Franklinton Cycle Works is a non-profit organization that aims to provide affordable transportation to people in the Columbus, Ohio area. The organization was founded by Jonathan Youngman, who wanted to create a community resource center where people could learn how to repair and maintain their bikes. The organization has grown over the years and now offers a variety of services and events to the community.
Franklinton Cycle Works is dedicated to promoting transportation equity. They believe that everyone should have access to affordable transportation, regardless of their income or social status. They achieve this by running a bike co-op where people can learn how to maintain and repair their bikes. They also sell refurbished bikes and bike parts.
The bike co-op is open to people of all ages and skill levels. It is a safe and welcoming space where people can come together to learn, socialize, and work on their bikes. In addition to the workstations, the co-op also has a lounge area where people can relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.
How it Works
The bike co-op is a place where people can bring their bikes to be repaired. The co-op has six workstations where people are guided through the repair process by either a staff mechanic or a volunteer. The goal of the co-op is to teach people how to fix their own bikes rather than just doing it for them. This approach not only saves people money but it also empowers them to take care of their own bikes.
(Love riding and want to support them? It’s just $25 to join & become a member!)
In addition to the bike co-op, Franklinton Cycle Works also offers a variety of educational programs and workshops. These programs are designed to teach people about bike maintenance, safety, and repair. The workshops are led by experienced mechanics and are open to people of all ages and skill levels.
Connecting with the Community
Franklinton Cycle Works started out small by connecting with people in the community and fixing bikes on the front porch of their house. They grew organically by responding to the needs of the community and building trust. As the organization grew, they purchased the building they were renting and the building next to it. They now have a retail store where they sell refurbished bikes and parts, as well as a workshop where people can learn how to repair their bikes.
Franklinton Cycle Works is committed to connecting with the community in meaningful ways. They organize regular social rides and other events to bring people together. These events are designed to be fun and welcoming to all members of the community.
The expansion of the organization is a testament to the positive impact they have had on the community. By providing affordable transportation options to people in the Columbus area, they are helping to make the city a better place to live. The retail store and workshop are designed to make the organization more accessible to the community. They are also launching a membership drive in May to encourage people to become members of the co-op. Membership involves making an annual contribution of $25, which helps support the organization’s mission.
Events and Programming
Franklinton Cycle Works offers a variety of events and programming to the community. They offer bike school classes to people who want to learn how to maintain and repair their bikes in a more formal setting. They also organize social rides and other events to bring the community together. The social rides are not competitive and are designed to be fun and welcoming to all members of the community.
Visit them eventbrite.com to see what’s happening!
In addition to the events and programming, Franklinton Cycle Works also partners with other organizations in the community to promote transportation equity. They work with local schools and community groups to provide bikes to people who need them.
Franklinton Cycle Works is a unique organization that is focused on transportation equity. By providing affordable transportation options to people in the Columbus area, they are helping to make the city a better place to live. The organization’s approach to bike repair and maintenance is empowering and allows people to take care of their own bikes. The retail store and workshop are designed to make the organization more accessible to the community. Franklinton Cycle Works is a testament to the positive impact that a non-profit organization can have on a community.
If you are in the Columbus area, you should definitely check out Franklinton Cycle Works. Whether you need your bike repaired, want to learn how to fix it yourself, or just want to connect with a community of like-minded people, this organization has something for everyone. By supporting organizations like Franklinton Cycle Works, we can help create a world where everyone has access to affordable transportation.
To find out more, visit their:
[00:00:11] Adam: Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast for social entrepreneurs who want to build a social impact business and increase their sustainability footprint. I'm your host, Adam Morris, and I'm delighted to have on Jonathan Youngman on our podcast today. He started Franklinton Cycleworks back in 2017 to help make it easy and affordable for people to both ride and maintain their bikes.
And it's so cool to see how it's evolved over the years. So, let's get the gears in motion. Jonathan, welcome on the podcast.
[00:00:39] Jonathan: Thanks for having me. I'm happy to be here.
[00:00:41] Adam: Yeah, I'm really excited. Can you tell us a little bit about what Franklin Cycle works is?
