Business model: Bikeworks

An east London social enterprise with training contracts with the local council

Bikeworks is a social enterprise based in east London that offers a number of services such as cycle training and bike recycling. It also provides homeless people with employment repairing bikes.

It has been trading since March 2007. Dave Miller, one of the two co-founders, says: "I had started to raise money for a business based around bike recycling when I met Jim Blakemore, my co-founder, who had drawn up a plan based around bike training and disabled cycling. "We chose to form a community interest company, which hasn't helped or prevented us from doing much, but it has been good for marketing."

The business started off with several small grants, but it soon began to generate cash.

Because it had low overheads and employed sessional workers, Bikeworks was able to offer training services to councils and use the revenue generated from that to set up other schemes. Miller says the fact that Bikeworks was able to win a large contract with Newham Council early on lent it legitimacy and provided evidence that the concept would work. The three training contracts it now has with London boroughs make up about half its income.

Miller and Blakemore have plans to grow the organisation into a much larger one. "But it was hard going for a while," says Miller. "You have to be prepared to get through that.

"We've also tried other things that haven't worked. It's important to be able to see when something doesn't have legs and get ready to try something else."

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