Two entrepreneurs, Steve Connelly and Judith Paris, have teamed up with their local Tenants’ Management Organisation to build community cohesion through local involvement and employment with their cycle maintenance and repair workshop GetMoreBikes.
The workshop opened in March 2013 in converted garages rented from the TMO just off the Caledonian Road, north of King’s Cross, an area blighted by social deprivation. It is a social enterprise: any profit gets ploughed straight back into growth and development, and the TMO advertises and promotes GetMoreBikes’ activities locally.
The two current apprentices, Kamran (19) and Daniel (23), live within walking distance of work. Both are keen to set up on their own once they qualify through Cytech – the bicycle industry’s chief training and accreditation scheme. Their trainer is provided through Aylesbury based ATG Training. This is the first London centre for ATG, which delivers 90% of Cytech courses in England.
Steve – who throws six days a week into the enterprise, without drawing a salary – says: “We are creating local employment opportunities and training young people to fulfill a growing need in their community… Longer term our apprentices will be supported in starting their own business replicating those benefits to a wider community. It’s about sustainable employment”.
Being too commercial to qualify for local authority funding, and too social for commercial lenders, GetMoreBikes’ survival depends on achieving sustainability and growth in the real world – luckily, cycling is markedly growing in popularity, creating strong demand for professionally qualified mechanics – Caledonian Road is a major cycling route and there are no nearby competitors.
GetMoreBikes is situated away from the main road but the business enjoys a great deal of local goodwill: shopkeepers place posters in their windows and flyers on counters. Islington police contribute unclaimed bikes for refurbishment and sale – as well as inviting GetMoreBikes mechanics to their bike marking/checking events, at which sister enterprise GetMoreFood sometimes furnishes the catering and Judith’s Thrifty Couture, another GetMore project, promotes cycle wear made from recycled materials.
The firm also runs a stall providing repairs and advice about bicycles, in nearby Caledonian Road Market. The other important arm of its growth and visibility strategy is dispatching mobile mechanics to businesses and individuals.
The initiative has also attracted political interest – recent visitors include Sarah Ludford, North London MEP.
GetMoreBikes is supported by campaigning charity Business in the Community – a group run by business leaders which is “committed to building resilient communities, diverse workplaces and a more sustainable future”. The project is the first of a series of sustainable businesses in cycle build, maintenance, repair and refurbishment, and retail sales, in the London area.
To find out more about GetMoreBikes visit their website