Matthew Gilder

Matthew Gilder of Via Moto

Gassing about growth

Entrepreneur and petrol head Matthew Gilder reveals the secret behind Via Moto’s success.

In just five years Via Moto has grown from a small Piaggio dealership in Sheffield to one of South Yorkshire’s most popular motorcycle specialists.

Matthew Gilder launched the business back in 2012 after working as an importer, selling foreign motorcycle brands to dealerships across the UK.

Starting out as a solus Piaggio retailer from a unit on Abbeydale Road, the company now boasts three showrooms in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire – including a Chesterfield branch which specialises in Honda bikes and accessories, and Clay Cross which is a solus Kawasaki dealership.

Matthew told BQ: “Each store works closely with various brands to encourage the customer loyalty not unfamiliar with motorbike followers, Via Moto Kawasaki, Via Moto Honda and Via Moto Sheffield – with the latter being a range of brands including Suzuki, Vespa, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi and Piaggio.

“The stores all sell bikes but also offer servicing for the specific brands, accessories for purchase and advice; whilst also engaging with the very activity motorbike community by participating in ride outs and hosting meets.”

Matthew had been working in the motorcycle industry since 2005 but it wasn’t until the recession hit that he decided it was time to go it alone.

He added: “I first got involved in the motorcycle trade when I was working as an importer; I’d go abroad and bring bikes to sell to dealers across the UK.

“I often felt that some dealers weren’t offering such a great service and felt I could do better for the customers.

“When the financial crash hit, I was working a lot with electric scooters which wasn’t particularly working out for me, so I started conversations with Piaggio about starting a dealership in Sheffield.”

Via Moto has grown dramatically since then; having moved from its first premise twice (each time to a bigger unit), opened two sites in Chesterfield and seen an increase in turnover of almost £5m.

As part of this growth, the company recently announced that it will be moving from its 2,000 sq ft Shalesmoor Showroom in Sheffield to a new 12,000 sq ft unit on Shoreham Street.

The new space and vast increase in shop area will give Via Moto the opportunity to extend its product range, enable it to stock a higher volume of motorbikes for sale, and provide a better area to display and showcase products and its features.

With the addition of a lounge space and cafe, it is hoped that the new premise will not only replace the old site, but become a destination store for existing and new customers alike.

The Sheffield site will also begin stocking Suzuki for the very first time as the dealer for South Yorkshire and the Midlands, along with continuing to be the go-to for big names such as Vespa, Moto Guzzi, Aprilia and Piaggio.

He said: “When we started, there were two full time members of staff (me being one of them!) and two part-timers to manage to admin and sales and we now employ 25 people to work across sales, e-commerce, merchandising and technical. We’ve also been lucky enough to be recognised for our efforts, and won Piaggio Dealer of the Year 2015.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for Via Moto, as whilst we have loved the last few years in our Shalesmoor shop the time has come to move into larger premises and we feel this new unit and area of the city is perfect for what we want to achieve.

“With Sentinel Brewery just next door, Shoreham Street is rapidly becoming a more popular area of Sheffield that we are very pleased to be a part of.”

So, what is the secret to his success? He puts it down to: “Plenty of hard work! We look after our customers by offering them optimum service, fair and honest opinions on purchases and aim to work to a certain standard and level of presentation which sets us apart from our competitors.

“We make a conscious effort that when things DO go wrong, to ensure we put them right and it’s that which turns one-time purchases into loyal customers, who then go and talk to their friends about their experience with Via and we grow from there.

“Via Moto provides something different to standard motorcycle outlets, we try and bring in the most innovative and up-to-date brands to be able to offer our customers something new.”

Now, after five years of rapid growth, Matthew is showing no signs of slowing down and is envisaging further growth going forward.

He concluded: “Once our brand-new Sheffield site is on its way to being established, with new brands such as Suzuki coming in for the very first time, we hope to continue our organic growth through persistent hard work, strong ethics and simply treating people well.

“The new brands are just one aspect of our upcoming growth, we’ve also taken our website in-house to improve our response time and customer service, we’ve made the e-commerce side of things much more user friendly and have brought new team members on-board to manage specific areas.

“For me personally, Via Moto is a long-game project, I wanted to create a robust business and I feel I’m on the way to doing that… And who can say? I’d like to think we’re in a position to take advantages of opportunities presented to us and expand nationally, as well as potentially abroad.”

Matthew’s top tips for entrepreneurs:

Be determined, expect disappointment in many areas but learn how to overcome these and seek access to capital if expansion is something on your radar!