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Wanna start a co-op

Old 04-23-18, 09:36 AM
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Wanna start a co-op

I just moved back to my hometown of Columbus, Georgia and am getting frustrated with the local cycling scene here. The bike shops all only carry bikes starting around $1000. How is anyone going to take cycling as a legit form of transportation if the only half decent bikes available are just as much as you can get a car for here!?! And a brake tune shouldn't cost $50!!! (Also not everyone thinks Lycra looks cool. So it being treated as a necessity is off-putting to say the least. It is in no way safety gear...) So after living in cities like Buffalo, NY, New Orleans, LA and Oakland, CA I would like to try starting a co-op here where people can learn and trade skills and either get bikes very cheap or work trade for them. Does anyone have any advice or experience with getting a bike co-op started without a bike graveyard of my own? There is a constantly expanding bike path here and the college is growing. It would be the perfect time to start something like this if people knew bikes were an AFFORDABLE and SUSTAINABLE option.
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Old 04-23-18, 02:44 PM
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Old 04-23-18, 03:56 PM
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Should not be too difficult if you can find a space. Print up some flyers announcing that you will be at whatever location, whatever hours to provide free minor repairs and adjustments. Stock some cables and brake pads, maybe some chains. Cruise yard sales and pick up any bike with decent parts. You should be able to get started for a few hundred dollars. Bike shops here give used parts and stuff to the local bike charity. Convince them you are legit and you may have more stuff than you can use.
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Old 04-23-18, 10:39 PM
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I have heard that some people have luck just asking for donations of unused and unwanted bikes, parts and tools. It would help to actually be a legal charity and to be clear about who and how you'd give your rehabbed rides and your assistance to. And you need to be legit about it or risk legal and reputation troubles that will torpedo your co-op. If you're flipping bikes yourself, people are going to be rightly suspicious that you are just trying to get product on the cheap.

I had one guy sell me an old Schwinn sportster for $10 and then brag to me that he had gotten it for free when he ran a bike rehab charity with the local police. Not kosher.

There are always a steady number of young people leaving for college and leaving their bikes behind, and old fuddys like me who will someday too soon reach the point where they cannot ride. Somebody is gonna get some great deals on my 2 decade hoard of bikes, parts and tools. Especially if my wife winds up having to dispose of it, she's over having bikes and boxes everywhere and will probably give it all away.
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Old 04-24-18, 12:21 AM
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Awesome. Thanks guys. I think with doing some of my own research the charity thing will be the best way to go but I'm trying to make bikes available to everybody. If money gets involved it would really only be to cover my out of pocket cost and space overhead if there is any. Not trying to profit. Except for to make friends and see people riding. One of the lbs's I talked to today seemed like they'd almost welcome a way to get off some parts without trashing them.
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Old 04-24-18, 12:24 AM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
Should not be too difficult if you can find a space. Print up some flyers announcing that you will be at whatever location, whatever hours to provide free minor repairs and adjustments. Stock some cables and brake pads, maybe some chains. Cruise yard sales and pick up any bike with decent parts. You should be able to get started for a few hundred dollars. Bike shops here give used parts and stuff to the local bike charity. Convince them you are legit and you may have more stuff than you can use.
Just gotta say I thought from a few of your posts you were a fellow bike punk/diy-er. I was recently made fun of for wanting to make flyers and not just post to social media for one of my bands upcoming shows. But there's something that almost seems like tradition to me about it.
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Old 04-24-18, 12:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Gurge View Post
One of the lbs's I talked to today seemed like they'd almost welcome a way to get off some parts without trashing them.
That's interesting. My town doesn't have a co-op either, and I've been trying to guess whether my local LBS's would see it as competition or not. I suppose LBS owners might also see it as a way to take care of customers who they can't profitably service, i.e. the penny-pinching cheapskates like me who want to do their own wrenching and keep their cheap bikes running forever? A way to engage people in biking who may not be able to buy new bikes yet, but who may come back around later to buy new at full fare?

