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 Bike business fuelled by passion


 “I could ride a motorbike almost before I could walk,” jokes Dayne Marais, owner of Gravel Pit Motorcycles in Montana, Pretoria.

Well, not quite, but in Grade 3 he started stripping his mother’s broken old scooter in the backyard to learn how it worked and to fix it. While his friends played Lego or TV games, Dayne poured over pistons and oil pumps. He had some guidance from his mechanically minded father, and fix it he did.

Dayne also showed early signs of interest and talent when it came to business. Still at school, he bought old BMX bikes, fixed them up and sold them.

It is no surprise therefore that at the age of 32, Dayne owns his own bustling and growing motorcycle workshop and retail outlet, based at Business Partners Limited’s (BUSINESS/PARTNERS) Montana Mini Units in Calliandra Street in Pretoria.

Dayne has built his motorcycle repair and sales business in the heart of the city’s off-road motorcycling community - which is not to be confused with leather-clad bikers, he explains. Off-road motorcycling and adventure biking is a serious sport in which he himself participates on weekends.

Gravelpit Motorcycles, based in a 400 square meter unit  with a team of six workers that has been growing by roughly one a year, has come far since it started out as a backyard operation with start-up capital of R25 000.

After completing his schooling in Pretoria, Dayne enrolled in the parastatal Denel’s training programme to become an aircraft mechanic. Although he was interested in aircraft and all things mechanical, he found the apprenticeship tedious and not challenging enough.

He always knew that he wanted to do his own thing, and aircraft mechanics mostly work for other people. After three years he quit the programme, “floated around for a bit”, and returned to his true passion: motorbikes.

He found a job in a motorbike shop, and spent his time there “stealing with his eyes” learning as much as he could about the motorcycle trade from the inside. As soon as he felt that the learning curve was flattening off, he knew the time was right to start his own business.

He sold a bike that he owned for R25 000, which he used to start up his business in a 12 square-metre space and a wendy house in his backyard.

He found it hard going at first, making scarcely enough to cover his essential expenses. Often he would put in 15- to 18-hour days, doing his invoicing and bookkeeping at night.

Word of Dayne’s good service steadily spread through the off-road motorcycling network, and after two and a half years of working on his own, he had enough clients coming through the door to appoint his first staff member, a Mercedes Benz trained mechanic who still works for Dayne today.

Meanwhile, the backyard workspace started bursting at the seams, and Dayne spent a long time searching for his first formal premises. Finally, he signed up for a 200 square metre workshop at the BUSINESS/PARTNERS Montana Mini Units. Although he desperately needed the space, it was a big shift for his fledgling business, which up until that point did not have a formal monthly rental to pay. Family members pitched in to help with the deposit.

But the success of the move is reflected in the fact that within a year the 200 square meters were too small to contain his growth, and he signed up for double the size in the same complex. This allowed him to allocate 80 square metres of space to a new retail section.

Dayne says because of the growth prospects of Gravel Pit Motorcycles renting a space is better than owning a property at this stage. He says the landlord services and especially the security of the Montana Mini Units is of a high standard. “The complex is kept very neat, which is important for a business like mine where customers pop in and out all the time,” he says.

Looking forward, Dayne says he is definitely planning to grow more. He is also considering a motorcycle dealership in the future, although he can’t see himself ever scaling down the workshop side of the business. Fixing bikes is, after all, his first love.




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