[00:00:46] Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely. So Franklinton Cycleworks is essentially a nonprofit mission driven bike shop, a co-op and bike advocacy organization, a lot of things wrapped into one, but what we do is help people overcome transportation barriers. Mostly low income residents overcome transportation barriers so that they can live independently and achieve stability and success.
We do that by connecting folks with low cost or free bicycles and bike repair help. And then it's also a great way to just empower other folks and anyone really to choose bikes as an active and reliable form of transportation. Better for people, better for cities, better for the planet. Biking, especially when you live in a downtown neighborhood, is just a great way to get around for a lot of people.
Not for everybody, but for a lot of people.
[00:01:43] Adam: What was going on in your life when you first. the idea to start this?
[00:01:46] Jonathan: Yeah, so I moved into Franklinton back in 2008. In Franklinton. Over the past 50 some years has been home to many low income and under-resourced folks and a sizable community of houseless individuals as well. And when I moved in, in 2008, something like one and five homes were abandoned and vacant, and the neighborhood was in the very, very early stages of growth.
There was some, but a lot of folks were were really struggling. And one thing that I noticed right away was that many of my new neighbors were getting around by bicycle. And I also enjoyed biking, but it was more of a lifestyle choice for me. But my neighbors, really didn't have any other option.
The bus system is good, but oftentimes it doesn't get you all the way there. Sometimes it's rather slow and inconvenient. And a lot of folks that I was getting to know, biking was really the preferable and best form of transportation. But because of their economic situation the bikes they were riding were really not very safe, not comfortable, and not in good repair.
And so that's where the idea came from. And we call Franklinton Cycleworks, a bike co-op. By co-op, the idea is not novel to Franklinton Cycleworks or Columbus, Ohio. There are bike co-ops all over the world doing great work. And I was familiar with bike co-ops and so that notion of Hey, I think Franklinton could really benefit from a bike co-op, and that's something that I feel like I could contribute to and even provide some leadership on.
So that's really where it came.
[00:03:33] Adam: Can you explain a little bit what a bike co-op is?
[00:03:35] Jonathan: Yeah, so bike co-ops are, they're very, there's a lot of different kinds. But I think at its core you can understand a bike co-op, like a community resource center. Every bike co-op tends to cater to different populations a bit and certainly, have the flavor of the local community in which it's But for ours, yeah it's very much the community Resource Center for folks who use bikes for transportation or who could be using bikes for transportation if they had access. So it's a place where folks have access to tools and stands and parts and then help really anything that you might need to keep your bike in good working Repair is done. Bike repair is done in kind of a collaborative effort. And so it's either free or much more affordable than dropping your bike off at a retail bike shop and having them work on it. And folks learn bike repair skills in the process and more often than not, they make some friends, or at least some good social connections as So that's at the heart of what bike co-ops try to do.
[00:04:42] Adam: What did it look like when you first started?
[00:04:45] Jonathan: Well, so we were completely volunteer run. Very much like a grassroots volunteer run organization. We were able to secure some space on Broad Street. We set up some stands. We got some tools. And then we just let the community in and figured it out as we went.
Because it was volunteer run, it was, I would say very pure in nature, but also very limited in capacity. That's the trade off. But we were volunteer run for the first five years of our existence, and I think that went a long way in building community And just establishing the ethos of Franklinton Cycleworks as a very community focused and, like kind empowered by the community.
So I think it, it went a long way in establishing that vibe and that ethos. But yeah, just people wrenching on bikes together figuring it out as you go and helping people keep their primary mode of transportation in safe working order. Yeah.
[00:05:49] Adam: Great. How has that evolved to what it looks like today?
[00:05:54] Jonathan: Yeah. By, 2016, it had become pretty apparent that the community wanted Franklinton Cycleworks to be more accessible. Like at that point we were open a couple days a week. And on occasion if the volunteers weren't available, we wouldn't be able to open at all. And so I think the community was really hungry for us to be much more accessible and to offer more programs.
We were getting more and more requests to work with youth organizations and to work with the city and to work with other nonprofits and and so it was apparent. There was a need and people wanted us to step into that position. So I was like, acting executive director at that time and had conversations with the board and we decided that we were going to bring me on as full-time paid executive director, and that was gonna be the first step in growing our capacity so that we could respond to the needs and the requests in the community. So yeah, so I came on in early 2017 and have been growing the organization since then. We now have four or five staff, depending on, the time of the season and what's going on. It's kinda how bike shops go. We're open five days a week.
