Author Topic: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?  (Read 7638 times)

windawake

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Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« on: August 31, 2015, 02:05:59 PM »
I'm thinking about buying a Civia Halsted cargo bike that I found on Craigslist for $650. Mainly I want to put a giant basket on the front to transport my dog, but now that I'm thinking about it I'm wondering whether I could make a side gig out hauling stuff in it.

As a preface, I live in Minneapolis which is very bikeable. For all of these options I'd limit the area I'd serve to keep it reasonable by bike. Here are some ideas:

  • Farmer's market deliveries: Take orders online and deliver fresh produce to people's homes straight from the farmer's market
  • Deliver growlers of beer on Sundays: Not sure what the regulatory requirements would be around this, but Minnesota does not have Sunday sales of any liquor besides growlers sold at select breweries. I think people would be into getting it delivered, although growlers are heavy and I probably wouldn't be able to charge a premium.
  • Deliver a curated selection of books: This is the one I like best. Iím imagining it like: people sign up for book delivery which happens at a set time (Saturday mornings or something), then I roll up with the cargo bike and 3-4 books to choose from, each one with a handwritten recommendation, and people choose at the time of delivery. I'd hope to partner with a local bookstore for the inventory, and charge some sort of fee for delivery/curation. The best local bookshop around doesn't have recommendations, so it's often hard for me to make a choice while there. I was also thinking that if this worked, I could expand it to sell books at Open Streets and other festival events, provide a curated subscription service with book delivery at regular intervals, and even deliver books+snacks to book club meetings.

Do you think any of these would be reasonable side gigs? Would you use any of these services? Do you have any other ideas? Thanks!

RidinTheAsama

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2015, 02:16:32 PM »
I'm not sure that mustachians are going to fall into your target market...

"You want me to pay for you to deliver something that I can pick up myself - in biking distance of my house!?"

Having said that, there very well might be others out there who would jump at the chance to have things delivered to their house by bike.  In my city there are a few CSA groups that do their monthly produce box deliveries by bike and I think that does make people like it more.

ROY2007

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2015, 03:28:50 PM »
I love this topic! Hello from Hudson, WI.

I heard about this company recently http://pedaltopetal.com/

They are a bicycle powered compost company that picks up and delivers by bike. Not sure it would be useful for people in Minneapolis. It also might work better with a bike trailer than a front basket, but maybe this will give you some other ideas.

ROY2007

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2015, 03:36:12 PM »
What about being a bike courier with https://postmates.com/apply?

They operate in MPLS, but I'm not sure how popular it is.

windawake

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2015, 10:05:06 PM »
Awesome! I actually just heard back from the book store I had in mind for #3 so I'm going to meet with them and chat about it. I just love the idea of decorating a cargo bike and having it become a community fixture. In Minneapolis, there's a business called Geno's Gelato. This guy bikes around a specialty bike that has a freezer in the front and sells gelato out of it. They're wildly popular, I tried to book them for a social bike ride and they ended up selling out of all their gelato the night before.

So anyways, I like the idea of a cargo bike because it could be dressed up to be recognizable, like the gelato bike. Then I could cruise street festivals and events and people would be like: oh there's the book bike gal (or whatever the venture ends up being).

Anyways please keep the ideas/comments coming, I love them! I have a biking blog and am really involved in the bike community here, so I'm hoping to eventually find some sort of sweet combination of writing/activism/riding bikes that actually makes me money so I can do that full time.

chiconix

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2015, 10:44:22 PM »
These ideas sound rad! And having a cargo bike is just fun anyways. You might look up the Halstead's rack weight limit, IIRC it's something like 50 lbs? But I could be way off.

If it were me, I think I'd just throw a cooler on the front, load it up with sodas / juice / water from costco, and pedal to the most crowded public spot I could find to sell them. Just to see if it works, kind of thing. Then maybe start into more niche stuff.

