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CO-OP positive and negative ???

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CO-OP positive and negative ???

Old 12-15-19, 07:52 PM
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justinschulz9
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CO-OP positive and negative ???

more and more on these posts i see about people volunteering at the local co-op. I was born in California and never knew shops like this existed until this forum.
What is a co-op and why isnt it more of a concept in america?
what does it take to create a fully functioning cooperative?
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Old 12-15-19, 08:18 PM
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A few answers here:
https://www.google.com/search?&q=sit...s.net%2F+co-op
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Old 12-15-19, 08:18 PM
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A bike coop/bike kitchen/community bike service center tries to answer the challenges that retail shops don't do well with. Payroll, cost of goods and ROI. Some do better then others. Motivated people with time to donate, available space and seed money and a supportive community are needed. None of which are easy to come by in our highly competitive and costly society. Andy
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Old 12-15-19, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
None of which are easy to come by in our highly competitive and costly society. Andy
I would add greedy, self-absorbed and uncharitable, sadly. And getting worse, fast, IMHO.
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Old 12-15-19, 08:48 PM
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I've been a volunteer at two co-ops in two different states. There are obviously differences between the two. There were many similarities.

They both shared the same goals. Get the community more into biking. They both had mission statements that were more eloquent. The mission was to help people with bikes. Some customers come in and don't know how to change a flat tire. Some customers want to build up a frame from scratch. The co-ops I've been a part of help with both topics and everything in between.

Bike shops need to make money. They offer a new and/or used bike product ready to ride out the door. Bike co-ops tend to aim to teach more. The two co-ops don't even offer a service to drop off the bike and get it fixed. We would rather take the extra time and teach a customer how to make the repair and why. Many people need a part and want to know how to install it. Cost is also a concern for many. New parts cost a lot and there is labor. Switching a used part at the co-op with volunteer is much cheaper.

How to create or maintain a co-op? It's not easy. Start with a non-profit mentality and go from there. Volunteers are desperately needed. Interest is needed from the general public. Without donations from the public there probably won't be much of a co-op. Someone needs to run the place. That's a lot of work and on a slender budget. The co-ops I've gone to wouldn't have been able to function without the volunteers. They, myself included, run volunteer times. Generally at night and after the work day. Many volunteers are retired workers, who are members of the bicycling community.

I love bike co-ops. As a customer I can switch parts out relatively cheap. Very important if I can't make up my mind on a build. As a volunteer, I get to be around bikes. Look at bikes, learn about makes and models, price bikes, teach mechanics, inform about parts, help navigate compatibility issues. Geek out on bikes, components, accessories and many other things I wouldn't otherwise see. Just this weekend I found what I hope to be my next bike. Never heard of the frame builder. It was a nice color and the right size. Then I spent a few hours trying to find info on the bikes. As long as the price is correct, It's mine.

New people to my life don't understand why I would volunteer my time for free. But I get a lot more out of it than monetary compensation. Bikes are great and I get to look at thousands of them each year I'm a volunteer.

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Old 12-15-19, 08:52 PM
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Sad if you are so quickly abandoning your dream of a profitable bike shop
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Old 12-15-19, 09:53 PM
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Part of the answer to your question is that co-ops aren't just for bikes.

The solar-electric co-op concept has a lot of supporters as we talk about how to deal with climate and decarbonizing our entire economy. Big power generation/distribution companies are generally not in favor of these co-ops.

A similar idea is municipal broadband. Big broadband companies are not in favor of this.

When farmers faced monopoly pricing (monopsony, whatever) from grain silo operators and railroads, farmers formed co-ops to improve their bargaining power. Railroads were not in favor.

Seeing a trend?

Back to bikes .. my city doesn't have a co-op, but if it did I'd volunteer in a heartbeat.
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Old 12-15-19, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
what does it take to create a fully functioning cooperative?
https://www.bikecollectives.org/wiki...ons#California

...they're all different, although most of them do borrow certain established practices. For example, in Sacramento and Davis, you can buy used parts either to work on your bike in the shop, or to work on your project at home. When last I was in contact with them (some years back) , the San Francisco Bike Kitchen restricted parts sales to people using them on site. Volunteer numbers ebb and flow, as does the available expertise for more advanced repairs and concepts.

