What started as friends puzzling over how to improve a cheaply made electric scooter has evolved into Phat Scooters — a multi-million dollar business in a little over three years.
“The model I had was way underpowered and hard to ride, but it was a lot of fun. So we set out to make a better mousetrap,” says Peter Johnson, CEO of Phat Scooters.
Phoenix-based Phat Scooters sells electric scooters known for their smooth rides and customizable options.
A Better Mousetrap
When Johnson first started Phat Scooters in 2017 with co-founders Beau Ralphs and Dan Hankins, customers had the choice between two models and five fender colors. While showing off a unit, a buddy of Johnson’s suggested putting a graphic on the footboard.
“So we did and it took off. Then we added a cup holder, then a phone holder, and then speakers,” says Johnson. “Now we’ve got the sidecar we call the Wingman out, DJ systems—it’s evolved from a scooter to your personalized vehicle.”
But Johnson has always wanted the company to do more than provide a great product. “Great customer service is what we founded the company on. People buy Phat Scooters because they know they’re getting a superior product.” says Johnson. “The guarantee on the outside of the box is only as good as the company behind it.”
This commitment to customer service meant Johnson took customer service calls on Saturday nights while the company was in its infancy. “People were dumbfounded that they were talking to a real person who wasn’t in China or India—in fact, it was the founder of the company,” says Johnson. “From a founder standpoint, we stand behind our product and its incredible quality, and that’s important to us.”
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought unforeseen challenges that complicated business operations big and small. For Phat Scooters, it disrupted the rollout of a new unit called the Phleet—an electric bike with a 70 mile range and pedals for the option to ride manually.
“We had previously launched it at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago as a beta unit, and we were planning on launching it officially this last year. Then the pandemic hit so the show was cancelled and we were stuck with all these units,” says Johnson. “We asked ourselves, ‘What are we gonna do with these things?’”
So Johnson and his team surveyed the community to see if there was an opportunity to help. They noticed restaurants were struggling to survive because of the public health restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. For restaurants that didn’t already deliver food, that meant partnering with a third party delivery app that ate into already-dwindling profits.
“We had Phleets sitting in our warehouse, so we donated 13 units to local restaurants in Phoenix, which gave them the ability to deliver themselves,” said Johnson.
Giving back to the community is a pillar of Phat Scooters’ business philosophy. The company also hosts celebrity golf tournaments to raise money for charity. “It’s always been a founding backbone to our company. We believe that if you’re successful, it’s no fun to be up on that podium by yourself, you always want to have friends and family there with you. We want to make a difference out there,” says Johnson.
While the COVID-19 pandemic affected all businesses, the pain has been spread unevenly. Phat Scooters continued to grow throughout 2020 despite the disruptions. Johnson attributes this success to people’s desire to be outdoors and active while many recreation activities are still unsafe.
“We’re one of those lucky ones to be in a category where we have a lot of versatility. We’re not just a one-trick pony or just a family neighborhood cruiser. Every year we explore different markets to get this product into,” says Johnson.
One of these markets Phat Scooters has had great success with is golfers. The company created a scooter with a golf bag rack on the back. With COVID-19 making the close encounters experienced in a traditional golf cart more dangerous, Phat Scooters’ single rider option is even more attractive.
Another market new to Phat Scooters is breaking into television with a docuseries called “Riding Phat.” “It’s a 6-episode series that follows our company’s growth and challenges, along with the celebrities we deal with and the cool scooters we create from start to finish to delivery,” says Johnson. “Riding Phat” will premiere Spring 2021 on the Crackle streaming service.