Back in 2011, frustrated with the UK jobs market and city life, fellow Brightonian couple Zoe Ives & Bruce McTaggart left their jobs to see the world.
During their travels through India, they were struck by the prevalence of heavy duty steel-framed bikes used for anything from transporting families to shipping produce. With a bizarrely british, old-fashioned edge to them, Bruce & Zoe had a eureka moment.
“These bikes were the kind that used to be made in England until the end of the 1950s, when much of the manufacturing was shipped out to India” Bruce says.
“These days people are willing to pay a lot of money for old bikes that are often in poor condition, but here they were – new bikes, still being made to the original design.”
They set about finding a manufacturer from which to import so they could bring beautiful, new-vintage bikes back to the UK.
It was important to Bruce & Zoe that the bikes they imported were not only superb quality for customers, but brought about social good for the country they fell in love with while backpacking, and with this, they chose a family-run company called KW bicycles who devoted themselves to high quality bikes using traditional methods, to manufacture their bikes.
Alongside supporting a family-run business, the couple work closely with the Mann Deshi Foundation’s ‘Freedom Ride’ project, a charity that aim to give young girls in rural areas of India a bicycle so they can ride to school to get a good education. For every ten bikes The Indian Bicycle Shop sell, they donate one bike to a girl in rural Maharashtra so she can cycle to school.
The Indian Bicycle Shop now fully up and running are based in South West London selling online and at Portobello market on weekends.
I caught up with Zoe, the co-founder to speak about her experiences in starting up.
“We would encourage anyone with a good idea and the motivation to set up their own business to go for it! When our alarm goes off at 6am and we put all our thermals on for a chilly winters day at Portobello, we do sometimes question why we’re doing this! However, by the end of the day we’ve always met wonderful people who love the bikes, remember their childhood or just want to talk about India and the young girls education we help with every sale. That makes the early morning and freezing toes all OK.”
It’s the passion Bruce & Zoe in providing girls with the ability to get to and from school, without worrying about not being able to pay for transport then missing out on vital education, that pulls them through the hard times of being a startup. Having a purpose motivates them to keep going.
“What Bruce and I love most about starting our own business is the flexibility and the freedom it gives you. If the weather’s nice we can go out for a walk or a bike ride and not feel guilty about it!”
The couple are a shining example of how taking the leap from city work to invest time in a more meaningful company, with a strong sense of purpose is achievable to us all.
You can check out their lovely site over at theindianbicycleshop.co.uk