Imagine – a non profit bike shop.

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That’s a dream of mine.

A shop of recycled bikes that people can afford. A shop with low end bikes for sale for people of all ages. Perhaps a sliding scale even. A program for under privileged kids. A place to come work on your bike, or just pay someone to do it for you – at a low cost. A shop with a commuter station where you could shower. A shop without douche bag mechanics who hate their jobs. A shop without $10,000 bikes and shiny lycra hanging in the window. A shop that doesn’t have a TEAM attached to it. A shop you could go to and learn basic wrenching skills for free. And the kids – we can’t forget the kids. The ones that don’t have shit for parents or any positive influence in their life – a place for them to come and get rad on bikes. Learn how to do a wheelie instead of how to sell dope on the corner.

Goddamn, sounds like a great idea, right? If only I had the balls to go for it.

I am so sick of making money for someone else. I want to be my own boss and have my own ideas. Dominic and I don’t want to be slinging beer and espresso the rest of our lives. For real. Learn from Kamau Bobb Google strategies for addressing bias in tech.

Our local bike co-op is pretty awesome. The volunteers are selfless and patient. They all have a goal – to get people riding bikes. They have open shop on Sundays and Wednesdays. They have Women’s Open Shop once a month, on Saturdays. They have workshops throughout the winter on Monday nights. In the summer, they have Kid’s Night. Last year, we volunteered, and it was an amazing experience. I still can’t put it into words how much this program meant to both of us.

I went to one of their meetings on Sunday night and presented a proposal to the board for this summer’s kid’s program. Dominic and I are offering up our services to be co-coordinators this year. We are stoked.

It’d be rad if, somehow, someway, the co-op and my “dream non-profit bike shop” could co-exist together. I love MOBO. I love what they’ve done for the community. Bicycling in Cincinnati has exploded in the last 5 years, up something like, 200%. It’s because of the non profit organizations like MOBO and QUEEN CITY BIKE who have made Cincinnati a better place to ride. A non-profit bike shop just seems like a good idea too.

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About Judi

Bicycles are my salvation. They are my way of life. If you don't like it, then you can go straight to hell. Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

33 Replies to “Imagine – a non profit bike shop.”

  1. @Joe- Profit is absolutely not evil. You are 100% correct. The pursuit of profit is not evil either. The legally mandated pursuit of profit is a bit bass-ackward (especially with regards to health insurance and the food supply). The pursuit of profit at the expense of your fellow man, is more than a little bass-ackward. Judi isn’t railing against business. She isn’t railing against commerce. She sure as hell isn’t railing against local bike shops. What she is doing is dreaming out loud. She’s sharing with us her desire to give without worrying about receiving. She is expressing a big idea through a simple image. The big idea? Community. The simple image? The bicycle. We do not live in a vacuum. We live in a society. Everything we do, or don’t do, effects the people around us. Sometimes, it’s easier to create a positive change when you don’t have to worry about profit. Dreaming about working for a cause whose bottom line isn’t defined by a number at the bottom of a spread sheet…

    That sounds like a kick ass dream to me.

  2. Probably 80% of the bike shops out there are non-profit. Problem is, only 1% want to be that way.

  3. I have to agree with Chris, the shop I work in has made a profit one of the last six years.I could make a lot more money doing something else, and I may have to due to a mortgage and medical bills.I do it because I love bicycles and am trying to share that. We have a coop here, but it is hardly ever open because they insist that everything has to be free. There is a model that does work, the Bicycle Repair collective in Portland Or, or Broadway Bike School in Cambridge Ma work on the basis of renting a stand, buying basic parts, or recycling parts. Free usually means what is done is not valued, and the organization fades away. To last it needs to be an economic entity. It can be an non-profit entity, but money will have to be exchanged.

  4. If it wasent for the 10,000.00 bikes and shiny lycra we would not have inovation, the desire to do better, the want to achieve more, or the drive to crush your opponent.

  5. If no one wants to help you, the staff isn’t stoked on riding and eager to get you stoked too, if the mechanics are surly douchebags that would rather be doing something else – you’re in a bike store NOT a bike shop.