Folks are encouraged to come in at any time to, to access our tools and stands and parts and all that kind of stuff. And we've also developed a more fully fledged retail operation as well. We take bike donations and we get something like a thousand bikes donated every year.
[00:07:37] Adam: Wow, a thousand bikes.
[00:07:39] Jonathan: it's a lot.
There's a. A lot of people in Columbus who have bikes that they're not using. And so yeah, we take those bike donations and we fix 'em up and then folks can either buy them much more cheaply than they could buy a new bike and much more confidently than they could buy a bike on the secondary market cuz they know a professional mechanic has taken care and attention to fix it.
Or we have other programs where folks can acquire those bikes for very low cost or free. So we've grown into that and now I think we are very much Franklin's community of bike shop of Choice, which is wonderful. And folks have the opportunity to interact with us, in a more retail way, if they wanna do that or they wanna volunteer, they can do that. If they wanna use the stands, they can do that. So it's really become a house for all things bikes on Um, Columbus' near west side.
[00:08:38] Adam: Can you give us a little bit of virtual tour? What does it look like if somebody comes into the bike shop and how do they interact with, saying, Hey, I've got a broken bike. I don't know what to do with it. I've never repaired my bike before. What actually happens?
[00:08:51] Jonathan: Yeah. We love that those are the best kind of patrons. So someone comes in, they say, yeah, my bike isn't working very well. I've never worked on bikes before, but I'm here to learn and to get it fixed. So we'd bring them over to one of the works stations. Franklinton Cycleworks has six workstations in each workstation is its own like minibike shop. Essentially. You've got a stand, you've got all the tools you need. You've got your oils and your greases and your cleaners, and you're brushing brushes and anything that you might need. So we'd set 'em up on a workstation. And then a mechanic, either a paid staff mechanic or a volunteer mechanic would diagnose the problems of the bike with the owner there.
So you look at the bike together, figure out what's wrong, and then the mechanic would walk them through the steps of how we're gonna fix that. And the mechanics, we really try to not do the work ourselves. We try to hold our hands behind our back, and just verbally coach someone through the process.
So that way they are using the tools, they're learning how to do the repair. Oftentimes people really enjoy it. You get a great sense of accomplishment by fixing something that you own. And so we, we coach them through that process. It tends to take a little while. Sometimes folks are often there for at least an hour for even something as simple as like fixing a flat.
But you've gotta start somewhere. And and like I said, people oftentimes really enjoy it. So yeah, you don't need any prior knowledge. We come in, we're gonna help you fix up your bike. We've tires and tubes and anything that you might need. So you don't need to, do research or go shopping ahead of time.
We got you covered. And I will add that during the spring and summer, occasionally it is quite busy in the shop. And so on occasion you might have to wait a few minutes before you get a stand. And on occasion, There are so many people in the shop that you're not gonna get one-on-one attention.
But we're there for you and we'll figure it out together.
[00:10:59] Adam: So basically you're a hot destination and in high demand.
[00:11:03] Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Especially during cycling season. It can be a little bit of a mad house. But I think we, I think it's still fun for everybody. We always have music going and. Yeah, it's good.
[00:11:15] Adam: I love that. And then with the space you recently expanded as well.
[00:11:19] Jonathan: Yeah. That's right. Yeah. So that was fantastic because we had outgrown the space essentially we had a nice kind of co-op set up. But in terms of being able to provide more bikes to the community. We just needed more space. And so we were able to purchase both the building that we had been in.
We were renting it, so we purchased that one as well as the building right next to us. And then we knocked a hole between the two buildings to connect them refurbished the other building cuz it was just a shell. And so we almost doubled our square footage in the process, and now we have just a really wonderful space to welcome people into so that they can shop for bikes and parts and accessories and all that good stuff.
So yeah, it's been fantastic.
[00:12:08] Adam: And I love that, like when you walk in the, the first store and it's you see all the bikes just lined up and then all the works stations there, and it's just like you, you get this feeling of yeah, something is happening.
[00:12:17] Jonathan: Yeah.
