Business mashups

IMG_7903My local bike shop is not just a bike shop. Rather, Ride Studio Cafe is a combination of two businesses: a high-end bike shop and an urbane cafe.

My college bookstore isn’t really a bookstore. The Kenyon College Bookstore – the nation’s longest continuously-operating college bookstore and the third-oldest bookstore of any kind in America – is a community gathering place for both Kenyon and the surrounding community.

The Showcase SuperLux near my home isn’t really a movie theater. It is a high-end restaurant that happens to show movies.

The annual South-by-Southwest conference is much more than one thing. It combines music, film, and interactive conferences in a mashup that is more fun than any single focused event.

All four of these business mashups are doing great in marketplaces that are tough. It’s fascinating to me how the combination of several businesses can mean much more than the separate parts. A bike shop next door to a cafe wouldn’t be the same.

Ride Studio Cafe

On beautiful days, people stop in Ride Studio Cafe while on a ride and grab a coffee. On rotten days, there are people inside talking all things bikes or organizing a tune-up of their machine. Many people who don’t ride prefer the atmosphere here to the nearby coffee chains. That they sell high-end bikes and gear (bikes that sell for USD $5,000 and more) is a bonus. Business is so good with repair and tune-ups that they’ve outgrown the space.

The Ride Studio—the bike shop (which I have used to build and tune up my OPEN Cycle—integrates elements of a cafe environment: warm, inviting, and friendly. The Studio Cafe brings cycling culture into cafe culture: there is a friendly energy shared by both staff and customers. This creates an environment that welcomes both riders and people who just enjoy a good cup of coffee or tea and a comfortable atmosphere.

Kenyon College Bookstore

Sure it sells books. But in a world where many college bookstores have closed or gone to chain store management, the Kenyon Bookstore sells clothing, gifts, food and drink, glassware, greeting cards, stationery, and sundries.

Perhaps more importantly, the bookstore serves as a center of social life on campus. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, a reporter noted that the store functions as “a second living room. Here, customers can sit in armchairs, eat ice cream, and read all day long without … once getting a cold stare from an employee.”

Showcase SuperLux

Popcorn and a Coke? Not here. The Showcase SuperLux is a theater featuring super plush power recliners and newest box office releases. And while you are even more comfortable than in your own living room, you can enjoy great food with a glass of wine or a cocktail. Call button service means you don’t have to leave your seat to order a steak or seafood meal.


SXSW is hugely successful, growing each year. The first South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival was held in 1987 in Austin, Texas and in 1994, SXSW added film and interactive components. I’ve been four times and I love it because I can dip into the interactive social media tracks but also see a film premiere and catch some hot bands.

The events are almost too successful. They’ve gotten so big that it is difficult to move around in recent years. SXSW music sees 16,000 registrants while SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive events together attract approximately 32,000 registrants to Austin every March.

Your business

In tough, competitive businesses maybe some kind of mashup is the way to success.

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