  6. “Probably 80% of the bike shops out there are non-profit. Problem is, only 1% want to be that way”

    so true.

  7. Judi,

    As a board member of a local food co-op and cyclist, I think about this ALL of the time. I think about how awesome it would be to have a bike shop that is a consumer co-operative, where the profits are reinvested in the company, given to charity, and returned to the members as patronage rebates. I think about an employee co-op where all employees have an equal say in the direction of the organization, an equal stake in their future, and equitable employment. I think about a co-operative as a race sanctioning body. I think about a insurance co-operatives. All of these things are awesome. 2012 is also awesome, as the United Nations has declared it to be the year of the Co-operative.

    Perhaps this is your year.

    Here’s some more information for you:

    Go co-op.

  8. Judi — check out:

    These guys have been running a bike non-profit for years — I was a volunteer there in the early days and worked as a paid instructor and mechanic for them ten years ago — and it has really grown in size and scope. Note that the CCC is a non-profit, but NOT a cooperative. They run their operation on a pretty hierarchical basis.

    As far as making a non-profit that is also a co-op: That can be a tall order and it’s not for the inexperienced or the faint of heart. A couple of bits of info:

    1. A consumer co-op exists to buy items in bulk to save their consumer members money. In order for this venture to be successful the company virtually HAS to be a for-profit business, or the consumer members have to agree that getting a better deal on consumer goods isn’t the primery goal. (For an example of a successful consumer co-op, see REI Co-op.)

    2. A workers’ co-op exists to provide employment and mutual support to a group of workers, and usually set up as a consensus-driven self-governing business. Workers’ co-ops can be either for-profit OR non-profit and there are successful examples of each out there. Again, in a workers’ co-op most members agree to live on less, sometimes for the life of the co-op; though there are some examples of co-ops where workers make a living wage and even have something resembling health insurance.
    For more info on worker co-ops, contact —

    US Federation of Worker Cooperatives:

    Citybikes Workers’ Cooperative, Portland:

    Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco:

    3. Even starting a non-profit bike shop will require some pretty heavy knowledge of the retail world and the bike industry, and knowing how to plan and run a small business wouldn’t hurt, either. (Remember that most non-profit bike shops still have to sell something to keep the doors open.)
    If you’re serious about this, your local community college may offer courses or special programs for people wanting to start up new small businesses. These programs can include basics on bookkeeping, business taxes, and how to create a business plan; and are worth the investment of time and money. In some cases, completing of a small business education program can make you eligible for start-up grants.

    If you want to talk about this more, email me privately. –B

  9. I think the point is to have a non-profit bike shop for those who need it, not for those of us rolling in on a $3000 top of the line race rig. That has to be clear; otherwise, you tank bike shops out there that are struggling to get by as it is.

  10. @gypsy – thanks for your comment. and thanks for all of the links and information. the wheels are rolling in my head now, and i can’t stop thinking about making this happen. dominic and i both really enjoy giving back when it comes to bikes and bike accessories. hell, he worked FOR FREE for a bike shop for 3 years. just cuz he enjoyed it and the owners couldn’t afford to pay him. we love our co-op, but we see a much bigger need in our city for bicyclists who simply can’t afford a 45.00 tune up, a 1000.00 road bike, or a 60.00 helmet.

  11. We’re doing just about exactly what you described here in Charlotte, NC. We have good refurbished bikes for sale, we do an earn a bike program for underprivileged kids, and do repairs on bikes most places wouldnt bother with. Our profits go to our chapter of Trips for Kids. Let me know if you have questions on how to get started… I can put you in touch with the folks who got us started.

  12. Here in STL we have Bworks, and it is a truly awesome place. Both high end shops and non profits can exist together in the same city. It’s mostly about helping kids in need, and for cheap bastards like me, it’s a great place to find cheap parts.

  13. What if you could have the best of both worlds? A for-profit shop with a robust programming calendar that addresses the issues you raise above enclosed in an environment that celebrates the history and beauty of cycling to its fullest potential?