Good on you for taking the initiative. I hope you keep us posted on your progress.
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Old 04-24-18, 12:42 AM
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Haha. Part of the point of a co-op is to legitimize penny-pinching cheapskates like us
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Old 04-24-18, 12:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Gurge View Post
Haha. Part of the point of a co-op is to legitimize penny-pinching cheapskates like us
You have my full and complete approval.

That and five bucks will get you a cup of joe, but you have it.
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Old 04-24-18, 12:57 AM
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Also, rseeker, I'm gonna use that part about customers they can't profit on yet but may come to them when they decide to step it up to try to get some shops behind this idea.
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Old 04-24-18, 08:31 AM
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a couple people started a co-op here a few years back. i think look up fcc bikeworks or falls city community bikeworks in louisville, ky. they're on facebook also. there have been people from other cities that stop by and get info on starting co-ops where they are, or tell of co-ops where they are already. anyway, they might be able to give you info on getting started.
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Old 04-24-18, 02:36 PM
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Membership fees or a per hour shop access charge is common. University Outdoor Programs out of the student union,
funded by a fee on tuition,

If you can wrestle some money out of the Football Athletics fees.. then there's a big source.

Maybe State Lottery Money?



....
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Old 04-24-18, 06:30 PM
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I went into my favorite LBS today and brought up the idea. Turns out I was talking to the owner who was SUPER supportive of the idea. Even pointed me in the direction of where to look for grants, how to get a possible free space in which to do it (when they did the rails to trails here they built a few... checkpoints I guess would be the word and all have sat empty except for one that's rarely open) and offered parts once it's up and running. This could turn into a real job not just something I was gonna volunteer for!!!
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Old 04-26-18, 12:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Gurge View Post
IThis could turn into a real job not just something I was gonna volunteer for!!!
Nice! Follow your bliss right into a yob involving bikes. That's so great sounding.
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Old 04-27-18, 09:35 AM
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So I'm talking with someone who's going to help me with filling out a 501(c)3 Monday! Working on putting together a board of directors and by-laws. This is moving way faster than I expected. And becoming bigger as well. When I said to make cycling accessable to all I meant everyone, but I now need to do some research into the adaptive cycling field. Which I'm pretty excited about. The legal stuff I'm having to cram in my head so quickly...
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Old 04-27-18, 11:30 PM
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Hi Gurge,

Love the idea of you starting your own bike co-op in your home town. I volunteer at my closest bike co-op. In Vancouver, Canada, there are currently three non-profits. All kind of loosely affiliated with each other, like mechanics having worked in more than one of the shops. Here are just some of the ideas and suggestions that I have for you.

Get in touch with your local college/university, the Bike Kitchen in Vancouver is based out of the University of British Columbia. They get some funding from the university. Students can become members with a yearly membership fee, get to use a fleet of bikes with a universally keyed u-lock around campus and repair stand time. They have a special program to refurbish donated bikes for migrant farm workers so that those farm workers have a means of reliable transportation.

Another of the bike co-op, Kickstand, is entirely volunteer based with I believe one paid staff member to handle office related tasks. They are based out of the basement of a community centre. Maybe ask your city about a space out of a community centre that is not being utilised?

Then there is Our Community Bikes, where I volunteer at. We are centrally located and see a lot of traffic. The space is about helping people and education, there are stands open to the public with full sets of tools. There is a sliding scale of per hour rate for stand time, people using the stand can ask staff or volunteers for help. There is also a membership program at OCB, members are allow to vote and have members night, where repair stand times and access to tools are free. Members also get 10% discount off new merchandise or orders of new parts.

Each location have staffs that are paid and also volunteers, which does not violate the non-profit ethos. The staff members all contribute back a lot to their communities and there are loads of various social programs at all three location.