Bicycle delivery was popular in the city I lived in last, but it almost seemed like people bought it because they liked the idea, not because it necessarily made sense. And I'm not trying to be salty about bikes! I was a bike mechanic for years, and I love utility cycling. But a lot of times, the speed issue seems like it'd be hard to get around -- people want their growlers now!!! I suppose if you're in a dense part of the city, my pessimism might be unwarranted. I'd just keep your mind open to opportunities where having a bike allows you access to areas that cars can't reach, like the interior of a park or something.

Anyways whether it's books or something else keep us posted! I really hope it works out for you.

Telecaster

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2015, 11:34:59 PM »
Tough love:   I don't think any of these are good ideas.   Really, they all come down to the customer wanting a delivery by bike vs. some other means.  Some customers might want that, but I bet not a ton. 

Let's unpack a couple:  Book delivery.  The customer has to make an appointment to get 3-4 book recommendations.  I love to read, but I wouldn't do that.  And how much is your markup per book?   You'd need a lot of deliveries to come close to minimum wage. 

Farmer's market.  This sounds more like CSA box delivery.  You'd have to haul a lot of produce on your bike!

And so on.  Not to quash your dreams,but remember you have to make money too.  Put yourself in your customer's shoes.  What does your customer want?

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2015, 02:10:18 AM »
Sunday beer sales sounds like a great idea - and if you stop one person driving drunk it'd be worth it. What would the law/likelihood of getting caught say about just buying regular beer on Saturday, storing it at your house and delivering it on Sundays?

Also selling cold drinks at a busy park sounds like a good test run.

Is the primary objective to make money, to have a lovely bike ride on a sunny Sunday afternoon or something else?

thd7t

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2015, 08:19:35 AM »
In my parents' hometown, there is a bike based garbage pickup service.  They use bike trailers.  Sounds like a lot of work, but it doesn't seem like you're shying away from that.

Argyle

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2015, 08:41:43 AM »
I agree that the book delivery is not appealing ó sorry.  Readers are often introverts, too.  So I have to wait and home and meet up with some delivery guy I've never met who is bringing 3-4 books that I didn't choose, and I have to leaf through them in front of him and decide if I want one of them at a mark-up at full price?  It's not just a thing I would ever do.  Amazon may be full of abusive business practices, but I'd still prefer the heavily-discounted, don't-have-to-be-home-at-any-special-time, order-what-I-want business model.

I don't think delivery by bike has much appeal in it for the customer, really.  The appeal would mainly be that it's cheaper because no car and gas are involved.  I mean, I support it as a theoretical concept, but I wouldn't go out of my way to have this or that delivered by bike.

The gelato thing works because it's gelato.

If you have a local CSA business that delivers to a central location, where people have to go and get it, you could deliver specifically to their houses by bike.  Assuming they live within range.  That's a genuine service that people might benefit from.  Trying to remember to get to my CSA pickup site within the narrow delivery window was complicated sometimes.

katesilvergirl

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2015, 12:10:23 PM »
While this wouldn't make you any money - I really like the idea of a rolling Little Free Library (the take-a-book, leave-a-book service) that could be a semi-permanent fixture on your bike.

Or instead of a delivery service you would be more of a mobile bookstore branch that could extend your local bookstore's reach to farmer's markets, festivals, outdoor events, bus stops, etc. The bookstore (in conjunction with you) could provide  hand-written recommendations and a curated selection aimed at different crowds and you would be a tiny rolling bookstore. This could eliminate some of the issues with demand for book delivery and if someone did, by chance, want a delivery you would still be free to do that.

windawake

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2015, 03:27:42 PM »
Hey, that's actually a good call @katesilvergirl. I did just get in touch with a great local bookstore in town so we're going to have a conversation. I think the mobile bicycle stand could be a good first step before trying to set up anything more formal, like bike deliveries.

mozar

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2015, 05:50:42 PM »
So who is exactly is creating the book recommendations? Are you going to get to know the people before giving recommendations? I think these are all fun ideas, but I don't think you will break even for time and money.

