Today, we have a guest blog from Jenni Gwiazdowski. Jenni is the founder of London Bike Kitchen, an open DIY workshop where you can fix your own bike instead of giving it to someone else. This blog is about the motivations behind setting up London Bike Kitchen and the challenges of running a start-up cycling business as they work towards getting the business operational.
I think it all started at the beginning of 2011 when I resolved to build my own bike. I had a frame, a gorgeous vintage Claud Butler, refurbished and in perfect condition. But I didn’t know what came next.
A few friends offered to help me, but for some reason I was really stuck on this idea for a course. I just learn better in a classroom setting. I mentioned this to my new flatmate, a fellow Californian, who asked, “Do you guys have a Bike Kitchen here?” My interest was instantly piqued – What is this…Bike Kitchen? Tell me more!
The concept is simple: it’s a volunteer run space that uses recycled bicycle parts to supply DIY workshops where people work on their own bikes. I thought to myself, ‘Wait a second…I think I could do this…and maybe even turn it into a self-sufficient social enterprise…”
I realised that I was creating a space that I wanted to exist, just so I could go there myself. Did that mean other people wanted to go there too? I created a survey and sent it to all my cycling friends, and all their friends – the unanimous answer was YES.
At about the same time I applied for LCC/TfL funding, just on a whim. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain – and amazingly enough, I got the award! Sh*t, I thought to myself…now I have to do it.
And so the summer of 2011 was spent immersing myself in a new world of business planning, finance, marketing, networking and, of course, bicycles. Right now I am reaping the fruits of not only my labour, but that of kind friends and strangers.
No one teaches you how to start an enterprise, (and it doesn’t help when you work full time), but I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a group of friends that are not only smarter than me, but are also incredibly supportive. And bike crazy.
I find it amazing that friends made years ago have now become specialist advisors and advocates. Everything I have ever done in the past has led me to where I am today. And as stressful as it is, there’s no place else I’d rather be.
London Bike Kitchen will have a full tool library, mechanics on hand to help, and courses to build skills. To learn more, please visit www.LondonBikeKitchen.org.uk
*As Jenni has stressed in this blog, there have been a few hurdles to overcome to set up London Bike Kitchen, the greatest of which is start-up funding. The business is holding a Bicycle Bingo Bonanza fundraising evening on Thursday, November 10, between 7-10pm, at the Stag’s Head Pub in Hoxton. Do go along to provide support and much needed funds.