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7 August 2018 - Diana Bluhm

Bicycles made in Bremen – Velo Lab moves to a bigger site

Investing in Bremen

Stathis Stasinopoulos now has three times more space at his new site in Bremen-Nord

Stathis Stasinopoulos and Jap Kellner are drivin on the dyke
Stathis Stasinopoulos and Jap Kellner are delighted with the new site in Bremen-Nord © WFB/Anne Enderle

Stathis Stasinopoulos built his first bike so that he could get to and from work in Athens more easily. At the time, he could not have imagined that his idea would see him set up his own business in Bremen. We visited the entrepreneurial engineer in his new workshop in the north of Bremen.

1,100 kilometres – that is the distance that Stasinopoulos covered every month commuting to and from work in Athens. That is around 25 kilometres each way by bike and on the metro. This was no mean feat in Athens, as the city lacks the well-maintained cycle routes we are so used to in Bremen. “Only 1 per cent of the Greek population use a bicycle, so there are very few cycle paths,” Stasinopoulos says. Neither a racing bike nor a mountain bike were suitable for his route on the metro and through the city, so the 41-year-old engineer developed his own folding bike, the FP, short for Folding Project.

Banner 'Velo Lab GmbH'
Stasinopoulos moved from Athens to Bremen in 2017 and founded Velo Lab GmbH. © WFB/Anne Enderle

From Athens to the north of Bremen

Stasinopoulos was certain that other people would find the FP to be a practical option for the big city. He presented the folding bike at various European cycling and outdoor pursuits expos and built up his network. He began manufacturing and selling a range of models, including the Kàro cargo bike, across Europe. But then the economic situation in Greece became more difficult. Capital controls introduced in 2015 made it impossible to transfer money abroad, and Stasinopoulos found that he was unable to import parts for his bicycles and attend trade fairs in other countries. This forced him to look for a new production site. Through a bike dealer in Münster and a friend in Bremen, he got to know the north-west of Germany better. “Bremen is a great city for cyclists. And it’s easy to service the markets and trade fairs in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy and the UK from here,” he says of his decision to emigrate to the city on the river Weser.

No sooner said than done. He moved from his native Greece to Bremen with his wife and three children in July 2017. Kolja Umland, project manager for international relocation at Bremeninvest, the international brand of Bremen’s economic development agency, assisted him with incorporating the company and finding premises. Stasinopoulos found a workshop for his start-up, Velo Lab GmbH, in what was then the Sirius Business Park in Bremen-Woltmershausen, which since May 2018 has been owned by Justus Grosse GmbH. But he soon found that 50 square metres of space was not enough to accommodate a workshop, an office and storage. “I asked a metalworker based in Bremen-Burg, who has made prototypes for us, whether he knew where I could find suitable premises,” says Stasinopoulos. “And as it happens, there was space free in the building next door.” He now has 160 square metres of space to build his bikes, three times as much as he had before.

Velo Lab is a two-man operation

Two people are enough to build seven different models by hand. At least that is how Stasinopoulos and his colleague Jap Kellner see it. Kellner was tipped off about a possible job at Velo Lab by his sister-in-law, who went to the same school in Greece as Stasinopoulos’ wife. A stroke of luck for both parties.

Kellner mainly manages sales and visits bicycle shops in the hope that they will stock Velo Lab bikes. “We also exhibit our bikes at trade fairs, such as DRAUSSEN in Bremen, EUROBIKE in Friedrichshafen, VELOHamburg and VELOBerlin, as well as in London and Utrecht,” Kellner says. “It helps us to raise the company’s profile and spread the word about our bicycles.” He enjoys building up relationships with specialist retailers and visits dealers across Germany to persuade them of the merits of Velo Lab’s products. Back in the workshop, he also enjoys manning the sewing machine to make rain covers and children’s seatbelts for the cargo bikes.

Stathis Stasinopoulos and Jap Kellner in the workshop
Stathis Stasinopoulos and Jap Kellner are the two-man team behind Velo Lab © WFB/Anne Enderle

Stasinopoulos is developing new bicycles

The bicycles made by Velo Lab all have one thing in common: they are lightweight. The frames are made of aluminium, which Stasinopoulos sources from Greece via a wholesaler in Bremen. He takes care of the cutting, painting and welding himself. It is important to him that his bicycles are comfortable and fun to ride, and this is particularly noticeable with the Kàro cargo bike. “The cable steering system allows the front wheel to be freely rotated, just like on a regular bike,” Stasinopoulos explains. “The cargo bike provides a comfortable ride, even over long distances.” They also manufacture the accessories themselves, such as cargo boxes with a kids’ seat. The wood to make them is supplied by a Bremen-based company, Weltholz.

Velo Lab bicycles
Stasinopoulos has developed a number of models, including racing bikes, cargo bikes and folding bikes © WFB/Anne Enderle

Customers can try out and buy the bicycles at Sønstebys, a retailer based in the Peterswerder district of Bremen. For Stasinopoulos and Kellner, an efficient aftersales service comes as standard, of course. It is also possible to arrange to visit the workshop in Bremen-Burg in person.

A Kàro cargo bike is currently on show at the Universum Science Museum in Bremen, where the BIKE IT exhibition is running for a year from the end of June 2018. Here, visitors of all ages can explore the past, present and future of cycling.

The person to contact for international relocations to Bremen is Kolja Umland, project manager for international relocations, umland@bremen-invest.com, +49 (0)421 9600 339.

Why is it so much fun to ride a bike in Bremen? Because we are in Germany's greenest city.

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