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Magicshine UK: The Birth of a Bike Light

Bonita Gutowska gives us an insight into the story behind Magicshine UK, the exclusive distributor of Magicshine lights.

 

Lying in a ditch at 5.30am in deepest darkest Northamptonshire is hardly the most auspicious start to a new business, but that is the origin of MagicshineUK, exclusive distributor of Magicshine bike lights in the UK…..

I’m Bonita, a director of Project 808 Ltd the company behind Magicshine UK. I received a phone call on that wet rainy morning from Chris my husband who was out on an early morning training ride for our Jogle attempt.  It was October 2009 and Chris was using his £20 bike light from a high street store.  An oncoming car on full beam temporarily blinded him and unable to see his path he ended in a ditch!  Being a dutiful wife I collected him and his bike and on the return journey vowed to get a decent set of lights we could both train with, as safety had suddenly become the most important issue!

Trawling the internet for a cheaper alternative to a £500 Hope/Lupine (this charity Jogle attempt was costing shed loads already!), I stumbled across the Magicshine brand on a website in the USA and took the plunge and bought one. When the light arrived I was amazed at both the output and value for money.

It was really well packaged and simple to mount on my bike. However it wasn’t until I used the light that I realised, it literally blew away everything else I had ever used. Here was a light that could change the way cyclists in the UK bought their lights forever.

I was already juggling a full time job and two kids, but I just had a feeling that this was going to be big.  I commissioned a website (from a family friend – that’s another story, what a disaster!) and ordered my first batch of lights from China.  Money was tight and in hindsight I was probably stupid as I put the full cost onto my credit card, but sometimes in life you have to take risks!

I started running the business from home after work. I ended up working into the early hours most nights which really became a strain on everyday life. I hardly ever got the chance to ride and I don’t think I was a very good Mum at that point either!  Very quickly things got so busy that I had to reduce my hours in my paid job and eventually the time came when I had to give up the career I loved in order to give the business the time it deserved.

I’ve always tried to do things properly, focusing on outstanding customer service.  Where I was given a 3 month warranty by Magicshine, I decided to take on the additional risk myself and extend this period to 1 year. My philosophy was that I’d rather take the hit than one of my customers in the event of a fault. This seemed to work and our reputation spread by word of mouth, forums and the general power of the internet. Apparently not only were the lights amazing but so were we!

That’s when it happened!

Our original web designers, our so called friends, decided they would set up in competition with us.  I was totally gutted. How could someone who had eaten my food, drank my wine, chatted with my kids and played with my dog be so underhand!  I’m glad I believe in Karma or else it might have sent me over the edge!

More and more websites appeared selling Magicshine, often pretending they were us,  and although by now we had spent a lot on advertising and marketing our range, I realised that we needed to change things if we were going to benefit from the fantastic feedback and glowing reviews we had received.  Customers were getting us confused with all the other ‘copy cat’ websites out there, many of which had created almost identical sites. Whilst I had no problem with competition, it has to be on a level playing field. Our competitors were not playing fair and it had really started to annoy me.

So I went to China!

I made the decision to visit the manufacturer and ask for the exclusive distribution rights to the Magicshine brand in the UK.   It was the week before Christmas in 2010, I had never before travelled out of Europe and I had no idea what I was letting myself in for….

I received my ‘tourist visa’ via courier the day I flew out. First I travelled to Hong Kong – it seemed safer and I planned on doing a bit of Christmas shopping whilst I was there.  The Magicshine factory is just across the border in Shenzen, China and they promised they would send a car to meet me at the border.

Everything was meticulously planned, apart from the fact that when I got to Hong Kong my brand new shiny ‘blackberry’ decided to fail and therefore I had no way of contacting the office to tell them what time I would arrive.

Interestingly Chinese taxi drivers don’t read or speak English and so there I was at the border with a piece of paper with the Chinese address written in English and no-one to help.  I got there in the end and although getting back out of China with my tourist visa proved trickier than I had anticipated I suppose the rest is history.

It took another couple of years to get the exclusive rights to the Magicshine range but by this time, we had become by far the largest seller of the brand in the UK and our glowing reputation for customer service and marketing activities had paid dividends.

Being a very proactive business, we had been looking for a different kind of light to add diversity to our range. We’ve always sought out niche products for our business and next up was a trip to Germany to meet the owners of MyTinySun which is a German company and at that time were making incredibly high quality, hand built lights with power up to 3600 lumens! We seemed to have the same values, quickly became friends and before long were appointed exclusive distributor for this brand in the UK and Ireland.

The MyTinySun range is certainly a premium brand, designed and built in Germany but with unique features it’s hard to match, certainly at their price level. Their ‘just released’ Folkslight won’t become outdated because functionality can be added to over the internet (via USB), it has beams that can be adjusted for angle and in short, it’s the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of outdoor lights. Reliability is the key to night riding confidence and this range just oozes quality, durability and class.

Here at Magicshine UK we love what we do, we’re a team of girls (OK we also have a couple of boys but it is mostly girls!!) who know a lot about bike lights.  We have a loyal customer base and much of our sales come through word of mouth. BUT we have one last mountain to climb: our customer base is made up virtually entirely by men and that’s something I’m desperate to change.  Our ranges have something for everyone, from small USB rechargeable commuter lights to the amazing MyTinySun  Pro 3600 for the most serious of downhill night time adventures.

If you want some advice on riding at night then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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