New Glion Mobility Scooter Rolls From Rural Beginnings
A business with rural Nebraska roots is helping save the environment and decrease transportation costs one scooter at a time. And now, Probity LLC, plans to launch a new product, the SNAPnGO, which will open up new doors (and sidewalks) for people with limited mobility.
A few years ago, Holdrege attorney Robert McCormick and his partners designed, marketed and sold the Glion scooter, a “last-mile commute” scooter. Robert met his business partner, Jeff Kong, a native of China, during a business trip to Santa Monica in 2011. They two men shared a passion for developing a product that would provide an inexpensive transportation alternative for commuters, while reducing carbon emissions. Jeff introduced Robert to Wei Chang, an engineer and a college friend, and the three of them formed a partnership, Probity, LLC.
A better way to move
Holdrege resident Robert McCormick knew there had to be a better way to move around, whether improving his small town commute to his law practice or finding a more efficient way to navigate city life when traveling for work. While on one of those business trips, McCormick introduced himself to Jeff Kong, and their mutual passion for the renewable energy industry sparked an immediate friendship. They both agreed there was a need for a new consumer friendly product that offered electric alternatives to traditional transportation. With the goal always being reduced carbon emissions and improved air quality, the new design team also wanted to create a product that was both affordable and fun. They enlisted the talents of Wei Chang, an electrical engineer, to help facilitate their project and from that, Probity Cell LLC was formed.
Robert credits Jeff for coming up with the idea for a scooter. Jeff was flying on a business trip and noticed a scooter advertised in an in-flight magazine. There were many scooters on the market but most used heavy lead-acid batteries, which were inefficient and not truly portable. Jeff was living in San Francisco at the time and took mass transit to work, but he had to walk a mile to his job from the public transportation stop. The partners decided to make a product that would be lightweight and portable enough to take on the bus or subway.
They traveled to China and toured factories to learn about the lithium ion battery and see where other components could be manufactured.
Robert, Jeff and Wei developed a prototype of their electric scooter and launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 to encourage investors to buy into the project. Investors responded enthusiastically. They also took their prototype to trade shows and were encouraged by the interest generated. The scooter they developed uses a lithium ion battery, similar to the batteries in a laptop, and is extremely efficient. It can travel 500 miles on $1 of electricity and travels up to 15 mph, with a range of 15 miles between charges, maneuvering easily on sidewalks and through traffic.
An Electric Scooter You Can Tote
While Robert continues to practice law in Holdrege, he’s not always wearing a traditional suit and tie. Some days, he’s dressed in jeans, ready to work in the shop on the first floor of his office building where several models of the Glion and other prototypes are housed. Since the original Kickstarter campaign, the Glion scooter has gone through several generations. The Model 100 was replaced in 2015 by the Glion Dolly, Model 200. The Dolly, which weighs only 27 pounds, gets its name from the innovative patented folding design, allowing the Dolly to be folded up into a sturdy upright position for storing on a bus or subway and then quickly unfolded to be pulled behind on two little wheels like a piece of luggage. The Model 215 came out in July 2016 and makes further improvements on the T-bar handle.
Sales have steadily increased as they received positive reviews from industry experts. For instance, “Electric Rider Review” said of the Dolly’s patented folding: “For me it’s an awesome feature….the wheels and the pull bar are super sweet’’… “the dolly is a blessing …as is the new cover” giving it a professional look in office environments.
Robert and his partners resorted to Amazon for the bulk of their sales and marketing. They also sell the Glion in in several brick and mortar stores, mainly on the east and west coasts.
“Amazon gives us a massive market quickly,” Robert said. “It allows small businesses to sell direct to consumers without having to be there and ships to consumers from its warehouses all over the country so that a customer in San Francisco, for instance, can get one-day shipping.”
In the last year, Probity has sold about 1,000 Glion scooters. Amazon customers themselves help build buzz for the Glion by posting positive reviews. Here is a sample of testimonials by buyers:
“The retractable handle and small wheels to roll like luggage is a HUGE selling point. I read that Glion patented this. Genius! It makes perfect sense and makes the scooter SO much more mobile. Add that the scooter folds in half AND the handles drop down too is awesome. I live in NJ and travel by bus into NYC. Getting through Port Authority onto the street is so easy because I can wheel it. 5 stars for folding, portability & mobility! We have both taken it to the market, wheeled it in one hand, while filling a backpack with the other. Fabulous!”
“I bought this scooter to get around Boston, since I live about a mile from the office, and have no car. I am over 65 and was apprehensive about many things including reliability, maneuverability and ‘oomph’. All my expectations were met or exceeded. The scooter is smooth as silk to drive, and stop. It goes as slow as granny walking and as fast as a bicycle.”
The scooter works for rural customers as well. Holdrege resident Tim Rehm purchased the Glion to travel the mile and a half from his house to his job as a barber, and he likes the chance to get some fresh air on his commute. “I love it,” Tim said, “and it saves on gas.” Tim has a neighbor who drives his car and works close by. Tim can actually beat him to work using his scooter.
Robert, who works in rural Nebraska, continues to work with his partners on the scooter projects even though they are far away, either in Chicago or China.
One of their keys to success is “vertical integration,” which means controlling all aspects of their product from manufacturing to sales. “Vertical integration,” Robert said, “allows us to control costs and keep the price lower than the competition” by owning the factory in China that produces the Glion and develops the prototypes. Jeff and Wei share supervision at the factory. Jeff said the employees at the factory design, develop and produce the scooter.
Robert and a small staff of part-time employees in Holdrege take care of technical support for online sales and provide the service in the rare instances when a scooter requires repair. One of the things they learned in the process, Robert said, is that “hardware is unforgiving. It has to be right, and it has to be safe.” It was obvious from many positive comments from buyers that customer service is a priority. Customer feedback has led to several improvements in the Glion.
The partners are excited about their latest project: the SNAPnGO, a scooter that has a seat and is ideal for riders who with limited mobility because of age or a disability. The idea came from a local businessman who was unable to stand on the Glion scooter and had a frame made to attach a seat to the Glion. After scoping out the market, Robert and his partners realized there was a need for a lightweight but powerful, seated scooter and have come up with something unique to the industry: An electric scooter that has a greater weight capacity (300 pounds maximum), yet is portable enough to fold up and easily put in the trunk of a car.
The SNAPnGO will be go on sale in October but can be ordered prior to that through the KickStarter program on the Glion website at a special pre-sale price of $749 with delivery in October.
The challenge, Robert said, is getting the word out to seniors and people with disabilities. This clientele is less likely to buy a product over the internet. “They want to kick the tires,” he said. The partners are doing another Kickstarter campaign to build interest, but they realize they will need to do traditional advertising in magazines or on TV to generate sales.
There are many challenges ahead for Probity LLC, but you can bet these highly motivated and creative partners will continue to find solutions.
For more information on the Glion or the SNAPnGO, visit www.glion-scooter.com.