MoonShadow

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2015, 05:54:44 PM »
If you live in a decently popular tourist area, you could sell ice cream and other frozen treats from a cooler in that basket.  Or cold drinks.  Just use dry ice if selling frozen things.

Cromacster

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2015, 11:38:25 AM »
Pulling this back up.....

Have you heard of Brake Bread?

A fresh baked bread delivery service in St. Paul.  As far as I know their delivery area is pretty small and local to a few neighborhoods in St. Paul.  Maybe you could help them expand into some Minneapolis neighborhoods.

hyla

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #15 on: September 30, 2015, 04:57:57 PM »
No on the book idea.  I love books, but I'd rather browse a bookstore myself, and if I do want suggestions, there are plenty of free reviews and recommendations,  I would not pay a service to do that.

Look into state liquor laws before going any further with the growler idea.  Laws regarding alcohol sales tend to be complex, and while it varies by state, my gut feeling is that you probably can't go around selling growlers without some kind of permit or license and you really don't want to get arrested for bootlegging.

I think bike delivery is only economically viable when either
a) it's as fast or faster than car delivery because of traffic congestion (think NYC restaurants), or
b) it's in a location/market segment where people put a premium on environmentally friendly choices - so you might be on the right track with the farmer's market/CSA idea, but you would probably need to do a bit of research to find out if it's viable in your area

Proud Foot

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2015, 09:12:04 AM »
I'm not sure about the appeal of those three ideas you mentioned. The delivery of growlers seems like it would be a lot of work to make sure it was even legal to make the deliveries, let alone to be able to make anything off it.  I second the opinion someone said of using a cooler and selling pop and water out of it at street festivals.  Another thing would be coffee.  I have a friend who is looking into having a bike coffee stand.

YK-Phil

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2015, 09:28:21 AM »
There is a very hip and trendy bakery in Calgary, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, that delivers by bicycle. The bread and baked good are of excellent quality and it is becoming a success story, but prices are not exactly mustachians. My wife and I go there for our monthly treat, but that's it.

http://thrivecalgary.org/2013/06/sidewalk-citizen-bakery/

I think the ideas you have in mind will make it difficult to break even, but I second the coffee/cold drinks idea. The markup on drinks is very good, and if you are present at all the street festivals and events, you'll likely make good money.

MayDay

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #18 on: October 01, 2015, 12:44:45 PM »
In my parents' hometown, there is a bike based garbage pickup service.  They use bike trailers.  Sounds like a lot of work, but it doesn't seem like you're shying away from that.

My parent's town has this for recycling only, as the city recycling sucks, but Mpls does not have that problem luckily.


Beaker

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2015, 12:58:11 PM »
You might be better off with selling something out of the bike, rather than delivering things with it. Sell people impulse convenience rather than stay-at-home laziness.

That's pretty much why ice cream carts/bike/trucks work. People will buy from them because it's conveniently right there. If they really cared they could go to the store and get a better deal, or call someone and get it delivered. Works with almost anything situational: ice cream, burritos (better at bar time), flowers, sunblock & bug spray (yay MN state bird...), handwarmers, etc.

One idea might be to partner up with some local boutique shop. If they'd help you brand your bike then you get to benefit from their name, and they get advertising and a remote sales platform.

Le Poisson

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #20 on: October 18, 2015, 07:25:13 AM »
If you do beer deliveries, please think hard about your own safety. When things go pear shaped with a drunk raging and grabbing at you, what is your recourse?

Urchina

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Re: Bicycle based business ideas - would you use any of these?
« Reply #21 on: October 18, 2015, 07:39:28 AM »
Two notes: the 'bicycle movers' clip on the skit show "Portlandia" is hilarious. 

Second: call your county's Public Health Department (usually the Environmental Health division) for information about necessary health permits for selling or delivering food and/or beverages.