We met Cranks Coffee Coop at the Northern Vegan Fair – and with just one sip of their delicious coffee, Anna was a fan for life! Coffee Cranks are a social enterprise and workers cooperative, selling ethically sourced tea, coffee and snacks from a hand made cargo bike.
“Cargo bike” sounds a little industrial, but actually, the bike is beautiful and curvy, with lots of varnished wood.
The Coffee Cranks idea is beautiful too: to use local cooperation and quality ethical produce to challenge corporatism, youth unemployment and the desire to “give up.”
But for all their brilliant ideas, there is a lot to do before they are a fully functioning coffee cart – first of all, crowd sourcing a start-up fund. They have already received just over 15% of their £7000 start-up goal, and no wonder, because people who become a patron get much more than a fuzzy feeling of good spirit… with cute cog-shaped biscuits, stylish tee-shirts, bags, jewelery and even free event catering up for grabs, this investment is a gift that gives back!
Meet Claire. She’s a real force of nature and yes… we have found in her yet another Ethical Business Superstar! Claire’s thing is Bikes: she likes riding them, fixing them… she even Married a bicycle repair man! Oh, and the other thing she does with bikes is up-cycle them into gorgeous jewelery and accessories. Yes. She is very very cool! Read more about Claire in our interview with her below, and checkout her web-shop too!
Way back, where did all of this eco stuff this begin for you?
From an early age, I always had a pencil in my hand. Apart from when I was running around or swinging off something. I started a fine art degree which seemed the natural thing to do, but found it wasn’t what I expected. I moved away from art and design for a few years and spent my time in community work with children and young people, which I love. But my creative streak and love of design always stayed with me. Since I was a child I was very aware of our impact on the world. I spent time raising money for environmental charities like GreenPeace. I was horrified that we were responsible for a hole in the ozone layer, or chopping down rainforests.
Buying a mountain bike in my late 20’s changed my life. It led me to my local bike shop, where I was to meet mechanic Rob (now the shop owner – and my husband!) Spending years riding together developed my love of all things ‘bicycle’.
So, when did you start Bits of Bike, why and how did it go?
I don’t like waste. I do like the unusual. Surrounded by junk at the bike shop, I felt inspired to recycle the scrap into something unique. My first endeavor was making coat hooks out of some old racing bike handle bars. The result was a striking, distinctive and functional object, saved from the junk heap! I began to get compliments on my designs. Then came the jewelery, and other ideas began to flow. From this, ’Bits of Bike’ began to evolve.
What kit did you need to begin with?
I started with nothing but a collection of waste bicycle items. I needed to buy some basic workshop tools and ‘jewelery findings’ (clasps, necklace end caps etc). At present, I make all the packaging myself from recycled card, and mountain bike magazines.
How did you start selling things?
At first I thought I would venture out to local craft fairs. Sales wise, this was hit and miss, but I got positive feedback. I decided to develop my website. I used the open-source web design tool, ‘Wordpress’. It really suited my needs, and I am grateful of such an amazing, free resource. I barely advertised and it was a couple of months before I got my first on-line sale. I bounced around the house for about half an hour. I still get butterflies every time I make an online sale!!
So far, it has been hard to juggle a full time job with developing Bits of Bike on the side. On the other hand, I have had the financial stability to develop the initial stages of Bits of Bike. However, I was recently redundant from the public sector and so I am giving BitsofBike a go full time. I am expecting to need to have another income too at some point. It is exciting and scary. But it feels so good to be in control and doing something positive and productive.
Where do you think Bits of Bike is going?
My goal is to develop an ethical urban cycle clothing and accessories company. At this early stage, whatever I make mostly goes straight back into growing BitsofBike. In five years, I would like to make my company and my life carbon neutral. But for now, I am just aiming towards making enough to paying my bills!
Describe an average day in the life of you.
My workshop is at the bottom of my garden. I am up and at it by 8:30am after an essential cup of tea. I prefer to have the doors wide open to listen to the birds which makes me happy and keeps me motivated. I will spend a lot of my day making things for orders that have come in, or to add to my website. An integral trip to the post office to send out any orders takes place mid afternoon. Variety is the spice of life, so there is always time for experimentation and design. Music and dancing keeps the spirit up (and the toes warm mid winter). I don’t stop work till my head is whizzing and my stomach rumbles around 7pm.
What else do you do?
I committed to volunteering for Sustrans sustainable transport, and Breeze Cycle Network, to encourage more women to get out on their bikes.
Do you have any pets?
We have a rescue boa constrictor. She has a large enclosure in our bedroom. Mum wont come to stay because of her.
Do you have a conventional or unusual life style
I see myself as pretty conventional. I try to be conscious of my impact on the world. This influences my lifestyle. I love growing my own food on our allotment. There is nothing better that making a meal that I have nurtured myself from seed. My clothes all come from charity shops! A product of our throw-away society is that I get to have nice but cheap clothes, and support charities. I need time for myself playing out in the woods with my husband on my mountain bike. I like to feel close to nature. I like to be outside. Whatever the weather. Also, everyday I ride my bike. To commute or to have fun. I rarely drive.
What are your ethical principles and how do they guide and motivate you?
There are so many causes that inspire me. In general, personal and social responsibility is really important to me. It’s human nature to want to advance and move forward. But having the world and each other at the core of what we do is key. There are so many sustainable resources around us. Its just doesn’t make sense to me to do it any other way.
Any words of wisdom?
It may be cheesy, but I fell in love with ‘Desiderata’ as a teenager. My favorite quote is from this poem:
” You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
Meet Claire. She's a real force of nature and yes... we have found in her yet another Ethical Business Superstar! Claire's thing is Bikes: she likes riding them, fixing them... she even Married a bicycle repair man! Oh, and the other thing she does with bikes is up-cycle them into gorgeous jewellery and accessories. Yes. She is very very cool! Read more about Claire in our interview with her, and checkout her web-shop too!