In my time here, we were trying to keep the better stuff in the used parts and bicycles stream out of the landfills, with varying degrees of success. "Fully functioning" means different things to different people. The needs of the particular community you're trying to serve dictate a lot of it. And there are some limitations on what you can accomplish with the available resources. Generally, if there's one at all close to you, you're better off volunteering there than trying to start up your own. I was involved long enough to see a number of them fold the tent because the available volunteers just got to burned out.
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Old 12-16-19, 08:32 AM
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The local bike co-op is mostly aimed at refurbishing older low-line bikes to provide basic transportation for those who can't afford anything or provide children's bikes for, again, those who can't afford anything better. They rely on donated bikes and parts and volunteer labor.
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Old 12-16-19, 08:34 AM
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I've also volunteered at two coops in two states. I don't have what it takes to start one up, but I enjoy being a worker ant and being part of the system. My fellow volunteers and I just like being around bikes and doing it with other people who like bikes. The volunteer labor base is very important. There's a lot of rote work required in tearing down and sorting parts, patching tubes, etc.

The ones I work with both started from someone's back yard/garage as a neighborhood operation, and slowly gained momentum, over decades, as community market and volunteer base grew.

I also had a career as a volunteer firefighter, and studied a little about what motivates volunteers. Being a part of a community, and being part of something bigger than one's self were important factors. We "get paid" in appreciation.

One of my customers at a coop came in to work on his fairly nice bike, and started by telling me, the new guy, how much he loved the shop. Years ago he came in destitute and homeless and the coop set him up with a bike in exchange for six hours of work patching tubes or something. That turned his life around--he got a working bike, learned how to keep it working, got a job, got a home, got ahead. That was my pay for the day.
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Old 12-16-19, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
Sad if you are so quickly abandoning your dream of a profitable bike shop
XD when i need first hand knowledge about places i find peoples experience of certain shops to be much more helpful than wikapedia
only so much you can learn from a dictionary, this forum has given me everything ive looked for when it comes to advice.
plus a co-op isnt a bad way to run a business. id rather teach people to work on bikes themselves so they arent so helpless next time they enter into a bike shop where the labor is sky high.
it also helps to see people on bikes, They are always happy.
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Old 12-16-19, 12:17 PM
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[QUOTE=3alarmer;21246662]https://www.bikecollectives.org/wiki...ons#California

the trend with american co-ops these are all in highly condensed areas, i mean that makes sense. im out in hawaii and nothing like this exists out here.
you would be suprised to see how many people actually live out here.
3alarmer thank you for this list!
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Old 12-16-19, 12:38 PM
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@justinschulz9 I would go to the C&V forum and do a search on that forum for co-ops.....there have been a number of threads there on how to run co-ops / bike charities./ shared workspaces

I have worked with a bike charity that has a lot of similarities to a co-op. This charity had an initial focus on helping fix bikes for people with minimal resources...i.e homeless and working poor. They still do a weekly free repair clincis. They also take in donated bikes and getting them working, which are then sold to support activities or given away to deserving people.. They also have lot's of parts to sell, train people on service, service bikes and rent out work space and tools.

Key in all of this is detailed processes and procedures as there would a lot of risk if an unsafe bike goes out. Work is checked by a Quality inspector so always 2 sets of eyes at minimum. As an example guy brought is a fixie to the clinic....or so the intake ticket writer thought. It was single speed and had no brakes. So option was to return it without working on the issue (foreget what issues was....kinda thing BB was toast) so the guy I was working with and I added brakes as it could not be returned safely without

As best I tell Co-ops are all pretty much non-profits and depend heavily on volunteers
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Old 12-16-19, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
Sad if you are so quickly abandoning your dream of a profitable bike shop
At least the OP is making a deeply informed choice (HAW!).
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Old 12-16-19, 12:49 PM
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I imagine different bike coops have different mission statements. I'm a volunteer at Mechanical Gardens in Brooklyn. We emphasize teaching how to fix your bike rather than fixing your bike for you. We try to keep our hands off and put your hands on. It is entirely non-profit. To keep it going, we have to have lots of people willing to volunteer their time. After four years, we are finally ready to have someone on payroll who happens to be the founder. His job will be to build the organization's programs and reach so that we can survive. Right now, the only hours open to the public are 6pm-9pm on Mondays. The reliance on volunteer time is the reason bike coops are not more common. It's heartening to learn that they are on the rise, though.
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Old 12-16-19, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
the trend with american co-ops these are all in highly condensed areas, i mean that makes sense. im out in hawaii and nothing like this exists out here.
you would be suprised to see how many people actually live out here.
...a more rural area has some built in demographic issues that are going to limit what you can do. Besides the volunteer staffing issues with a population that is more spread out, you'll also have some problems with youir stream of donated bicycles. Donations that can be recycled and sold cheaply, as well as the parts that come in on the ones that can't be practically renovated, are pretty much the source of a lot of the cash that keeps the whole non-profit business model going.

