Steph and Sean Tuff: Starting an Electric Bike Company

Podcast host and Strong Towns Program Director Rachel Quednau has been eyeing electric bikes for some time now, and, while she hasn’t made the leap to purchase one herself just yet, she loves seeing the growth of this industry and the possibilities it opens up for people to have better, cheaper transportation options beyond cars.

Stephanie and Sean Tuff also started seeing that possibility a few years ago and they turned that into a new electric bike business. A few years back, Steph and Sean and their three young children were spending more time outside and looking for ways to get around town that weren’t as expensive or polluting as a car. They found that biking provided this for them and so much more—the chance to really see the city around them instead of just letting it blur past through a windshield, the chance to enjoy fresh air and exercise and, frankly, to have more fun getting around than the typical car commute.

But with young kids in tow and the difference in their abilities to bike quickly at the same speed—especially in hilly areas—they ended up turning to electric bikes to help make their travels even better and easier than on a regular bike.

Eventually they partnered with friends to start a new e-bike company: Tuff Hill eBikes. Opening their business during the pandemic led them to choose a hybrid model where they don’t have a formal storefront but they give people the chance to meet up and test drive a bike, access maintenance, and more. 

For Steph and Sean, this isn’t just about sales—although they’ve been quite successful in their enterprise. “We don’t just see it as selling bikes,” says Sean, “we see it as connecting people to a bigger community.” In this conversation, you’ll hear the Tuffs talk about how biking around their city has helped them understand Strong Towns concepts in a real and up-close way, and how they hope that getting more people on e-bikes will allow those people to share in the Strong Towns approach and mission, too.

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