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Flux Mopeds revving up in energy-conscious Madison

Matt Brueggeman at the Flux Mopeds store on Williamson Street. A search has begun for a new location.

Matt Brueggeman at the Flux Mopeds store on Williamson Street. A search has begun for a new location.

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The road to entrepreneurship has been a long, bumpy one for Matt Brueggeman and his two co-founders at Flux Mopeds. It all started in China, where Brueggeman, 30, spent six years immersing himself in the culture and the language.

His business idea was formed over a beer with his friend and business partner, Alex Meyer, who was visiting China during the Olympics. As Brueggeman tells it, they were tossing business ideas around, hoping one would stick. “We kept coming back to electric mopeds,” he said. “There are over 200 million mopeds on the road in China,” he noted. Why not the U.S.?

Flux electric mopeds are snazzy, two-wheeled vehicles with lightweight (22 pounds), removable lithium ion batteries that can be charged in just a few hours using a standard electrical outlet. The mopeds travel up to 30 miles per hour and go more than 20 miles on a single charge, depending on the type and style of driving. They must be driven on city roads but can be parked easily in any bike rack, eliminating the cost of curbside or ramp parking. Brueggeman says the business is targeting people in urban environments who travel between five and seven miles at a time.

They thought it would be easy to bring the product overseas. “We were very wrong,” he admits. A major challenge was complying with all the rules and regulations governing vehicle safety in this country. “We should have taken the state and federal regulations more seriously earlier in the process,” he admits. “That would have saved us a year or two.” The vehicles now meet all safety standards.

The Flux store is an attractive space with about 10 to 12 mopeds on display in a range of colors. Manufacturing is done in China, but Brueggeman, the company’s only full-time employee, says Flux “owns the manufacturing process” and handles all quality control.

While students and residents are the primary targets, Brueggeman says he and his business partners — Brueggeman’s wife, Ellen, a Chinese national, and Meyer — have been surprised by the number of seniors taking an interest in the environmentally friendly transportation option.

The company wants to sell at least 50 mopeds in its first year. As of this writing, it has sold 15, including four in one recent week. The cost, depending upon the moped, is either $1,999 or $2,399.

Sales have also picked up online, Brueggeman adds. “We have really good SEO [search engine optimization] because there’s very little out there in terms of electric mopeds in the U.S.” Friends and family helped with startup costs, and the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. provided loan support. Capitalization thus far is “roughly $200,000.”

The company also received expert advice from UW-Madison’s Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic, the Office of Corporate Relations, and the Small Business Development Center.

The founders chose to open in Madison instead of a larger market because of the city’s supportive entrepreneurial environment and comparatively lower costs. “This is the quintessential market,” Brueggeman says. Ultimately, the plan is to become a dealership, with Madison serving as a local hub and with distributors located elsewhere, preferably in warmer climes.

(Continued)

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