When his son turned 2, South Dakota dad Ryan McFarland bought him a tricycle and a bike with training wheels -- each done up in racing stripes.
"My enthusiasm quickly turned to frustration as I watched my eager son of just 20 pounds struggle with the weight and complexity of these so-called 'children's bikes,' " McFarland says.
So McFarland, a dirt bike racer himself, started to rethink the traditional bicycle, looking for ways to turn it into a ride more suitable to his son. He thought about drilling holes or cutting away parts, but then he had an aha moment: He could get rid of the pedal system altogether.
What would provide propulsion instead? Feet.
McFarland took off the pedals, allowing him to lower the bike's center of gravity and thus stabilize the ride. What's more, his son could sit on the bike with both feet on the ground, which gave him full control of motion. He could walk along when going slowly, run to pick up speed, and then lift his feet to glide along. The design helps the rider gets a hang of balance and motion.
Like that, a new kind of bike was born -- a Strider.
In 2007, McFarland used his invention to found Strider Bikes. Since then, it's seen explosive growth. He's sold more than 695,000 products, and the company brought in $10 million in revenue last year. In February, Strider moved to a 26,000-square-foot facility in Rapid City and now has 32 employees.
What's more, McFarland, 45, was named by the U.S. Small Business Administration as one of America's 53 best small business people of the year.
McFarland sees the Strider as filling a need that no other bicycle has met. "I don't think there has been anything in the marketplace that addresses the needs of an 18-month-old or 2-year-old," he tells Business Insider.
%VIRTUAL-pullquote-The kid's mobility is escalated to such an extent it really changes your life.%The Strider not only teaches young kids the basics of riding a bike, it also makes a big difference in parents' lives. "The kid's mobility is escalated to such an extent, it really changes your life," he says. "The parent has been attached to a diaper bag and a stroller the last two years, or they're moving at a snail's pace waiting for this dawdling 2-year-old. All of that changes when the child becomes mobile on this bike."
In a way, it's not too surprising that McFarland experienced such rapid success in the biking business. He's been exposed to racing -- and entrepreneurship -- all his life. His grandfather was a race car engineer, and his dad owned a motorcycle dealership. He grew up racing mountain bikes, dirt bikes and go karts.
Before Strider, McFarland ran companies of his own in biking and home finance. Experiences with those businesses helped Strider grow quickly, since he already had a huge network of contacts in the bike industry and had a good understanding of finance and lending. To that end, McFarland used an SBA-backed line of credit to help navigate the fluctuating needs of inventory. If not for the loans, he says, all Strider's capital would have been sucked into inventory.
But inventory continues to grow as Strider becomes more a part of American childhoods. Already, kids are duking it out in the Strider World Cup Championship. For McFarland, the most difficult part of the business is "convincingly explaining" the concept of the Strider to people. A bike-scooter might not sound like a big deal -- until you see how it can change the way a kid experiences the world.
"Two years old, and they're more mobile than an adult at walking pace," McFarland says. "It's altering the course of this person's whole life -- balance, coordination, confidence, everything. It's going to have a pretty profound effect."
9 Ways to Live Large
How a Dad Built a $10 Million Business Reinventing Bicycles
From 1945 to 1964, there was a radio or TV program called "Queen for a Day." This is similar, only it's real life, not a game show. Castlerentals.net allows you to rent castles in Ireland, France and Britain. It can be pricey –- at the time of this writing, one castle started at 7,500 euros ($10,300), with no mention of whether this is a daily, weekend or weekly rate. On one hand, if you have to ask, you probably can't afford it. On the other hand, the Chateau de Montfluery, near Vic-le-Comte, France, costs only 1,200 euros for a weekend. For 14 guests, it might not seem too steep.
This isn't buying a dress, wearing it and returning it, hoping nobody will notice the wine stain. At RenttheRunway.com, customers are encouraged to rent (for four to eight days) designer dresses and accessories, like jewelry and handbags, for a big event and then mail them back in a prepaid envelope. How much cheaper is renting than buying it? It depends on the outfit, but a Hervé Léger dress is retailing for $1,950 –- or you can rent it for $200. A dress by Shoshanna that retails for $385 can be rented for $40.
You can buy and rent islands at PrivateIslandsOnline.com. Yes, most are listed as "price upon request," meaning they're out of reach from the typical middle-class income, but you could rent an island for a night, with some listings going for less than $500.
At HighlandTitles.com, you'll discover that 29.99 pounds can buy a square foot of property in Scotland. Then, because you'll be a land owner (albeit a minor land owner), you can call yourself laird, lord or lady. All of the site's profits, according to the website, go toward protecting Scotland's green space.
No doubt about it, hiring a private jet is squarely in the realm of the rich. But the daily deals at JetSuite.com can be attractive. You'll have to hurry since the deals are for the day of, but on the day this was written, there were three flights available from various locations in California and Nevada. If you wanted, for instance, to fly from Reno, Nevada, across the state to Las Vegas, you could have the entire jet for $536. With four seats, for a family of four, that's arguably cheaper than the airlines – and if you split the cost with friends, you could fly into Vegas in style.
In six cities now (and more on the way), KitchenSurfing.com lets you hire a personal chef. Prices start at $50 per person, which seems about on par with what you might spend at a fancy restaurant -– but you're getting the personal chef in your home. For an anniversary dinner, $50 and up per person seems like a deal.
Get your own personal driver for occasional trips. Car services that send a driver to pick you up are becoming more popular. Uber is probably the best-known of the bunch.
You know how when you book some hotels, especially if you want a good rate, you're locked into paying even if something comes up and you can't go? And you know things do come up sometimes. RoomerTravel.com has created a business model around that. Travelers can buy unused hotel rooms at a discount from hapless travelers who can no longer stay there. According to the company, it's typical to get up to 40 percent off the original booking price. Sample deals at the time this was written: a room at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, which regularly goes for $196 a night, was listed at $85, and a $563 room at St. Ermin's Hotel in London was $180.
If you can't live large from a financial perspective, you could approach the concept from a literal perspective and just feel large -– by buying a tiny house. One of the smaller listings on TinyHouseListings.com is just 120 square feet, yet it has "a loft, full-sized bed, working full-sized toilet and shower." You won't feel rich, but you will feel eco-friendly, which along with the price is the selling point for living in such a tiny home (this one's in Knoxville, Tennessee). That said, you'll want to go elsewhere if there is a hurricane or tornado coming. Or maybe any strong breeze.