One day I was out on the bike when the phone rang. On the other end of the line was one of the most famous cyclists of all time Sean ‘The King’ Kelly. As we chatted he mentioned that he was heading over to the Cycle Show in Birmingham in a few weeks, and if I wanted to come along, I could pop over with him. An offer too good to refuse.
At the show, Sean was a guest of ONDA, a Portuguese Cycle clothing manufacturer who make all of the cycling kit for his An Post Chain Reaction Cycles team. We would spend a lot of time over the weekend going through the entire range and by the time we boarded a flight back to Ireland a new business venture would be born.
Travelling with Sean is always an experience. Walking along through Dublin airport a steady stream of polite ‘howaya Seans’ as if the entire airport was full of Carrick people, were interspersed with nods, double takes and the odd whispered ‘That’s the great Sean Kelly’ from a starstruck father to a son.
At the show itself literally thousands of people asked for and were always given autographs, photographs and plenty of selfies. For someone who isn’t huge into technology and the internet, Sean appears in an incredible amount of Facebook profile pics.
As we returned from lunch one day we passed a packed stage area and Sean remarked ‘There’s a big crowd in there for whoever is on now’. He glanced at his watch, ‘I have to go on after them in half an hour’. As it turned out, there was no one on stage at the time. The packed crowd were all in place already waiting for Sean.
Another time we walked onto a trade stand and Sean enquired off the nearest guy working on the stand if another guy that he was looking for was around. The ‘BMX’ looking assistant was really helpful and when he could not see the other guy he pulled out his phone to give him a call. He turned to Sean and asked
‘Who shall I say is looking for him?’
‘Sorry is that Kenny or Kelly?’
I watched the interaction in amazement. Here we were at a cycle show and a guy working on a trade stand did not recognise one of the all time greats of the sport. But then the realisation dawned upon me. Anyone who watched the exploits of Sean Kelly on the World Cycling stage throughout his career would expect to see a 10 foot giant carved from granite. When they meet a down to earth, normal guy with no airs or graces who doesn’t ask to be treated any differently form anyone else, it is easy to understand why they might not recognise him at first.
Back on the ONDA stand with Jean Pierre and Celia we went through the range and the pricing structure. I was excited to see how high the quality of the clothing was and amazed to see how low the prices were.
Sean has been testing and helping to develop products with ONDA since they came onboard as team sponsor for The An Post Chain Reaction Cycles team, and has been very hands on.
Together, we agreed to become ONDA agents for Ireland and The UK having seen the potential of being able to offer such a high quality product at really good prices combined with Seans’ globally recognised name as being a good combination for business success.