Ken Cheung is an inventor and the owner of Power in Motion, an electric bike shop in Calgary. Ken has invented a number of products, but is best known for his line of heated gloves designed specifically for bikers.
Canadian Business: How did you become an inventor?
Ken Cheung: Seven years ago, I wanted to start an environmentally friendly business. I wanted to get into renewable energy, but when I first looked at it, the payback period was so long, something like 10 to 15 years. I kind of pulled back a little bit, and got into the electric bike business. That’s how it started.
What sparked your big idea?
One winter I was riding my bike. It was minus 30 degrees in Calgary. I was having a hard time stopping the bike because I couldn’t move my hands. So I knew I needed to make a product that allowed me to ride in the winter.
What’s the biggest misconception about your job?
When you look at Power in Motion, people think we’re just a local bike shop. That’s really a false statement. Most people know us as the electric bike store here in downtown Calgary, but very seldom do people know that we’re actually developing the products ourselves.
If not an inventor, what would you be?
I’m really happy where I am right now, because I’ve gained so much knowledge from the mistakes that I’ve made. But at this point at time, if I wanted to develop other products unrelated to electric bikes or heated clothing, I would have no problem.
Do you have a typical day?
A typical day is very chaotic. To me, every time you move forward with something, there’s always a positive and a negative. Having a retail store is great because you get the feedback, but you also have to deal with your day-to-day retail business. So during the day I’m managing the retail store, but at nighttime, that’s when I spend most of my time on development. I do a lot of hand sketches.
Most of my prototyping is actually done at home. I have a giant table with a whole bunch of parts, so I glue them together and take a look at how it works. I make prototypes as quickly as possible. So a typical working day is hectic, hectic, hectic. I’m just hoping I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
I would say read a lot. Reading is really, really important.