Victoria's Andrew Mitchell with part of his 20-vehicle fleet
A day in the life of Geazone's founder
It only took one incident to abruptly conclude Andrew Mitchell’s prolific athletic career. The four-time national downhill mountain biking champion was competing in California when he got thrown from his bike at 70 kilometres an hour, headfirst into a wall. His first experience with concussion-related symptoms, it was also enough to end the run of the former No. 1 downhill biker in the country.
So in his early 20s, Mitchell put a business administration certificate from his hometown UVic to work by starting an eco-friendly courier service that consisted of him and two friends on electric bicycles. Some eight years later, Geazone has 20 vehicles (all electric cars and trucks) and 25 employees overseeing about 300 deliveries a day for businesses on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver.
Although Mitchell’s passion for cycling played a role in Geazone’s launch, the company has added third-party logistics and freight services to its delivery model without losing the sustainability mission at its core. Doing that meant purchasing top-of-the-line vehicles–no easy ride, especially in the early days.
“Going into the bank with a piece of paper and Excel spreadsheets and trying to show them that we’re going to take $150,000 vehicles and attach these trailers to them and that’s going to be our courier unit, it was really something,” remembers Mitchell, who has kept control of the business as its majority owner. “We went more to the private capital-raising markets, private equity and that kind of thing. We’re still small, so as we grow it does get easier getting the banks behind us.”
Geazone’s Victoria operations manager was recently injured while riding his e-bike, so Mitchell has been filling in for him, working with drivers on inbound and outbound work from the company’s HQ to its other bases in Nanaimo and Vancouver. (They’re looking to add one in Campbell River, too.)
One of his main focuses these days is on bridging the gap between Vancouver and the Island. “You really have to have your own semi-truck going back and forth for the kind of work we’re doing,” explains Mitchell, who hopes to get one when Tesla makes its electric semis available, hopefully by the end of next year. It’ll be the first electric semi-truck transfer spanning the two regions, he says.
Mitchell moves back into his CEO role, which sees him spend much of his time with bigger clients (though he’s signed NDAs with many, he acknowledges that Geazone does lots of work with breweries, cideries and wineries like Victoria’s Hoyne Brewing and Saanich-based Sea Cider) and is trying to land some more.
These days the job includes phone calls, emails and Zoom meetings, plus working with investors and shareholders to keep money coming in. “Constantly in the back of everything else that’s happening from a sales and delivery perspective is raising capital to make sure it’s in place for when we on-board the next larger client,” Mitchell says.
Admitting that lunch has been “a bit off the docket lately,” Mitchell often tries to get a coffee and a sandwich at Victoria haunts like 2% Jazz (“I’ve known [owner] Sam Jones for a while”) and Sally Bun (“great egg-and-cheese sandy”).
Mitchell works with the rest of Geazone’s operations managers, double-checking on how pickups and deliveries are going. Clients like the company’s eco-friendly approach, but it isn’t usually the main priority for them, he concedes: “Everybody says, Great, you’re 100-percent electric and very sustainable, but are you going to be able to meet our service needs? And how much are you going to charge us? From there, sustainability is always the last one on the list.”
Geazone’s equipment is three to five times costlier than its competitors’, but “once we get over the initial capital expenditure, our monthly or running costs are the same,” Mitchell says.
Mitchell often ends his days by filling in for delivery drivers or troubleshooting problems. “The other night, I ended up in Tofino doing delivery because a client needed to get quite a bit of wine to a hotel that was just opening up again, and there was no way to get it there other than just a direct shot,” he says, laughing. “My day could really end between Vancouver–especially if there’s a need for expediting stuff–Tofino or Nanaimo. Preferably, I’d like to stay in Victoria.”