I've seen a few (very few) co-ops that began with only a paid membership model, that were not open to the public. The one here kind of started up that way, but progressed to a model that includes the option of a paid annual membership fee along with a daily entrance fee for people who are not members, but want to use the tools and resources.
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Old 12-16-19, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
...a more rural area has some built in demographic issues that are going to limit what you can do. Besides the volunteer staffing issues with a population that is more spread out, you'll also have some problems with youir stream of donated bicycles. Donations that can be recycled and sold cheaply, as well as the parts that come in on the ones that can't be practically renovated, are pretty much the source of a lot of the cash that keeps the whole non-profit business model going.
Yes; the commuting patterns in rural areas are almost exclusively by car or train or some non-bicycle mode of transportation. The bicyclists here are almost entirely recreational in nature. As folks in the city increasingly look to bicycles as legitimate commuting options, I think the popularity of co-op type establishments will continue to grow in those areas.
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Old 12-16-19, 07:51 PM
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Co-ops are a response to a market need, and make sense for the communities they are in. In my area the first co-op opened about 7 years after the last bike shop left the "inner city". Too many break-ins and too violent an area to safely operate.

My friend, Dave, started it in the back of a building that a friend of his was renting. They convinced the landlord to rent the space to the co-op for a dollar a year. The shop I worked for at the time provided all tools and materials at cost plus 10% so they could resell the parts to make enough to keep the lights on. No heat in the winter, and when below freezing they were closed.

They are now established as a for profit shop and are able to order from distributors. The co-op is still a net loss charity each year as what they bring in from sales does not completely cover operational costs, but there are enough donations to keep them going. It has been over 20 years since they started.

The model remains unchanged today, and several others have popped up using various models, but none are providing new parts, even tubes and tires. Not sure how they do it.
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Old 12-19-19, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
...plus a co-op isnt a bad way to run a business. id rather teach people to work on bikes themselves so they arent so helpless next time they enter into a bike shop where the labor is sky high...
Negatives in Hawaii-
- high barriers to population influx
- lack of steady flow of donation bikes (relates to first point)
- tourists outnumber residents by ~8 to 1 (on an annual basis), so demand for rental services far outweighs the need for one-of repairs

Positives
- while higher than in most states, the median income is significantly below poverty level due to extremely high cost of living (i.e., residents need inexpensive transportation)
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Old 12-19-19, 10:31 AM
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The OP sure learns fast. In 16 hours they went from:
Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
What is a co-op?
to:
Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
a co-op isnt a bad way to run a business.
and
Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
the trend with american co-ops these are all in highly condensed areas
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Old 12-19-19, 05:32 PM
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AnkleWork just doing my best.
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Old 12-19-19, 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
AnkleWork just doing my best.
I believe you.
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Old 12-19-19, 09:16 PM
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Back in about 1985 I helped a guy who started the Bicycle Action Project in Indianapolis. In that case it was one man with a vision and passion, a few of us helpers, a community that had a huge surplus of bicycles to donate, and a need. The BAP lasted for a few years, even merged with a local bike club, but never grew beyond the founder's ability and willingness to keep it running. Eventually he moved on, and it died; I'm not sure in which order.

I understand Indy Cog started up when one person, hearing of the defunct BAP, re-launched the concept with a youth focus. Unlike the BAP, it has survived its founder's departure and is now a successful non-profit. .

Some years later in Columbus, IN, I started volunteering at the fledgling Columbus Bike Co-op. It started in someone's garage, and was again largely driven by one person with a passion. One difference was the handful of committed volunteers. I joined that handful, and it grew big enough to attract the attention of the local hospital, who decided to provide funding and assistance. Long story short, it survived the founder's departure, due to the deep commitment of a few volunteers. All of us early volunteers have moved on, yet the Columbus Bike Co-op survives. It takes a bit of outside financial support, and a small but committed group of volunteers.