[00:12:17] Adam: And then, you walk to the other side and it's this nice bike shop where you can get all your supplies and it's a really nice atmosphere, but it has such a cool vibe.
I love the spot,
[00:12:27] Jonathan: Thank you. Thank you. Me too. Yeah, I think we were really trying to offer both experiences. So the workshop is very much a workshop with a, the concrete floor and there's tools and you can smell. Just the work of bikes, the oil and the grease and the tires and all that kind of stuff.
And then the retail side has like a nice wooden floor and, fresh paint on the walls, softer colors. And it is you can just take a breath over there and browse the bikes. But the combination of the two, I agree, Adam, create just a really fun and unique energy. And yeah our patrons seem to enjoy it.
[00:13:08] Adam: So you've been doing this for 10 years or so,
[00:13:12] Jonathan: Yeah,
[00:13:13] Adam: Which is neat. How has it changed you as a person?
[00:13:15] Jonathan: Great question Adam. So when I started I was idealistic. I guess I'm still idealistic, which is why I still do this. But I didn't know how to run a business, a non-profit business or any kind of business. And so I've really just had to learn as we've gone and especially in the beginning when it was very volunteer run, the only sort of focus was be open help people work on bikes, that was it.
And there's a certain beauty associated with the simplicity of that. Now we have. I would say a lot more responsibility. People expect a lot more of us. We offer, programs based on contracts and so there's a lot more expected of us and that brings a whole new level of responsibility.
And additionally with staff, the organization is now not just providing for the community, but we are providing the livelihoods of the people who work for the organization. And so I've definitely had a shift from being a volunteer that's contributing their time and their passion to this community project's. Now a business owner and a manager. And so as. Gotten older, I've, I hopefully picked up some of those skills and I think grown into someone who can, hopefully responsibly lead the organization. Meeting the needs of the community as well as providing a a good and safe working environment for the employees.
So yeah, I would say. A lot of growth, a lot of maturity. But I feel like the moves that we've made have made us a more holistic organization. I think we are in a position to do more and frankly to do it better than we have in years past. So I'm excited to continue to be part of the growth of the organization, to witness it myself and provide leadership where I can and excited for the growth that Franklinton Cycleworks imparts on me as well.
[00:15:30] Adam: I love how you've grown. Holistically is a great word. It's like, you started off really focused on. The people in the community and delivering what they needed before you even had a business model to support that.
Then the business came in order to support expanding that impact that you were delivering,
[00:15:47] Jonathan: right.
[00:15:48] Adam: which I think is a wonderful example.
Did you plan that out or was that just part of the process?
[00:15:54] Jonathan: We had no concept. Franklinton Cycleworks would ever become a business that anyone could work for. We were very just focused on creating this co-op office, community resource center. But yeah, the move was really just the community wants us to be more accessible.
They want us to do more things, so I guess we've gotta figure it out. We can't do that as a volunteer run organization. We need some level of leadership. So yeah, that's, we developed a business model from that. But one of the things that we recognized, or one of the things that we thought would allow us to do that was the bike donations that we were receiving.
Nonprofits every year have to really hustle for donations and grant money and all that kind of stuff. And we do our fair share of that as well. But we've never had to work very hard to get bike donations. People seem to want to, sometimes it's definitely a donation. They're donating their own bike.
Sometimes it feels like they're getting rid of some junk that's been in their garage. But either way we can use it, either way. Almost always a benefit to us. And so that, that flow of bikes coming to the organization was one of the key elements to let us know we can do this.
Like we're getting enough support from the community here that we can sell these bikes and we can create a sustainable social enterprise. And we don't have to be completely dependent on donations, monetary donations, and grants. We can generate revenue from the organization. And in fact, we felt again, we felt like that's what the community was asking us to do, continue to do the co-op the, the community resource center, the workshops.
And also we want somewhere where we can buy bikes in. So it was a very natural transition for us and it seems to be working out.
[00:17:47] Adam: I speak to a lot of budding social entrepreneurs, like people who have an idea and they wanna start. And quite often one of the areas where they struggle is just connecting with the community and actually starting to build those connections and understand, the problems that they wanna address from the perspective of the people who are experiencing them.
How did you reach out to the community when you first started? What did that actually look like?
