Photos: Attila Toth, Gilles van de Sompel, Krisztina Toth, Tyrone Kelly, Chad Degroot.
One of my favourite aspects of running Flatmattersonline, is definitely working on interviews and learning more about riders across the globe. More recently, I started to wonder about flipping that on it’s head, and finding out about flatland from an industry perspective.
Attila Toth runs Four Pegs BMX, and I was interested how he runs a flatland business in such difficult times. This is a lengthy interview, so grab a cuppa and enjoy some flatland industry talk….
His DIY aesthetic to running his own Flatland business really struck a chord with me. I wanted to know more, and rather than a rider interview, this goes more into the industry side of things even though of course Attila rides. As a second lockdown just hit here in the UK, it’s time to publish this interview and let the world know more about Four Pegs BMX and Attila Toth!
Always good to start with basics, introduce yourself Attila?
Hi Effraim, Hi Readers of Flatmatters! I am honestly super honoured to get a chance to talk about my side of the BMX Business, better said the side of the BMX Flatland Business and how I experience it.
I am Attila Toth, living in beautiful Austria for around 5 years now, 31 years old/young, I am from Hungary – growing up with one of the strongest flatland scenes in the world.
I have a BMX since 2005 and I actually wanted to ride street but I was too fat as a kid and too weak for it. I saw a guy in my street riding flatland and he was so smooth that I thought, this style of BMX is maybe easier than the others. LOL I was so wrong about that, but the riding got me hooked!
In essence I was somehow always active, but never really got good at riding, I studied a lot, finished a university, working besides studying since I was 14 years old, so BMX riding, even though it was always the first thing on my mind, was always a second priority in my life, because I had to take care of other things. But I was sitting a lot front of computers at work with some free time and got into BMX Media. As a kid I was obsessed with making extreme sport videos, because my dad got nice DVR camera and I was making “movies” about my riding friends. Way before the Youtube-era.
Around 2008, internet blogs and news portals started to take over and I started to push my movies more, made a DVD about some excellent riders in the Hungarian scene and started to write for a Hungarian extreme sports media website, as the flatland news editor (golden days, man).
Then around 2012-2013, when flatland was a bit dying out in Hungary, I got kicked out from that website I was writing for, tried a couple of other websites and flatland related things – also around this time I picked up the first “BMX part as a product” and started developing/marketing/sell it – these were my first products of mine, the very first Plastic Pegs prototypes.
In 2015 I moved to Vienna, life in Hungary was good for me, but not that challenging as I was wishing it would have been in that period of my life. To be honest, that flatland scene gave so much to me, I would never really be anywhere near to the BMX business without that super deep and specific knowledge, that I picked up from generations of extremely dedicated riders – on the top of their game.
What’s your riding background Attila?
I feel I kind of answered this question in the one before, but in summary: I have a bike for 15 years now and had a couple of active riding periods, I would summarise that maybe 5-6 years were really active (no winter spot ever) – and since last year I got back to it more. I have a couple of tricks I like to do and I love to ride. Now I can also go somewhere for the winter but it’s kinda far away from me in the city.
As I see, I was always around way better riders than I am, which always motivated me, although I should try to learn more new tricks to be honest. I tend to do what I can already do haha. But I let the pressure go years ago. All in all, I am a hobby rider but I love it.
When did you start Four Pegs? Were you in Hungary or already moved to Austria?
I originally had the idea almost immediately as I moved to Vienna. After settling in, I was overwhelmed, how segregated the Hungarian scene was – basically everyone almost used the same style of parts for generations – which was obviously working – but in Vienna I saw riders with completely different bikes, other styles and the parts we wanted and loved in Hungary were already phased out here, counted as old school.
I could say it was in a way a classic Eastern vs Western Europe kind of thing – you just see that people have access to get other parts, also possibly more disposable income to change their parts as they like,and not only when they get broken. Also I had the impulse that the Hungarian riders were more committed to their path as a rider and Austrians knew how to take it easier (except those Austrians who are also really dedicated riders). Just a different mindset.
I had to open my mind so much about certain things regarding BMX. In my days back in Hungary I never really met a rider who would go out riding flatland as a hobby and not like a fanatic. All of my early riding friends gave their all every time they rode. I think that made the Hungarian scene so good. But that was also a time when we (including me) had actual free time – school years mostly. Then I got into another stage of my life (young adult) in a different country and different riding scene and I just couldn’t match the two worlds first. Then I simply understood, that there is a place for flatland in everyone’s life after the “hardcore years” which is great. The scene in Vienna helped me understand that.
