You might say pumper Tammy Thompson-Oreskovic is spinning her wheels in her moonlighting retail business.
Portable sanitation providers live some pretty busy lives and often may look for ways to de-stress and unwind. For Tammy Thompson-Oreskovic, owner of Arnold’s Environmental Services in Saukville, Wis., that outlet is bicycling.
The avid cyclist and fitness enthusiast had taken many bike rides on the 40-mile Ozaukee Interurban Trail, but after getting two flat tires along the way, frustration brought with it an idea. When Thompson-Oreskovic wasn’t able to find a bike shop for trailside repairs, she thought about starting one of her own.
“For some reason, it just stuck in my head,” she says, noting that her nearest competitor is 20 miles away. “Being an entrepreneur, I just kept thinking about it.”
In 2011, that idea came to fruition when Thompson-Oreskovic opened Zuzu Pedals in the nearby touristy lakefront city of Port Washington.
It all began with a bike
Although she was already busy with her marketing and administrative duties for Arnold’s, Thompson-Oreskovic, 49, planned to start her shop as a seasonal side job, just renting bicycles to the area’s large tourist crowd. “I just thought it would be pretty simple and pretty straightforward,” she says. She planned on just renting out single-speed, pedal-brake beach cruiser bikes – ideal comfort riding for those enjoying the lakefront and popular trail built on an abandoned railroad bed.
In the city of about 11,000, Thompson-Oreskovic noticed a lot of vacant storefronts, so she began talking with local merchants and the Chamber of Commerce and decided to move forward, using her own savings as her initial investment.
“Let’s just start out with this and see what happens,” she recalls, and launched her business in a small storefront just two blocks from Lake Michigan.
“It was tough in the beginning,” she says; she started with only 12 bikes to rent. But soon customers came in asking if she did repairs. She hired a mechanic and started doing repairs in the fall and winter; she also considered selling bikes and accessories. By the following February, Zuzu Pedals became a dealer of Specialized brand bicycles.
“As it continues to grow, it becomes its own entity and requires its own set of strategies,” she says, adding, “It’s been received really well.
“I feel like we’ve become the little corner bike shop. We try to excel at helping people feel comfortable.”
In addition to renting bikes, the shop now sells several brands of bikes, apparel and accessories. In the quiet winter months, the shop hosts yoga and indoor cycling classes. Zuzu Pedals sponsors the local multisport club and organized rides, in addition to being involved in the city’s Main Street downtown business organization. “Being involved is really important; it’s a really civic-minded community,” she explains.
In two years, Thompson-Oreskovic says the city itself has really grown, showing a tangible community reinvestment, which now rarely has storefront vacancies on the main drag.
Her business synergies
While both Zuzu Pedals and Arnold’s may appear to be seasonal businesses, Thompson-Oreskovic stays busy, especially trying to grow and market both the companies.
Arnolds rents out about 1,700 restrooms and 10 restroom trailers from manufacturers PolyJohn Enterprises, Five Peaks Technology, Satellite Industries, JAG Mobile Solutions, NuConcepts, Black Tie Event Services and McKee Technologies. Several vacuum trucks are built out by Imperial Industries Inc. with National Vacuum Equipment pumps.
The pumping equipment and bicycles/fitness apparel may seem an unlikely pairing, but she has found synergy between her two businesses – which helps both grow and succeed.
“They do feed off of each other. For Arnold’s, we do a lot of restrooms at special events that include bike races, triathlons, etc.,” she says. “I already had a lot of relationships with promoters.” Every time such an event comes up, Thompson-Oreskovic knows it could potentially benefit both businesses.
“I never know which hat I’ll have on,” she says, recalling a day when the race director of an Ironman event visited her bike shop. It was a perfect opportunity to talk with him about providing restrooms at the event as well. And when Arnold’s provided the restrooms for the 5K Dirty Girl Mud Run in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., the event was also promoted at Zuzu.
Admitting she has “a lot of energy,” Thompson-Oreskovic has seemed to hit her stride in terms of time management of both businesses. “There are a lot of people I know doing a lot more than I am,” she says. “I’m pretty good at time management. Technology helps a lot … and surrounding yourself with really good people.”
She works seven days a week, starting her day at Arnold’s, where she oversees a staff of managers. She ends her day at Zuzu, where even though the business is “trending well” she is working on “creating more awareness.”
“My forte is marketing,” she says. “Your marketing and customer service have to be your primary focus. Once you figure out how to make that work, you can apply that skill to any industry.”
“I think more about what I’m doing now to make the future happen,” says Thompson-Oreskovic. To that end, she uses Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and other social media to peddle the word about Zuzu Pedals. “I’m a big believer in social media; it’s free and it works.”
So when she’s not working the office at Arnold’s, caring for her two teenagers or running yet another triathlon, Thompson-Oreskovic is happy to hang her hat, or bike helmet, at Zuzu.
“I really am enjoying it,” she says. “It’s challenging; it’s fun. I get to meet people every single day, [often] from around the world.
“I get to do what I love.”