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Cool new bike businesses are cycling their way to success.
Cycling infrastructure improvements in cities across North America have lead to a surge in eco-friendly, pedal-powered businesses. Scott Baermann, 38, of Urban Street Window Works, runs this bike-based business in Chicago, IL that is making fast work of cleaning dirty windows.
What inspired you to start a bike-based business?
Initially, I was cleaning and repairing windows using my van. Then one Saturday, I couldn’t find parking in the downtown Loop and realized I could save time, fuel costs, and parking fees doing the job by bike. Plus I love to cycle. That was in 2012 and we’ve been going strong ever since.
Is Chicago a bike-friendly business city?
They’ve passed a lot of pro-bike legislation recently and we’ve gotten great support from our alderman. Chicago is an easy city to cycle in because it’s so flat and we have a huge biking culture here. They’ve added miles of buffered bike lanes, too, so we can access most of our storefront clients without having to ride on congested streets.
What do you haul on those cargo bikes?
Everything. Our window soakers, squeegees, a box of rags, even a bucket of water goes into the cargo box. We mounted special pole holders on the frames, too. We probably ride 25 miles (40 km) a day in the summer months, fully loaded, and can hit over two-dozen clients.
How do people react when they see you riding by?
The bikes always get a huge reaction. Heads turn on the sidewalk, people ask us what we are up to – why we’re on bikes. The custom cargo bikes really stand out and our website and phone number printed on the sides attract a lot of new business.
How is the business doing?
The first year we made about $60,000 USD. Last year we grossed close to $100K, and we project growth of more than 30% in 2015. We use a subscription pricing plan, so while business is busier in the summer, it’s consistent for us year-round.
Do certain types of clients respond better to the bike-based business model?
We get a lot of coffee shops, fashion boutiques, hipper kinds of businesses run by people who like the environmentally friendly aspect. We use non-toxic cleaning solutions and water-soluble paint removers, too, so our eco-message really comes through.
Do you have any advice for aspiring cyclepreneurs?
It’s important to consider how using a bike works with your brand – how it strengthens your message. For example, we like to say that we’re removing the dirt from windows that vehicles produce – without contributing to the problem. We can make that claim because bikes are central to our business concept.
Have a bike-based business you think we should know about? Email us at letters(at)momentummag.com
Allan Ishac is a cycling-obsessed freelance writer living in New York City, NY. He is the author of several books and creator of the TranquiliCity app. allanishac.com