Was Four Pegs your first business?
Yes it is, other than Fourpegs I never had any business on my own. My dad had a pub in my hometown and in a way I got this “how to do business” mindset from him and also in school – I studied economics. But I learned the most from my dad, in regards of how to be a salesman and how to be dedicated to something you want.
I had to and have to learn a lot about how to do business fairly, legally and properly – doing it every day since I opened this web shop. Sometimes it’s really hard, stressful, but I try to see it as a learning curve, every new skill brings me a step forward.
You wouldn’t even imagine, how much administration and management is behind a BMX shop, it’s crazy. I was kind of naïve, thinking it will be all the time happy times with BMX parts. But that’s how you grow.
Why start Four Pegs? What was your idea?
There were multiple aspects in it for sure. First of all, when I moved to Vienna, the only BMX shop in the city just closed. That surprised me, because I thought there will be at least a couple of shops, if there are 3-4 BMX shops in Hungary. But there wasn’t any shops left in the whole country.
Then I saw the demand for flatland parts in Vienna, but way more in Hungary. I think there was a time where flatland was not really “in shape” globally (around 2014-2017), at least from what I saw.
From that point on, I basically tried to sell some used parts from Austria to Hungary, to my riding buddies. Then it grew so much that I thought, I could do it as a legit business, it shouldn’t be that hard. But it is, haha.
I also got into coaching, did a couple if diplomas in that area. Also as I mentioned I studied economics with marketing. Then I also have this small town know-it-all businessman style from my dad. So basically all of this clicked together and I thought: I can do a BMX shop, focused mainly on flatland, where I can help some underground riders and also live out my dream and get into the industry. Also maybe earn some cash – haha I can dream.
Do you have an office? Or working from home?
I don’t, my base of operations is my flat in Vienna. I have two small storage rooms for parts and boxes that I would not be able to store in the flat (like tires and bikes). I don’t make any money to have a “real” office or to have a “real” warehouse. Also, it is not even necessary. Since I am in an office (or home office since COVID19) anyway, due to my “normal” job, I am trying to alternate and do both at the same time, or put in some extra hours, after my regular job is done.
But it´s safe to say – I can work from everywhere and I am working almost all the time.
How long now have you been running the business?
It’s been around 5 years now, nonstop, basically no days off. Even when I have a day off, that usually means that I am not sending boxes out. Customer service, planning and management is a 24/7 thing.
How hard is it to make a business work in the flatland industry?
Very hard. I would say extremely hard but yeah, let’s spare the drama. Essentially, if you are not a flatland rider yourself, forget it. It’s just too specific. It’s like the riding itself. Flatland takes years to master and most of us spend our lives mastering the basics. You can apply this to the business side as well. Also, flatland riders are extremely picky, lots of attention to detail. If you don’t know your products, then don’t even start to sell it.
What I also wanted to add, is that you have basically no room for error. I have a “normal” job so I can be free with my decisions regarding 4P and I don’t have to stress about life expenses. But being “free” in the decisions also means double work – I need to perform 100% in my civilian and also BMX Shopkeeper duties.
If I would depend on the income from the BMX Shop, I would have to close it down next week. As long as you, as a shop owner, are depending on the profit of your shop (which is obviously a normal thing) you have two choices: Stay true to your vision/sport or sell only what brings money. In flatland, there is no money basically, that could keep alive small bike shops. So no wonder that they don’t sell flatland parts.
I realised, I need to keep myself as a person independent from the BMX Shop income, so I can protect my feelings, integrity and willingness to help towards my team riders and customers.
Otherwise it would be about money or failing as a business.
I personally don’t want to sell scooters, e-Bikes or skateboards to make ends meet. I either do core BMX or I just go back to my day job. This is what I set out to do, and this is what I am good at.
So while juggling these responsibilities I am still trying to keep up with everything in the industry.
What companies in your opinion are doing it right in flatland?
Besides Fourpegsbmx, I think there are other companies, who contribute in various ways to flatland. Some with actual parts, some with the hype, some with schools even. In my opinion, if a brand puts out even one part that is considered to use by flatlanders, it already deserves a shoutout. Putting out parts to a market where you know that you will not necessarily make money is a nice gesture. Considering how hard is to actually create a flatland part.
Just to name a few and the list is for sure not complete:
Heresy, Deco, Autum, IGI, Ares, Nous, Far East Cycles, S&M, KHE, OG Marton. I would even say Haro, WTP and Colony are doing the right thing where they can.
