Inside the Mind of Creative Entrepreneur Paul Budnitz

Who's Paul Budnitz? He’s a creative, an entrepreneur, and a designer whose passion-driven ventures have brought him immense success. He's accomplished more mid-way through his career than most people do in a lifetime. How? By seizing opportunities to invent the world he wants to live in. If it’s broken, fix it. And if you’re Paul, invent it.

What else is smart about Budnitz? A dedicated commuter cyclist for over 20 years, Budnitz knows that life by bike is better.

Who are you? Where are you from originally?

I’m a designer, artist, author, and entrepreneur. I own a bike company, Budnitz Bicycles, I’m a co-founder of the social network, Ello, and I founded Kid Robot. I’ve made movies and written screenplays for a living. I live in rural Vermont. I’m 48 years old. I grew up in Berkeley, CA.

KidRobot creates limited edition art toys, signature apparel and lifestyle accessories.

How long have you been a bike commuter?

I’ve spent the last 25 years biking as my primary form of transportation. Bicycles are my primary form of transportation. I lived in NY for over 15 years and didn’t own a car.

In general, what is your opinion of bike commuter culture in the U.S. versus when you lived in Europe?

Riding in Europe is very pleasant because they’ve developed the infrastructure for it. There’s been a critical mass over there that we haven’t had here, and until we do that here, bike commuting will continue to exist on the fringe. The fact that you can ride endlessly in Holland, up to two hours away on continuous bike paths, and you can wander anywhere on your bike, adds so much to the enjoyment of riding there.

There’s been a critical mass over there that we haven’t had here, and until we do that here, bike commuting will continue to exist on the fringe.

It’s a much more hassle-free experience there than here.

In Europe, cycling is much safer thanks to their advanced infrastructure. So cyclists don’t even wear helmets there. Once you have to put on body armor, you have to think this activity isn’t ‘safe,’ which affects the overall experience in a negative way.

Why did you launch Budnitz Bicycles company?

When I realized I couldn’t find the commuter bike I really wanted, I started making my own. I looked at how beautiful, classic cars were made. People relate to cars as these beautiful design objects, and I thought, why can’t bikes be the same way? So I started doing it for myself. Then I founded the company when I realized I really had something going. I wanted to build beautiful, high end bikes. A lot of it was that.

When I realized I couldn’t find the bike I really wanted, I started making my own.

What is your goal for the Budnitz brand?

Our company goal has always been to be smaller, and to build well-crafted bikes out of love for customers we can personally get to know. Budnitz is almost 4 years old now. We sell about 250 bikes per year and the average sale is roughly $8,500. Over time the company is continuing to grow. The bike industry and how bikes are distributed is a disaster, with the various levels of markup, so we only sell direct.

Which Budnitz bike do you ride?

I usually ride the Model 3. It has a long wheel base and big, fat tires. I have about a 45 minute commute in and out of town, and I love being able to ride over anything with the sturdy tires and wider wheels.

What is Ello?

Ello is a social network for creators to share inspiration and inspire one another. It’s primarily visual right now. People are sharing photos, sharing their painting, crafting, cooking, knitting and other projects. The platform is very simple, very beautiful and easy to use. What’s more, Ello doesn’t involve advertising like other social networks. The people on the network can really take ownership of it. If we’re thinking about adding a new feature, we’ll ask the community about it first and get a lot of feedback and then make changes. It’s so positive and we want the community to be involved.

How did it start?

My friends and I just didn’t want to use any of the major social networks to talk with each other. We thought the platforms were pretty ugly, didn’t feel like the networks themselves cared about us. And so we didn’t want to share our work that way. It was similar to starting Budnitz for me: I didn’t find a bike I wanted to ride, so I built my own. Didn’t like the social networks available, so I started Ello.

Loving your bike makes an enormous difference... It’s transformative to have a beautiful bike that functions perfectly!

What's an example of a "smart" solution you've noticed that can help people begin cycling, that tears down barriers to entry?

A Budnitz bicycle! It’s transformative to have a beautiful bike that functions perfectly! It makes cycling so much more fun. And it also helps you feel safe. Loving your bike makes an enormous difference.