[00:18:08] Jonathan: Yeah. It definitely helped that we were residents in the community. So we started in a very like neighborly kind of way. It was literally like getting to know other people who were biking and and then being able to say Hey, I have some tools. I have an extra bike seat.
You know, it, it was very much like that. Fixing bikes from the front porch of our. And then we started to go to places where people were already gathering. Franklinton has several churches that do outdoor services and then meals. And so we would bring a bike stand and some tools to the meal.
And after the service, people were hanging out and eating and we'd set up our stand and people would come over and we would. of Teach them about bike maintenance while doing some of it ourself. And, we try to bring some tires and tubes. So it, it started off that way. And me and the other co-founders, we were young, we were single, there were a lot of things that allowed us to spend our time in this way.
And by living in Franklinton. Our rent at that time was very low. Not everyone has the opportunity to to build a social enterprise or a nonprofit in the way we did. So it's worth stating that we, there were factors at play that allowed us to build it in that very slow kind of way, but, I think, by doing it that way, by having the opportunity to do it that way we were connecting with our neighbors.
We were connecting with the community before we were trying to have any kind of business or any kind of, there was no pressure on us at that point to generate revenue or return to profit. So that allowed us to really be very slow. Build community trust and and also just listen to the community.
We were, responding to what people were telling us they wanted or needed, and trying to invite other people in the community to contribute to the growth of the organization as well.
[00:20:10] Adam: I think a really powerful takeaway in that is just, hey, you were able to go to another organization where you could connect with the people in the community and. It wasn't to sell them on your business idea or to, change their lives, but to work with them and understand them. And you said, listen to them.
And so that really, that practice of providing that space where you can meet and understand and then allow things to grow organically through that.
[00:20:40] Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. That's the way it. And I think when the opportunity to do that is there I think it really can contribute to a sustainable business because then you're, you're not just bringing what you believe is the solution or what the community wants, but you're slowly building truly what the community wants because they're building it with you and you're only making moves in response to what they're telling you. So yeah, it's slow, but I think it's sustainable. And my, my hope, and really my expectation at this point is that Franklinton Cycleworks is going to live on far beyond me and my leadership.
And that at this point it belongs to the community. And it's gonna be around for a long time. And I think my job now being almost a decade in is to is to build the infrastructure, the business infrastructure so that it can run on in perpetuity. So that it can continue to be an asset for the community and something that can, that the community claims is their own.
And we don't have to continually worry about all the finances. You just wanna make that as strong and as stable as it can be so that it can be so that it can just continue to serve the community. And whoever steps into the leadership just has a really solid foundation to work with.
They can bring their own energies and their own creativity and passions to that organization, give it a new flavor. But at its core, like the roots are deep, it's gonna be there. So that's really the challenge for me at this point in the life of the organization. Make those roots go deep.
[00:22:27] Adam: How do people find out about Franklinton Cycleworks?
[00:22:30] Jonathan: So we're, because we've been around in Franklinton for a long time, people there know about us by and large. And a lot of the nonprofit community, especially on the west side is well aware of us at this point. But we are we are definitely looking at expanding our footprint and our visibility this year.
We're gonna be launching a big membership drive in the month of May. May is bike month. So we're gonna be using bike month as an opportunity to tell people about Franklinton Cycleworks and what we do. Now the co-op is open to anyone and everyone but we do encourage folks who want to use the co-op to become members by making an annual contribution of $25 for a lot of folks that fee is waived because they don't have $25 at least not $25 for that. We'd rather them put $25 into the fixing up their bike. But there are a lot of people for whom $25 is not difficult. And so we're gonna have this huge membership drive. We're aiming for thousand members across Columbus.
Franklinton Cycleworks is one of the only organizations that is specifically focused on what we call transportation equity. So helping folks overcome barriers to getting where they need to go. And so what we'd like to communicate to the broader public of Columbus is that this is an opportunity to contribute to that mission contribute to a very unique mission.
And at the same time, become a member of a really cool place where you can come, you can work on your bike, you can meet other people. So we're very hopeful that this marketing campaign will, you know, make people aware of who we are, what we're doing, the benefit that we're trying to give to the community as well as the opportunity to join something that I think a lot of people will find both fun and valuable.
[00:24:25] Adam: I love that. What other sort of events and programming do you do?