When I moved to San Angelo, TX, I saw the need for a bike co-op. With financial and space support from a local church, tool donations from a bike shop, and donations from various groups, I had a decent start. Volunteers were a different story. One homeless man became a regular volunteer, and used his street knowledge to help me collect construction supplies. I moved away before it grew beyond just the two of us. Honestly I don't think the community support was there for it to grow beyond my capacity. I donated the shop equipment to the local public Library-operated maker space. As far as I know, they still offer free bike repair services.

When in the role of board President in Columbus, I spent a fair amount of time studying bike co-ops. As I traveled around the country for business, I made it a point to visit bike co-ops, and volunteer when time allowed. To name a few I've visited co-ops in San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Portland OR, Reno, Denton TX, and Bloomington IN. I never made it to the BikeBike! summit, but have read everything I could get my hands on. Here's what I think:

Successful bike co-ops don't fit any one business model. Some are self sufficient, others have financial support. Some are all-volunteer, others have some paid staff. Some are open to the general public, while some are exclusive to youth or low-income clients. Some intentionally avoid competing with for-profit shops, and some compete head-to-head. I've never seen one run by what you'd call a business person; all are run by people committed to the mission who have picked up enough business savvy to keep it going. Nonetheless, the keys to success are not too different from any other business. A financial model that works, a source of manpower, providing a service the community values.

My 2 cents.

Cheers
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Old 12-20-19, 05:19 PM
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DT,
I'm not sure when you visited the Bloomington co-op, but it has survived five iterations. I was asked to sit on the last board after some volunteer offerings. One of the board members was working one night and asked to have some bikes torn apart and after I took one apart saving all the part needed to re-install it, she recognized me as a mechanic that worked for her 40+ years ago. It took them two months to get me on the board, and I stayed for eight months. They operate under a 501c3 for sustainable living. And they operate out of a non-compliant to code building addition. But the city turns a blind eye because they serve the homeless population which is huge here. I think I spent close to $4k repairing roofing, and upgrading shelving from a local nuts and bolts seller. I was pretty much done after that, the objections to my asking for them to be more responsible in pricing and selling of some used parts did me in. The current batch of volunteers is a revolving door with only about three who are in charge and willing to put up with the mayhem.
The homeless population is the hardest part to deal with, sense of entitlement, inability to focus for more than a minute, and drug problems (we had to get narcan syringes to be sure one didn't OD on the premises). In b-town the second biggest hassle is sorting and culling out stuff to go to the junkyard four blocks away. It needs to be a weekly activity. The place has about one hundred donations at any time piled in rows, with about three coming in each shift, and there are four open shifts.
My sense is: It takes a 501c3 willing to take the project on and guide them, doing things like liability insurance, and tax liability. Then it takes dedicated volunteers who need to be tireless and put up with way more than I can. And it also takes a population that sends a lot of used bikes to the co-op. Smiles, MH
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Old 12-20-19, 05:37 PM
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We have a co-op and I only know it as a customer (i.e. buying old parts for project bikes). they seem to receive donated bikes, restore them and part they sell, part they give away. Problem is, the bikes and parts they sell have to be up-priced to make up for the free ones. IMHO whatever I was quoted for old ratty parts seemed on the high side. I now just buy ebay/alibaba stuff for old project bikes since new seems cheaper than something that looks like it came from the dumpster.

My impression from the few visits was that the "boss" is knowledgeable, but argumentative. Like if you don't agree paying a lot for a used rotor he kind of makes it sound you one is unreasonable. I also observed that with other patrons. it also seems they could sell many more old parts if they were ordered in some way and not in a rusty pile. i tried to buy complete v-brakes... the problem is, there is a box with rusty calipers, levers, all mixed up. I'm sure originally the right and left caliper came on the same bike and mixing it all up de-values the product.

I also don't like when I aks what an item cost (since they don't order or label anything), the response is not a $-amount, but a question on what my budget is or what I think it is worth. Like any retail, just name your price and don't play games. that and the general attitude makes me just buy cheap new stuff. Sad to waste such old parts, but i don't have the time and energy for games.
HerrKaLeun is offline  

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