After retirement a Crieff man was driven to set up a community bike project in 2021.
Lawrence Howell used high demand from friends to push the pedals on beginning his new career.
Using his experience as an outdoor and learning teacher, he aims to encourage cyclists to explore the “tremendous routes” that start and finish in Crieff.
The firm focuses on three aspects in routes, repairs and reuse – collecting donated and scrapped bikes for parts.
We spoke to Lawrence about Cycle Crieff and the journey to where it is today.
How did you get to where you are today?
Grant funding has helped and we are also covering all our costs as no one is paid a wage but expenses are covered and of course we get to play with bikes.
We started off in our garage and were offered the opportunity to use a space at Morrison’s Academy which has allowed us to expand and run maintenance courses and skills sessions.
We have been well supported by the local community and it is with their encouragement that we have continued to grow.
Who has helped you along the way?
Lots of great support from GrowBiz at the start and from people such as Andrew McGarva and Maxine Smith from Morrison’s Academy who helped us set up a store and workshop.
Their brilliant support meant a professional set up.
Lots of help and advice from organisations such as Remake, Crieff Connections, Comrie Croft and JM Richards Cycles in Perth.
What was your biggest mistake?
Not learning how to use social media early on and informing people who we are and what we do.
Part of this was our initial name which smacked of old bikes rather than the current more dynamic one.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Setting up the WhatsApp chat group linked to SPOND (a free sports team and club management app).
This has over 120 members who have expressed an interest in local cycling.
We have had some amazing successes with some beginners managing over 100 kilometres quickly followed by 100 miles.
How has the cost of living crisis impacted your business?
We are seen as supporting those in need as we not only sell low cost well serviced and sound bikes but often if finance is tough, we will discount or even give bikes to those we know will use them.
So far more than 300 bikes have been either given away or serviced cheaply or for free.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
We would like to see the routes element expanding and cyclists seeing Crieff and the area as a biking destination.
The idea of supporting local and visiting cyclists is established so we just need to get the message out to potential visitors and locals.
Do you want to recruit in the future?
It would be great to get a social media guru to spread the word to cyclists far and wide and see Crieff and surrounding areas as a holiday destination.
What is the hardest thing about running your own business?
Keeping up with funding applications and opportunities to get support. There are a lot out there but online work takes me away from playing and working on bikes!
Any advice to wannabe entrepreneurs?
I don’t see us as entrepreneurs but would think good advice would be to get as many offers of help as possible and listen to those involved.
What, if any, net zero goals are you working towards?
I think we pretty much achieve this now! We cycle to work and our routes start and finish in Crieff. Only rarely do we need to use vehicles.
What other support do you feel you need at this time?
Help with accounting and auditing and also funding applications.