way, I know exactly what to suggest. I’d never sell someone a high-end jacket if that isn’t what they need and I definitely don’t think there’s one product that is suitable for all.”
She adds: “We want to give our customers a happy shopping experience from start to finish. We know that some women will have had bad experiences elsewhere, and so they may feel nervous or embarrassed when they come to us. But we treat each and every customer as an individual, with their own background, worries, needs and ambitions.”
To this end, LadyBiker isn’t affiliated to any one supplier, meaning that Daisy and her team can give customers truly independent advice. And she is certainly not a proponent of the “pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” ethos of larger stores. “There is sometimes the perception that LadyBiker is more expensive than other retailers,” she says. “But we always sell our clothing at the recommended retail price from the supplier because we don’t buy in bulk. We don’t want to buy 500 pairs of boots and then feel the pressure to sell them if they’re not right for the customer, it’s not an ethical way of supporting women”.
LadyBiker also takes an ethical approach to environmental factors, offering a carbon neutral delivery service – this year, the business offset more than 18,500 lbs of CO2, equivalent to 1,678 burgers eaten or six cows burping for a year! Daisy and her team are committed to charity, too, helping a number of good causes including Cancer Research UK, Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes, Shelter and British Heart Foundation. In total, the business has donated almost £8,000 to charity over the years.
Elsewhere, Daisy has even seen some of her gear gracing the small screen, as LadyBiker outfits have been used in Coronation Street and the explosive BBC drama Killing Eve. “It was pretty cool to see our leathers on Villanelle!” said Daisy.
From her early days serving in her dad’s biker café to running a hugely successful online retail business for female riders, it’s certainly been an exciting journey for Daisy. And it’s not one that’s likely to run out of fuel any time soon!