Our newest social venture
By Jonnie Ling, Director of Operations
“What’s your favorite program at the Community Cycling Center?” I’m often asked in interviews and conversations alike. Our community collaborations with New Columbia and Hacienda usually take the #1 spot, but I may soon have a new favorite.
Late in 2012, I was asked to lead a truly innovative process for the organization: to pursue a social venture that blends workforce development with a new business line.
Most of my background with the Center has been with our long-running social venture, our community bike shop on NE 17th and Alberta. The shop allows us to stabilize staffing, secure wholesale pricing for our program parts and supplies, and provides us with space for volunteer engagement, program delivery, and bike production. We use the proceeds from our shop sales to round-out program funding. This has been a huge success for us and is largely responsible for our stability and growth over the last decade.
Our recently completed strategic plan has given us a new imperative: respond to the barriers to bicycling experienced by economically isolated communities. As we’ve talked with partners and community members, many have identified barriers-to-entry for jobs in the bike industry (an industry valued at $63 million in Portland according to a 2006 study by Alta Planning).
To begin to address this issue, we engaged Matt Martin, former ED of Community Bike Project Omaha, to conduct research and development on the program. Through this project we were able to identify businesses, agencies, and individuals interested and excited about the initiative as well as some potential funders. Among these, most agreed that an increased diversity of those employed by the industry would add value and make it more appealing to a larger audience. From these conversations and our research, we were able to lay out a structure for an employment training program.
Soon afterward, we completed a needs assessment with young people ages 16-24 at the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA). In that assessment, 33% of those surveyed were interested in jobs in the repair and maintenance of bicycles, 20% were interested in bicycle education, and 10% were interested in sales opportunities.
“What are you waiting for?” you might ask. We’re exploring scenarios, doing market studies, and developing business plans. We’re hoping to duplicate the stability and dependability our other social venture has brought to our existing programs.
We will keep you informed as we progress. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or recommendations at [email protected]