The thing that makes an entrepreneur successful is his or her ability to see opportunities that others can’t see. Zahier Davids did not know that he was a visionary entrepreneur. He stumbled on it by accident and only because he was unemployed and desperate to earn an income. When he started his little bicycle company, Flywheels Custom Chariots, some 16 years ago, he did not know that it would expand to include the production of motorcycles.
Zahier’s destiny was to work in an office for an insurance company for the rest of his life, until the insurance company decided to retrench him. Unemployed and unable find work, he started to think of ways he could earn an income. He noticed that young people in the neighbourhood loved lowrider cars but he did not have the money or technical knowledge to build cars. Being a visionary entrepreneur with very little money, he decided to identify a new market that required very little capital. Combining his love of bikes and the lowrider craze, he settled on developing a business plan for a simple but brilliant idea: build lowrider bicycles.
Zahier had no knowledge of how to start a business or build a bicycle but he instinctively made all the right entrepreneurial moves. Firstly, he taught himself about running a business and building bicycles by doing a lot of reading and watching instructional videos. Having no money, he approached supportive family and friends to lend him their tools and he identified suppliers that could provide him with the necessary parts. Being a perfectionist, every nut and bolt had to be made to specification, and where suppliers failed to live up to his expectations, he taught himself how to build the part. Lastly, when he finally built his first bike, he had to develop a marketing strategy that would cost him no money, so he took his bicycle and went for a ride through the neighbourhood every day. Soon, people began to ask about his bike and the demand exploded to the point where he had to hire employees and train apprentices.
His commitment to building quality products has resulted in not only the expansion of his business, but also expansion into other areas which include refurbishing vintage bikes, developing custom bikes for the disabled, producing custom bikes for film companies, manufacturing vending bikes for both commercial and business use and of course, building custom lowrider motorcycles.
His bikes have been exhibited at numerous national events including the Design Indaba, SAHot Rod Street Festivals, Cape Town Fashion Week, and the Cape Town Bike Show. He motorcycle design also won 1st prize in the chopper class at the Swallows Rally.
The father of three still lives and runs his business in his hometown of Kensington on the Cape Flats. Given the conditions in Kensington, Zahier is committed to being a positive role model and getting kids of the streets and away from gangs. He lets the kids hang around his workshop and learn about the production process rather than letting them be sucked in by the streets. He also heads up an activism group, REVIVE, which aims to rid the streets of drugs and gangsters, and he works on a project that helps local entrepreneurs grow and gain access to international markets.
Zahier Davids was just a normal guy working a job until he got fired. He didn’t know how he would make money but he was never ready to give up and feel sorry for himself. He developed a simple but profitable business plan for a new product and 16 years later, the business is growing faster with each passing year. He started low, built some wheels, and aimed for the sky.