What a rider should understand: small companies are probably run as hobbies and can “afford” to make flatland parts just because they love the sport but they are not primary income sources. But they don’t have the visibility, reach or marketing to make flatland bigger.
Bigger companies (like WTP, Haro or Colony) make actual money because they are good and can sell in large volumes. If they go into flatland then it means there is money to be made because there are buyers of the product.
Both types of businesses are good – small ones bring the flavour and big ones bring the stuff to the “masses”.
I presume street and park products keep you in business?
Kinda yes and no. Park not so much. It’s okay but I think it is mostly in and around Austria and neighbouring countries. There are far bigger shops than Fourpegs to get that job done.
Street is nice, because Austria and the Balkan countries have strong street scenes and riders too.
But all in all, all the money I earn, goes back to the business in all ways possible.
I literally never got out any money from the business since it’s going. All profits go back to improvements, sponsorships and event support.
I am always giving the same amount of attention (100%) to all customers, I don’t care, what kind of riding background they have or what discipline they ride. I try to remember my first riding days when I had no idea about anything and how great it was to get a helping hand from an experienced rider.
If you are nice to me, I will be nice to you. That is really important and works both ways. The level of tricks or hype is irrelevant. We are human after all.
I also really value customer loyalty. If a customer is willing to get to know how I operate and we figure out this “customer needs journey” together, then I can be really effective and I can tailor needs for a rider and give better prices. This is also what makes 4P a different bike shop.
It’s awesome you have a team in this current climate? Who is representing you?
I would say that the 4P team is pretty big! I really try to help whoever I can, no matter the riding discipline. That was my initial motivator and it is still my number one goal, when I look for a future team rider. I like to build the team around young riders and also established figures in certain scenes. What I usually say: I am the local shop for Austria, Croatia and Slovenia, no matter what style you are riding – it’s just the regional assortment basically (also EU borders). But I am there worldwide for all flatlanders. Knowing, how small our sport is, compared to others.
The 4P team consists too many riders to name them one by one and I don’t want to copy&paste a list here, so please check our team list on the website. It means the world to me, to have all of these great people helping me. It is really a feeling that you cannot match to everyday things.
Having a team is lots of work. Basically you have to manage them more or less every day. Some people need more, some less attention. Some need guidance, some just want the recognition. The important thing is to align the team member with the principles of the shop: Equality – Sustainability – Realness – No Trends.
One way or the other, all the riders I choose to represent the shop are aligned in this way. In my eyes, to say the least.
I presume Four Pegs isn’t your only business? What else do you do?
4P is my only business. If we talk about the actual business that I own. I tried with a Kendama (Japanese skill toy, it’s awesome) brand too, but I was not that 100% passionate about it like about flatland and BMX so I abandoned the idea. I don’t half-ass things, it doesn’t make sense in my eyes, not to commit to something 100%.
In my “civilian” life I work as a software consultant for an IT company. It helps me a lot to learn how some actual business is getting done. What are the standards, the requirements, service levels.
I also like to be outside the BMX world. It actually helps me to appreciate BMX even more, if you see, how many things go on in “real life” if you leave your bubble. As a person who was fixated on BMX, it was refreshing to me to see, in how many ways you can excel in life if you really put in work. No matter what that is. On the other hand, you see all that crap that happens to people day by day and it’s good to go back to BMX and find some peace. I think having a BMX Shop is a same time an escape and a major stress source of mine. Weird to write this down but it´s true.
What’s your advice to anyone wanting to start on the flatland industry?
Don’t do it if you are not 200% crazy about it. In this industry you can be broken down easily, money goes down the drain, people will get crossed. Do it, if you know, that you can get over almost anything that the industry throws at you. Also you will need to sacrifice your own time and so much more, which nobody will be able to give back to you. That is not even measurable with money, it’s just the nature of time.
If you are fine with all that, do it, get it done and try to do something that helps you, your scene and community and flatland as a whole. I wish you good luck because you will need it.
How many countries do you ship to? Would you consider yourself a global business?
Ask me this question around 2020 March and I would have said: Worldwide. Now since COVID19 I am shipping wherever I can – Europe of course, most of Asia, North America is still going.
I bust my ass every day to get the boxes everywhere safe that is my first priority day-by-day.
What are you psyched on in flatland right now? And same question for BMX in general?
To see younger riders redefine everything we knew about BMX. Also Master of Creativity and Flatland Schools. At the same time I am a fan of my own team riders. Seeing them excel in many ways keeps me motivated. I burned out watching flatland videos long ago. These years I watch around 10-15 videos a year, and I am done with it.
