A taxing task led to a global business for Don DiCostanzo. Tired of peddling his bike uphill on Superior Avenue in Newport Beach for volunteer work and recreation, he knew there had to be an easier way. His solution? An electric bike.

The epiphany ultimately inspired him to create his own company, Irvine-based Pedego, with business partner Terry Sherry in 2008, to sell their own brand of electric bikes.

The first store opened in Huntington Beach in 2011, and now the company has close to 70 independently owned locations in 10 countries.

DiCostanzo was honored for his work at the Business Journal’s annual Excellence in Entrepreneurship awards luncheon on March 10 at Hotel Irvine (see profiles of the other award winners on pages 1, 10 and 13).

DiCostanzo, who has lived in Orange County on and off since 1975, first satiated his desire for an electric bike by buying seven of them. He lined them up in his garage, and friends and neighbors would ask where he got them. He owned an automotive chemical company at the time called Zak Products, which was based in Dallas, Texas, but decided to open an electric bike shop purely as a hobby.

He opened Zclipse in 2007 in Newport Beach as a way to learn more about electric bikes, he said. The building shared a wall with the Crab Cooker restaurant. He soon got frustrated, he said, because even though he had a variety of suppliers, he couldn’t find any that were making electric bikes he considered stylish enough.

“There was a very limited number available. They were ugly, they didn’t have very much in color selection, and they were made of poor-quality components.”

Within a year he had learned a great deal about electric bike customers and their preferences, he said. The decision time for whether to create his own brand of bikes came in 2008 when his main supplier in San Diego refused to continue selling him parts because “they didn’t believe in electric bikes,” DiCostanzo said. They were purists.

DiCostanzo said he knew then that it was time to create a unique brand. He invited his friend Sherry to lunch and told him of the plans, and he was in. They brainstormed ideas on a napkin and came up with the company name. By December 2008, they had filed the papers to form Pedego. DiCostanzo put up the initial capital of $300,000 and retains the majority share, he said.

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