City of Vancouver, just last month is partnering with all three places to divert bicycles that end up at the city garbage collection centre into a recycling program. Bikes that pass assessments will be build back up, the ones that don't are stripped down and recycled properly rather than ending up in the landfill. See if your city would be willing to do the same.

Good luck,
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Old 04-29-18, 09:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Gurge View Post
Awesome. Thanks guys. I think with doing some of my own research the charity thing will be the best way to go but I'm trying to make bikes available to everybody. If money gets involved it would really only be to cover my out of pocket cost and space overhead if there is any. Not trying to profit. Except for to make friends and see people riding. One of the lbs's I talked to today seemed like they'd almost welcome a way to get off some parts without trashing them.
...it's a lot of work to file the paperwork and follow through to approval as a 501c3 (at least it is in California).
But if you really want your organization to thrive, it's probably your best route.

You need a relatively dedicated group of volunteers to start with, because it's a lot more work setting up a workable bike co-op than you might imagine.


Official recognition as a non-profit both simplifies what you need to do when you go to file returns (and you will need to file annual returns), and it allows you to give people receipts for donations that are deductible if they itemize. That's probably going to be less important under the new tax guidelines, but it was an important incentive for us here in soliciting donations of bicycles.

Mostly, you need to collect a variety of skillsets in your personnel organization...not just bikies, but also people with some basic accounting and small business advertising skills, as well as someone to set up and run your website. Anyway, good luck. I no longer work at the one here. Most people eventually burn out in a co-op environment after a certain number of years. Stay calm, and don't look backward.
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Old 04-30-18, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
Mostly, you need to collect a variety of skillsets in your personnel organization...not just bikies, but also people with some basic accounting and small business advertising skills, as well as someone to set up and run your website. Anyway, good luck. I no longer work at the one here. Most people eventually burn out in a co-op environment after a certain number of years. Stay calm, and don't look backward.
So far there are other only 3 real bike nerds helping me. Most of the others are friends that have a surprising amout of pull (one of which is running for mayor and another was the chair if the disabilities services here before he retired...at 32 ). Trying to find a treasurer still but so far so good.
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Old 04-30-18, 09:56 AM
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I also want to say thank you all for your advice and support. Reading this thread had definitely helped motivate me and has kept my general moral up.

So... Thank You!!!!
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Old 05-01-18, 11:28 AM
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Scuba's suggestions are right on. Definitely hone in on the college students! Lots of reasons for that. Also, market it with lots of advertising and I don't mean at cost. With all this technology now, advertising should be cost free. I'd stay away from the board of directors thing. I run when I hear a non-profit has a board. Just a waste of time with members who do it to make themselves look good, not because they have a clue about the subject at hand. Also, you could contact other coops (instead of people like us) and gleen info off them.
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Old 05-01-18, 05:37 PM
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You may want to search forums like mechanics, A&S and Classic and vintage for similar threads.

even as a non profit you will need to think about liability, process, quality etc.

A bike focused non profit I work with does a lot of a) drop in repairs for mostly low income and homeless and b) sells bikes it has donated and uses profits to support other programs.

The have a formal safety check list, including a double check quality control by a second volunteer. Drop in bikes are triaged up front and repairs and most critical repairs are identified and only those repairs done. An unsafe bike is not worked on or if it is discovered in process it is resolved if possible (like the bike that looked like a fixie, but was single speed and no brakes.....brakes were put on before the bike was released.

they also sort and organize parts, tube,tires makes it easier. and simple solutions are used...ie put cheap friction thumb shifters on a bike rather than try to spend hours fixing a usually unfixable grip shift

Also a high end board of directors can open lot's of doors.

good luck
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Old 05-03-18, 10:51 AM
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I definitely agree about the board of directors thing. But the town Im in it's kinda one of those "when in Rome" situations. And so far it's the former chair of the dissabdisabi services and the owner of one of the better bike shops here.
As far as advertising I'm making flyers and I guess I need to start using social media instead of forums for not-social social interactions.
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