[00:24:29] Jonathan: Yeah, so we've got bike school classes. So you know, people learn bike maintenance and repair just by coming to the shop and working on their own bikes. But some people would prefer a bit of a more formal educational environment. And so for that, we have bike school. So we've got three classes this month.
For the last three Thursday evenings of the month. And so you can register for those classes through Eventbrite. You can find it on our website and through social media. So that's a great way to learn to bike maintenance as well as get involved in the organization. We also have social rides. That's gonna be the second Friday evening of every month.
So we've got a ride this month they're like 10 to 20 mile social rides. We're not, these aren't training rides. We're not writing fast, we're writing to have fun. And then we will try to highlight a Franklinton organization at the end of the ride. So there'll be an opportunity for people to get back to the bike shop, but then after that go to, I think this first one we're going to Franklinton Fridays, which is for everyone who doesn't know, it's like a street festival slash gallery hop in Franklinton and around 400 West Rich and that area. So we'll be biking there after the ride, but then we've also got great restaurants and bars and things to go to as well So that's gonna be a lot of fun.
And we, we definitely encourage anyone who likes biking and looking for a community to to join us on those rides.
[00:26:02] Adam: And where on Broad Street are you?
[00:26:05] Jonathan: Our address is 8 97 West Broad. We are right across the street from Tommy's Diner. A lot of people know about that place. The intersection is West Broad and Martin Avenue. We're just west of Mount Carmel West campus there. So yeah. Not too far west into Franklinton, but but you gotta get past COSI and 315 and all that.
[00:26:28] Adam: And what's the website and social media places where people can find you?
[00:26:34] Jonathan: So the website is www.franklintoncycleworks.org. You just Google Franklinton Cycleworks or Bike Shop Franklinton. You'll find us. we're on Facebook and Instagram and Linked-In. For all of those, we use our full name Franklinton Cycleworks. It's a lot to type. And yeah, I think that's it. We're not on Twitter, so don't look for us there.
[00:27:00] Adam: So thank you. I love this. I love that we just covered the journey of how you got started and the ways that you connected with the community to build up an organization that was really geared towards people in Franklinton and helping them, with transportation. Both how to use their bikes, but also maintain them in a way that's affordable for them and gives them that access.
So that's fantastic.
[00:27:23] Jonathan: Thank you. Yeah. Appreciate that. Yeah. Transportation is one of those things where we think of like food and housing and clothing. And obviously those are your key elements to survival. But anyone who's worked in the nonprofit sector as a case manager or something like that will tell you that transportation is equally important. One thing that we're hearing a lot now and trying to grow into this is other nonprofits are connecting folks with housing. They're connecting them with a would be counseling. They're connecting them with re-entry services, all sorts of stuff. And almost always the problem is how am I gonna get there?
And it seems like such a, it's not a small thing. Like I guess we, in Columbus, certainly I, when I first started this have, took mobility for granted. But if you can't get to where you need to go, you're stuck. And it doesn't matter if you have all these beautiful connections and the other nonprofits are advocating on your behalf, you can't get there.
You're stuck. And again, public busing is absolutely critical infrastructure. My hope is that Columbus continues, let's say, invest in Coda, invest more, and we have better public infrastructure. But biking is gonna continue to play a critical role for lots and lots of people. And so that's, that's where we're at.
That's what we're trying to. Is help those individuals so that they can continue on their path to stability and success. It seems if a bike, if a, if a relatively inexpensive thing like bike and bike repair can make that difference of having a job or not putting food on your table or not staying clean or not.
If that's the difference, then yeah, you. We can do that. And that's what we're, that's what we're trying to do and that's what we're inviting the community to in to, to invest in us so that we can continue to invest in individuals. And I think Columbus is just gonna be a healthier and better city for it.
[00:29:38] Adam: If you're listening, you can go to franklinton cycleworks.org check out the bike classes and become a co-op member. you know, that's a great way to connect with the community and help uplift what, what's doing. Plus it's great exercise and a lot of fun,
[00:29:51] Jonathan: Absolutely.
[00:29:52] Adam: Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. I really enjoyed it.
[00:29:56] Jonathan: Yeah. Thank you for having me. Enjoy this as well.