What in your opinion can the flatland industry do better? Or be more effective?
It is really hard to say. This is also a huge topic. Depends on riding scenes, riders and the companies.
I think we need more riders. We need to create BMX Schools and take care of our grassroots movement everywhere, city-by-city. Then prices will go down, parts will be made, the availability will be better. Because if there are no riders, then it makes no sense to make parts. Nobody can be expected to put out parts, if they have to choose between a flatland business that is doomed from the start or their own living.
Next time when you ask a shop for any discount without even knowing them, keep this in mind – you take away their profit and everyone else in the BMX food chain already had their full profit – being the last seller in a chain, a shop has to pay everyone, no questions asked. But then don’t feel weird as a customer, if they can´t help you with free things, big discounts or with any discount. Believe me, most shops are doing this out of fanatic love and close to being broke.
Also, when the time comes and the shop/brand has to pay their taxes, which is thousands of euros/dollars/monopoly money, they cannot pay it with a never-been-done trick or a time machine combination. I understand, that some riders, after spending years mastering the art of flatland, think that they deserve some kind of respect from companies. I can assure you: these companies respect your riding but they can´t leave money on the table or next year they won’t be at the table.
I get many “Sponsor me” messages, usually on Instagram, where riders tell me, that they deserve a sponsorship by status or by a trick or followers on social media, etc. The thing is, that if you really want a BMX shop to help your riding, then you need to approach things differently, because nobody can expect a company to hook them up just because they feel it’s deserved (if that happens is wonderful, but life is not that easy). In other words but same logic, I would deserve customers just because my shop exists and sell parts. Which is nonsense. I have to fight for my customers like every shop. This is the same for everything in life. Nobody deserves anything just because they feel they deserve it. You have to convert this feeling into productive and positive actions and companies will see it. If the company doesn’t see it, just move on, it’s their loss. I learned it the hard way too but this has to be learned.
Companies also need to get better in customer service and communication, I think that lacks at most them. It doesn’t matter, if you have good stuff, if you cannot tell the people it’s good. Or if you, as a company employee, cannot even present your stuff. For me it’s a mind bender, that most BMX companies don’t even display the measurements for their hubs for lacing. You buy an expensive hub without all the info about it and this is just a small bit.
All in all, I think we have to get behind each other’s back and support. Street parts are cool and I love them myself, but if I want to see flatland products – well, I need to buy flatland parts – give feedback and tell other riders to do the same. If the flatland product turns out to be garbage, then obviously don’t buy it again and tell this to the company directly so they can make it better.
I heard this sentence from a rider a couple of weeks back: You need to pay to play. Basically all he wanted to say was, that nobody can expect anything without any pre-investment first. What I would add to that, is that we, as flatlanders need to pay to play longer. We secure our own future and nobody else.
Is there anyone you looked up for inspiration as you started Four pegs?
Yes, Flatland Fuel and the “old” OG Bike Shop guys with Marton and Andras. I think they were a big influence for me. But respect to everyone who sells flatland stuff.
I also have to admit that the other BMX shops, so my competition is an inspiration to me. I have to constantly re-invent my vision to 4P otherwise they will outgrow me. This keeps me on my toes.
What changes have you made since the COVID pandemic hit in March of this year?
My life was already full of stress so I didn’t have to do too much to make it more stressful besides 2 months of panicking due to lost shipments. My business is online based so there were no big differences. But I had to reduce the countries I would ship too. Also it made me more aware to my investments. Basically I realised that I have to be super conscious of the stuff I want to invest into.
But I am concerned to see, how many non-BMX Businesses had to close down so I am always thinking forward, how to keep my head above the water.
Has the pandemic affected your business much?
Not really. I think 4P is getting bigger now, because time helps and the team riders are amazing and everyone grows together. Maybe people had a bit more time to chill and look around and that helped me too, to increase my visibility.
It affected the shop financially because there were cancelled orders due to the pandemic but then it got back into normal. As I said, for 5 years I am kinda working 24/7 so corona didn’t reduce the amount of hours in a day haha, I just needed to keep working like before.
This has been awesome Attila, much respect to you. Any thanks you would like to give before we wrap this up?
Thank you very much Effraim for this opportunity and for giving flatland this platform to be seen and heard. Your motivation brings a lot of things forward day by day in this sport. Thank you.
I want to thank to all the 4P team riders, former, current, or even future riders. All the people who supported/ordered something from me. Very grateful for all the support.
I wish everyone as many happy riding sessions as possible in a lifetime!
If you made it this far, go check out the Four Pegs webstore: