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During the next three months, I managed to get by on just $300 and rode to more than a few places whose name I couldn't pronounce. Then at a youth hostel in Milan, Italy, I met a girl who knew the legendary Italian bike craftsman, Cino Cinelli. I quickly bought a suit and arranged a meeting with Signore Cinelli. My enthusiasm (not my off-therack suit) impressed him, and we made a deal that would allow me to import his beautiful high-end components into the United States.
Full of enthusiasm, I hurried back to California in time to meet the shipping boxes, which I stored under my 8 by 30-foot mobile home to keep them dry when it rained. This was my first warehouse and sales office combined. My initial customers were bike shops in the San Francisco Bay Area, who paid cash in advance for their orders. The bike shops had to be close to the Specialized World Headquarters because, for the first five years I had this business, I didn't own a car. Whether it was making deliveries by bike or pedaling into the hills on the weekends, my dream of spending more time on a bike had certainly come true.
When I started this company, I made a conscious decision to focus on high-end bike components, equipment and accessories. The products I imported were scarce in the States, but there was a strong demand amongst enthusiasts. I named the company Specialized simply because it was how riders referred to high-end components at the time. Thus, our Brand was born. I had no idea it would have such an impact on the growth and accessibility of cycling, but I'm proud that it has. Those first components and our greatest successes are testaments to our founding principle: Focus on the rider's need for functional and technically advanced products that provide a performance benefit.
Now more than three decades later, that statement feels every bit as important and still rings true. It's what makes us Specialized. When we deliver on it, our Brand is more credible and ultimately more valuable to our riders and our dealers.
As the company and our sport have enjoyed growth, I believe it is critical for us to refocus on what it means to be Specialized, because if we all understand the meaning of the Brand and act on it, we will achieve four vital things:
1. Produce better bikes and bike equipment.
2. Base our actions and decisions on the values of our Brand.
3. Create a deeper connection with riders.
4. Align long-term business goals with the Brand vision.