Jim Blakemore

Co-founder and CEO at Bikeworks

What was a typical work day like before the corona crisis?
I guess a typical day was looking at year end finance, getting very excited about the launch of a new social isolation project… little did we know! Recruitment of new posts, planning our first ever inclusive active travel conference in September (now cancelled). In short, my days are generally varied, and busy.

When the outbreak started, what was your initial reaction?
Shit ! Then how can we pivot and repurpose the organisation to help. We managed to get all stakeholders involved in a project we had raised funds for to divert revenue into a community courier service. This took about 3 – 5 days.

What impact did this have on your day job and how did you adapt?
Business as normal at Bikeworks has been mothballed. I had to quickly sort out what needed to be done to ensure everyone could work from home. I contacted all stakeholders , mostly local authorities to see how they wanted to proceed with any work that we felt we could continue to deliver for a short period. The irony is that cycling as a form of transport is probably the safest / fastest way to get around at the moment, so it was clear that we wanted to continue for as long as possible with distancing  and cleaning of equipment being paramount.

We are a small team and so there were a number logistics to get in place very quickly before the Velodrome closed its doors. Given I am closest to the venue, all the vans are based at my house, so a lot of this falls on me.

What are the big challenges you have faced / are facing as the pandemic continues?
Changing to remotely managing my team; I am getting used video calls. Five weeks in and our repurposed model has grown to 10 London boroughs, with 3000 items delivered. I now have to focus on what Bikeworks will look like and how we will function from June onward. This is when we hope to start running our inclusive cycling again. Again its like setting up a new business. Are our premises and office fit and safe for purpose? If schools don’t open again until September, how do I ensure that I have a freelance team still able to work in four months time? Can I funnel 12 months of some contracts into six months? there are so many questions and scenarios that I don’t have answers for, but these are all things that I need to think and plan for.

How have you kept going through the tough times?
Our house is an East London hub, we have 4000 masks + lots of other PPE. We are currently operating seven days a week with people collecting various things, deliveries etc. This has meant the past five weeks have honestly flown by! I know we are making a difference. I am also proud to not have had to put any of the team on furlough, we have re-hired 20 freelance instructors and I don’t believe that volume has been replicated in our sector [cycling].

What acts of kindness have you seen or shown that have made you smile recently?
To be honest it’s been good to get out on the front-line and deliver items, to see the community at their front door.;I have been able to see new areas of London that  I have never visited. I am reminded daily of how lucky I am to have a house, a garden, a happy relationship. I smile when I see other people smile and also hopefully make a few people smile in return.

What has this crisis taught you – both professionally and on a personal level?
There’s nothing like setting up a new business to challenge you and take people along that journey (rapidly). It shows you what your team can achieve. It shows how good your networks are, and how quickly you can move something on in a crisis – two phones calls and things are in place! I wish this could continue post CV19.

I am hoping that Bikeworks will come out of this, because I feel that there’s an opportunity to come out of this with new business streams, a ramped-up all-ability programme to assist with a larger pool of people not working.  There will be a large pool of people who have been inactive for three months and I want to use this as springboard for growth and impact! It may not work but I feel that our services are more relevant now and in the future that they were five weeks ago. Let’s see what happens.

On a personal level I seem to have brought the cold from office into the house.

How are you trying to stay happy and healthy?
Walking the dogs, running, eating, connecting more with friends and family than I would normally. I purchased a very nice pair of trainers from 2017 that I had my eyes on for months, these made me very happy.

To find out more about what Bikeworks are doing, visit their website or check them out on Twitter