[TheThinkTank] Income Statement and Cash Flow for bike co-ops

Krista Nicole passionforwords at gmail.com
Mon Nov 24 09:07:28 PST 2014

>From a DIY, limited resources and limited manpower standpoint, a good way
to get started is by acquiring basic tool donations from a couple bike
shops that are supportive of your efforts, and begin by hosting pop-up bike
repair clinics in parks, near metro stations, places that cyclists frequent
- that way you can start to help the community and generate some donations
and spread the word about your organization.

This is how we started the Valley Bikery in the San Fernando Valley (Los
Angeles), with basically no seed money. We didn't require a fee to do
tune-ups and repairs at our mobile stations, but we stated that we were
accepting donations and working towards a brick-and-mortar location. Our
most successful pop up location was in a park alongside a heavily used bike
path, best timing was Sunday mornings/afternoon. We had a BBQ fundraiser,
sold burgers & dogs donated by people who believed in the project, and
conducted a very useful survey to gauge people's needs, volunteer interest,
skill level, and location so we could start a newsletter and build a
volunteer base before we had an actual space. We held regular meetings at a
pizza joint and established some of the structural elements and went to
work helping people in the community, training our volunteers, and figuring
out where to best set up shop. We partnered with metro who donated patch
kits and bike maps and gave us a night to set up at the plaza outside one
of the train stations.

Our first space was in a bike shop that was huge, and essentially had more
space than they needed. We gave them a percentage of our donations instead
of a flat rental fee, which helped us establish a basic fund before we were
making enough money to pay real rent. That location wasn't great, but it
got us on our feet, and we eventually moved to an independent location in a
more centralized area.

Don't think that you need to invest a ton of money to make it work. Build a
core group of volunteers and get out into the community and show people
what you can do. Table at community events. Collect donations at every
opportunity. If there is another co op nearby, ask them to help train your
volunteers, and offer to put in hours at their space in exchange. The
Bikerowave on the west side of the city was extremely supportive in this
way, and even gave us a cut of their income for the nights we came in to
work at their shop (pre-arranged times). They also donated some overflow
parts that they didn't really have room for. Our parts cache wasn't great
at the beginning, but we facilitated the process by accepting donations at
all hours to our homes, which we would then take to the co-op during our
open hours. We went to the people who had stuff to give us, we asked for
anything they might be able to offer.

Your resources are people, events, and places. Leverage them and you'll be

On Mon, Nov 24, 2014 at 4:07 AM, Kevin Dwyer <kevidwyer at gmail.com> wrote:

> There is no guarantee against crumbling, but you can minimize your
> exposure and increase your chances of success by being scrappy, as most all
> have done to get their community shops going. Borrowed space, donated tools
> and many volunteers are common strategies.
> I agree that without specifics on your community, it is hard to know what
> the potential is. Let's look at it a different way: I've found that
> *established* community bike shops typically have income/donations equal
> to about 10-15% of the larger area commercial bike shop's income. One of
> the cool things about community bike shops is that they are scalable,
> growing their client base, service and program offerings as they develop.
> Community bike shops typically have the community/open shop and donations
> for parts and bicycles as their principal income/activity, with programs
> (e.g.Trips for Kids) and services (Bike Valet) developing as the org grows.
> As service groups, labor/wages is usually the largest expense for those out
> of the volunteer-only phase, sometimes amounting to half of income or more.
> Partnering with a local allied non-profit and talking to an attorney will
> increase your chances of getting off on the right foot, especially if you
> are new at this.
> On Sun, Nov 23, 2014 at 9:18 PM, Marissa Pherson <marissapherson at gmail.com
> > wrote:
>> I think the problem with answering this is that there is such a wide
>> variety of organizations, and we don't know anything about your situation.
>> What size is your city, what kind of programs do you foresee, do you have a
>> board of directors, do you have a space yet, etc.
>> There are very small shoestring budget co-ops that operate on volunteers
>> and unpredictable donations, and there are very strong co-ops that receive
>> a variety of grant funding and have well-defined programming and staff to
>> match. The bigger it gets, the more you bring in and the more you can spend
>> (more tools to buy, improvement ideas, website, part-time staff, etc.). Are
>> you going to incorporate? Apply for 501c3 status?
>> You can look up any 501c3 organization's 990-N form via Guidestar to get
>> an idea. These will be established organizations, with a board of directors
>> and all the benefits of 501c3 status and established community contacts.
>> Marissa Pherson
>> On Sun, Nov 23, 2014 at 7:06 PM, tenaya goldsmith <
>> tenayagoldsmith at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> I'm trying to start up a bike co-op where I live and I would like to
>>> know what the average amount of income is for a bike co-op and what the
>>> financials typically look like.
>>> I want to make sure that when I start this that I am financially ok so
>>> that it all doesn't crumble beneath me.
>>> ~ Tenaya Goldsmith
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> --
> Kevin Dwyer
> President, The Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective Board of Directors
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Krista Carlson
Contributing Editor
Urban Velo <http://www.urbanvelo.org>
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